I am the child, instilled with a sense of wonder about, well, everything. I got kind of a late start, didn't run into computers until I was starting High School, until my parents gave me an old Pentium II that they had lying around. I'm 19 now, so that would have been 2005-2006-ish. A horribly underpowered machine. I was infatuated. I installed WinXP on it for the first time, I laid awake at night listening to the hard drive wail... an 8GB hard drive. It barely fit XP on it. Over the next few years I did everything I could think of with that box to make it run just a little bit better. I scavenged my house's parts drawer, googling serial numbers on the silicon to see just what this board did, and whether it would make my relic run faster. A few months later, I upgraded my computer for the first time... A Pentium III! A 20 GB hard drive! My world had opened up. I had to have my old data and parts, so I became familiar with the internals of the computer. Eventually I ran out of things to do in windows. I tried the linux thing I had heard about, burned myself a liveCD of ubuntu, gutsy gibbon. Wifi didn't work on the cheap usb dongle I was using, so it was back to windows to me. But I had gotten a taste. A taste of the terminal, and of an operating system that actually let me tinker with things. When ubuntu fixed the wireless driver for that dongle, and I was ready to install it again (after a failed fedora install or 2). After that it was just one software foray after another. Something broke, and I adventured deeper into the file system to fix it. I started to learn how to program. I learned about Arch Linux. I got a Dual Core computer (!!). The rest is history.
I still learn all I can, but my focus has shifted a little. I'm learning to program properly, to make new tools instead of understanding existing ones. I'm learning C and python and haskell and lisp (and looking for more!) and loving every minute of it.
I find it a little bit disheartening, however, the lack of curiosity that my peers display, even my fellow CS majors. To me, the computer is a vastly complex system, just waiting to be explored, and thanks to open source software, I can! But a lot of my peers don't see things that way. I would hazard a guess that part of that reason is that the environment presented to them is not particularly interesting, particularly in a windows or mac environment, where a lot of the details are abstracted as far away as possible. For me the spark of curiosity was ignited when I had a relic of a machine that I needed to make run faster. I tried to squeeze the most out of that computer, and it taught me enough to whet my appetite. I feel like our youth, my peers have been and are being short changed by technology today. I'm not sure what there is to be done about it, but I know that it isn't right.
I can't speak for your peers, but for me, deadlines and emergencies have probably taken a lot of the fun out of it. It's one thing when you're trying to debug some driver issue on your own system and you're doing it as a hobby so whether it gets done today or next month is no big deal, versus, say, crossing yourself and muttering a prayer and rolling out an update following weeks of testing, only to have it conflict with something you didn't anticipate and the entire network goes down in flames while your phone melts.
Or, for a slightly less doomsday scenario, just a relatively simple problem affecting one person, but they're still trusting you to figure it out, and they're expecting you to do it sooner than later.
There's a point at which the fun really starts to go out of that. I've always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I've always worked well under pressure, but nowadays my favorite thing is quiet time in the sunshine digging about in the garden. (Oh god, that makes me sound old.)
Maybe this will never happen to you. I hope not! But I've been thinking a lot about what Chuck said, and about my frustrations with technology, and I think that maybe this has a lot to do with it.