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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Everyone Has a Story: James Magahern

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

James Magahern, a computer science junior, demonstrates his Segway i2 on the UA Mall Wednesday, Sept 29. Magahern purchased his i2 in 2008 and rides between five and ten miles a day, every day, with a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour.
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat James Magahern, a computer science junior, demonstrates his Segway i2 on the UA Mall Wednesday, Sept 29. Magahern purchased his i2 in 2008 and rides between five and ten miles a day, every day, with a top speed of 12.5 miles per hour.

“”Everyone Has a Story”” is a semi-weekly segment in the Arizona Daily Wildcat that aims to tell the story of an interesting person on the UA campus. This week, the Daily Wildcat interviewed James Magahern, a computer science junior who finds enjoyment riding his Segway around campus and playing an occasional Segway Polo match.

“”Have you ever had the dream where you’re floating on air, your feet are barely touching the ground, and you glide in every direction you go?”” asks computer science junior James Magahern. He experiences this sensation everyday while riding his Segway around campus.  

Thought to resemble a mall cop or security guard, this Segway-riding techie gets approached daily by curious passersby.  

“”It’s usually always the same questions. People always ask ‘How fast does it go?’ ‘How much did it cost?’ ‘Where did you buy it?’ and ‘Is it yours?'””

Magahern recalls how he was first attracted to the innovation in 2003. His father, a journalist, interviewed a producer of a documentary called, “”Ten Miles Per Hour.””

The film follows two men who quit their jobs and ride Segways across the country. Magahern not only met the producer, who he describes as being “”really nerdy,”” but he got to ride the Segway.

“”At that point we were like, ‘This is the most fun thing. It’s so incredible!'”” he said.

“”I just told myself that one day, I’m going to buy one of those. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I’ll probably be an old man by the time I can afford it, but one day I’m going to buy one.””

After a little less than a year, Magahern had saved up enough money from different computer programming jobs to buy one.

“”I was so frugal with my money and then I bought this and blew it all,”” he said.

“”It was $5,000 new. I could have gotten a used one for a lot less, but I really wanted to keep it for a long time, so I decided to get a new one.””

Growing up as a Mac user, Magahern says the person he admires the most is Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple.

“”He is probably the biggest nerd you will ever read about,”” Magahern said. “”He started very young, and he was kind of poor too, and all he wanted was a computer for himself, so he designed one.””

“”I was very fortunate to meet him this summer because he lives in the Bay Area. I met him at a ‘Segway Polo’ match.””

According to Magahern, there are a lot of nerds in Silicon Valley, and he had heard of a Segway polo team in the area from the Segway retailer.

“”All of a sudden I saw Steve Wozniak there, and I got to meet him and we got to talk about geeky things,”” said Magahern.

Having a Segway now at such a young age is very unusual, according to Magahern, especially because everyone at Segway Polo was an engineer and “”geeky guys”” twice his age, said Magahern.

Magahern takes advantage of being one the few and youngest Segway owners. He often socializes with them by going onto online forums for owners who post pictures of the crazy things they do with their Segways.

When asked if he has named his trusty Segway stead, he replied, “”No, I really should. It’s been really good to me.””

He says he has been into computers and technology his entire life.

“”My father started me on a really old ‘Mac’ classic computer. I credit him for all of my inspiration,”” said Magahern. At the age of 5, Magahern was scripting and designing his own games and applications with a computer software called “”HyperCard,”” which was similar to “”Powerpoint.”” Magahern said it was really easy even at that age.

Though both of his parents aren’t as technologically savvy as Magahern, his twin brother, Charles, also shares his fascination with computers.  

“”He is almost the same as me in every aspect. We’re pretty much like clones except that he doesn’t have a Segway. We’ve also been roommates since before we were born.””

There is rivalry and animosity that goes on all the time between them, said Magahern.

“”We’re always competing on every little thing, literally everything. Grades, intelligence, even who can take shorter showers,”” he said.

“”We cannot play video games together at all. It will be fun for the first 15 minutes and then all of a sudden it will get extremely competitive.””

Magahern and his brother do agree on their shared enjoyment of “”Dance Dance Revolution.””

“”That’s sort of a thing my brother and I do all over town,— we go to all the arcades. We lived in San Francisco, Bay Area for the summer, and so we spent a lot of time touring all the arcades up there.””

While frequenting the arcades in San Francisco, Magahern also had an internship in Palo Alto, Calif. with a company called “”IDEO,”” where he used his computer skills to design children’s game applications for the “”iPad.”” Both of his applications, “”Balloonables”” and “”Balloonables Adventure,”” can be found on iTunes.

“”A lot of my friends have dropped out of college to start their own companies and have been successful. But I want to finish my degree so I can choose whatever path,”” Magahern said.

“”One of the reasons it’s hard for me to pick a path between the more mathematical or creative side is I really enjoy programming, but I also enjoy graphic design a lot. I’ve never taken any classes on Photoshop or Illustrator. When I was in high school, I was working on a lot of websites and applications professionally. I couldn’t afford to pay a graphic designer, but I knew how to program so I just did it myself and ended up really enjoying it.””

Magahern has two websites that he describes as “”completed, yet not finished.””

“”I’m very finicky about all the little details, so a lot of people are telling me to publish it now and put it on the web, but I’m like ‘No, not yet!'”” he said. He describes that when he works on a website icon, he will zoom in and notice that one pixel doesn’t look right.

“”It’s never perfect,”” said Magahern.

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