|Back in the fourth grade, that’s how Timothy Hoogland‘s classmates thought of their brainy peer.They teased him. They excluded him. They shunned him for what makes him special.
So Timothy’s mother pulled him out of school and started teaching him at their Alsip home.
About the same time, Timothy’s grandmother gave him an outdated and broken Commodore 64.
“My parents weren’t going to buy me a computer, so if I wanted one, I had to get (the Commodore) working,” he said.
The two events changed Timothy’s life.
“Home-schooling allowed me the flexibility to do what interested me,” he said. “I could do three days worth of schoolwork at my own pace in one day, then spend two days working on computers.”
When most of his former classmates were just starting high school, Timothy launched a home-based consulting business, House of Bugs Computer Services or HOBHQ.com.
“I did it just for fun,” the young entrepreneur said. “I didn’t think I’d make a career out of it.”
Now 18, he and his two employees (his brothers Jeff, 16, and Doug, 14) build about 150 computers a year and repair dozens more.
He charges about $400 for a basic budget system and upward of $1,000 for high-end gaming systems, his specialty.
“Everything is customized, tailored to the customer,” he said.
Timothy also handles bigger jobs, such as building DJ and karaoke systems, installing point-of-sale terminals at restaurants and wiring networks at body shops.
Meanwhile, Timothy started taking classes at Moraine Valley Community College at age 14.
He will graduate in a year with two associate’s degrees — in management information systems and computer sciences/IT security — and 10 certificates.
He also works at Moraine as a technical aide and sometimes fills in as a substitute teacher.
Timothy’s latest venture isn’t about money.
For sheer enjoyment, he hosts LAN parties for fellow gamers.
These events are BYOC: Bring Your Own Computer.
Short for local area network, the gatherings can have three souls or thousands plugged in, eyes glued on flickering screens, clicking buttons in a frenzy.
They play first-person shooter, strategy and role-playing games, such as Counter-Strike: Source, StarCraft and Guitar Hero.
Yes, the room may resemble a reunion from the short-lived sitcom “Freaks and Geeks.”
And newcomers and non-gamers might find it hard to recognize the appeal.
Timothy swears, however, that group gaming gets the adrenaline pumping.
“It’s exciting and intense,” he said. “It’s a thrill when you have all these people right there and you’re playing against them.”
Timothy’s first LAN party was on New Year’s Eve in his parent’s garage. A dozen people participated.
Twice as many gamers showed for a June 13th gathering in a rented room at Senese’s Winery.
He expects about 50 people — ages 14 to 40 — tomorrow at the Labor Lan Party, which is expected to run from 11 a.m. until after midnight at Zante’s Lounge in Palos Hills.
It’s $20 to play. Lunch, dinner and snacks are included.
“Hunger can kill a LAN party,” Timothy explained.
Moraine is sponsoring the event and supplying a cache of networking equipment.
Winners will receive hard drives as prizes.
“The parties give gamers a chance to connect, network and meet in person,” he said. “It’s great to be around people who have the same interests.”