Photos: Alexis Leclair
At 5:20 every morning, 13-year-old Caden Moniz takes his first sip of coffee and peruses online news sites. Scanning the 32-inch flat screen TV he’s converted to a computer monitor, he looks for the latest in tech news to compile into his own online publication, VIP Tech Magazine.
It’s an early schedule for a teenager, but he’s only got a few hours each weekday morning to work on his own projects before he heads off to Vista Preparatory Academy in Red Bluff, where he’s recently been named Student of the Year. Fueled by ambition as well as caffeine, the plucky eighth-grader maintains an A average and has his sights set on enrollment at UC Berkeley.
“It started as something little, a couple of articles,” Caden says of VIP Tech. “I wanted to put it all together, so I started a magazine.” The first issue was published in April and includes original articles on Top 5 Upcoming Smartphones of 2014 and the Top 10 Budget Tablets of 2013. It’s all information Caden takes seriously as he builds his own cache of electronics to meet his various needs and interests.
Caden takes a tablet to school, a tool he earned with various income-generating projects, and works on his magazine in his down time. “If I finish an assignment, instead of reading, I’d rather just work on my magazine on my iPad,” he says.
Caden began publishing online at the Creepy Pastas website, a gathering of scary paranormal stories and short horror microfiction. “All the kids would come over, read them, and scare the pants off each other,” says his mom, Jennifer Moniz.
From Creepy Pastas, Caden moved on to become a featured correspondent at Gammyskinny.com, a site he found after doing a Google search for rants about Candy Crush Saga, which seemed to be overwhelming Facebook and other sites. He took delight in the rant he found at Gameskinny and searched the site more deeply, noticing a call for contributions.
Caden’s work has tightened up at Gameskinny, since he works with editors who guide him. As a result, he’s often featured on the site’s home page. He’s not working for free, either: Caden takes payment in video games. He recently penned a guide to the new Call of Duty and received a copy of the game for his efforts.
As anyone knows, electronics aren’t cheap. Caden figured out pretty quickly that he’d need to find some of his own funding to support his interests. He has set up a DJ business and has worked school dances and private functions. He’ll also make minor repairs to smart phones and computers. His teachers are some of his best customers.
“He has all these fancy gadgets,” says Jennifer, “but he earns those.”
An iTunes search for electronic music to fuel his DJ business turned up a new passion for Caden, and another way to earn money. Once he discovered the artist Savant, he says, he was hooked. He began playing around to create his own electronic music and now has an online persona, Omniplexxx. He is working on his second EP. His first, “Only You,” is available for sale at bandcamp.com
“It’s pretty fun to just start making a pattern,” he says, playing with the three different forms of software he uses to create music. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s not just sitting here playing video games all the time.”
Caden’s parents, Jennifer and Gary, say they noticed early on that their eldest had a propensity towards the intellectual and electronic. Though he followed in his dad’s footsteps for a few years in early elementary school by playing football with the Junior Spartans, ultimately his interests were elsewhere.
While Jennifer says his knowledge of computers and technology is far beyond that of she and her husband, it’s an interest they fully support and encourage. “He gets it,” she says. “It’s his passion.”
While Gary often has to work weekends at the Walmart Distribution Center, Jennifer tries to augment Caden’s learning with outings. They recently visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and toured the Google campus, a place Caden one day hopes to work.
Though he aspires to work at Google, he says he’d be happy at Apple, too, where a much-admired relative works, one who is teaching Caden computer code. “I follow Apple more as a cult following for my cousin, Luke,” he says.
With a thoughtful pause in consideration of his future, he reiterates his goals. “Google or Apple, both,” he says. “It would be hard to decide if I had to choose. And I’m sure they’ll still be around by the time I’m an adult.” With another pause, he adds, “But they’ll probably have robots by then.”