He was on the ground getting his hands dirty with the first commercial applications of AI. He made quite a bit of money selling his various companies and technologies, and was awarded the presidential Medal of Technology from Clinton.
As I was growing up, there was a series of "Oh wow!" moments I had, associated with computers and what they were now capable of.
"Oh wow, computers can read printed documents and recognize the characters!"
"Oh wow, computers can read written text aloud!"
"Oh wow, computers can recognize speech!"
"Oh wow, computer synthesizers can sound just like pianos now!"
I didn't realize until much later that Kurzweil was heavily involved with all of those breakthroughs.
I had the synth music bug for a while, and the K2xxx series was something that definitely made me drool. Couldn't afford it, though.