How My Fascination With Perception Put Me On A Path To Become A Software Engineer

How my interests evolved over the years from magic tricks to making software.

Albert Berk Toledo
6 min readDec 17, 2016


Magic Tricks

A friend of my dad used to bring me and my twin sister Kinder Surprise eggs every time he came to our house to watch a soccer game. He wouldn’t just give us the eggs. Instead he would make it seem like he took it out of our nose or found it behind our ear. It was a simple magic trick and both my sister and I knew it was a trick. Yet we couldn’t tell how he did it. If it wasn’t for our past experience in life, all feedback we got from our senses at the moment indicated that the egg came out of our nose.

I was fascinated every time. Not by the trick itself but by my realization that our senses can be mistaken. Our perception is not merely the input by our senses delivered to our brain. There was a process in between and our brain filled in some gaps based on what it already knew, based on memory. If I knew how a trick actually worked, it would change my experience significantly. Difference between knowledge and the lack of it was so powerful.

I thought it was fun to be tricked. Maybe because it made me realize a wider reality was possible beyond what we saw, heard and felt. I wanted to enable the same fascination in other people. I started to learn some simple magic tricks.


At some point, cell phones with color screens came into our lives, and cell phones with cameras soon after. A very simple but powerful feature of the camera software in these phones was the ability to start recording a video, pause it and then keep recording. This was a very simple way of editing videos while you were recording them. My friends and I quickly started using this for a very fun and primitive special effect. We would record one of us walking towards a wall or a closed door and pause the video. The person would then go on the other side of the wall and keep walking as we continued recording. It seemed like the person just walked through the wall. I was fascinated.

This was my dream phone that I never got to have

I realized the power of editing videos and wanted to do more of it. As I started middle school, I gathered some close friends together for small film projects. I begged my parents to buy me a video camera and thankfully they did. I had a Sony camera that recorded into a cassette that I then plugged into my desktop computer that ran Windows XP. I learned how to use Windows Movie Maker and started editing my movies with it. It was so much fun.

Around the same years, I started going to some auditions to act in national TV commercials. When I participated in a relatively serious production, I got to see how things actually worked beyond the TV screen. It was nothing like the end product. So much more went into it, so many things were fake, outside scenes were filmed inside and when I was riding a bicycle, someone was actually pulling it forward with a rope. The difference between the perceived result of the film and how it was actually made was fascinating to me. I decided I wanted to be a film maker.

This is the TV commercial I mentioned above. (You can see me between 0.30 —0.38 )


Soon after, I started hitting a barrier and realized how hard it was for a middle school kid with no resources to make movies. My friends didn’t have the motivation to commit to bigger projects, there was no Youtube etc. Slowly I shifted into photography.

Photography was easier for me to pursue by myself. All I needed was a camera. The beautiful city of Istanbul had plenty of scenery and people on the streets waiting to be photographed. I also found something unique in photography that movies didn’t have. With photography, I couldn’t make it seem like a person walked through a wall, but I could capture moments in ways that we never perceive in real life. We cannot freeze moments and perceive them with our eyes, we can only do it with photography. I also loved the fact that I could share my photos in print. I didn’t need a screen or more than a split second of a person’s time for them to witness what I had made. Another aspect of photography that I enjoyed was walking around in the city, just looking at things, observing the world without too much thinking. It was almost a form of meditation that cleared my mind like no other activity.

As I started to get more serious with photography, I spent a summer helping a professional photographer, Izzet Keribar. More than going out on excursions with him, I sat in his office watching his assistant re-touch photographs in Photoshop. I started learning how to use the software and re-touch my own photos. I liked it as it gave me more power over how the photo ended up being perceived.


Over time, I started spending most of my time using Photoshop. I was learning various ways the software was used, such as graphic design. This was right around the time I came back from an exchange year in Spain and was heavily volunteering at AFS Turkey, the organization that facilitated my exchange program. I was doing all sorts of things there but one thing I started helping with was graphic design. I designed everything from t-shirts to invitation cards for events and finally websites.


I had always been interested in computers and software. I first used a mouse when I was 4 and broke a Windows 95 machine by the age of 6 a few hours after my parents brought it home. I made some websites about dogs and maintained it for a while when I was in elementary school. So when I started designing for the web at AFS, it brought my passion back. Designing for the web was an intersection of my fascination for perception and passion for software.

I remember when I told my mother that I thought I wanted to make software after I finished school. She asked me what exactly I wanted to do. A Google search result page was open on my computer. I told her, “Do you see these ads on the side?” She said, “Yes.” I responded, “I want to understand and decide why the right side of the page was the best place to place them.”

I was pretty clear that I wanted to study computer science at that point. This way I could learn how to build the products I wanted to design. I hated the idea of coming up with an idea, deciding how it should work and not being able to finish the job.

I didn’t learn any programming until I started college. My English sucked until I stepped foot onto American soil and there was not enough learning material for programming in Turkish. That was a strong reason why I thought I needed to learn programming in school and major in computer science.

So I did. In 2011 I flew 11 hours to the west to start learning how I could make computers do what I wanted them to. I graduated in 2015 and started working as a software engineer.

I still take photos and probably should learn and do more magic tricks. I haven’t made many movies in recent years but with the current state of the cameras in our pockets and social platforms and connectivity overall, I am planning on making more. Software is currently my main focus since it is, as an industry, having a great impact on society and how we advance as a species going forward. I couldn’t be more glad to be a part of it.