My interest in ray tracing started all the way back in 1988(ish), when a normal PC had a max of 256 colors to deal with and most PC's were actually running with monochrome video cards (Hercules).
Texas Instruments, who produced a majority of these cards also made graphics cards in a completely different league: Hercules Graphics Station Gold 16, Chrome and others with up to 128MB of RAM (not video
RAM), but RAM that could be utilized by e.g. AutoCAD as application memory. They cost many thousand dollars.
At that time I had a Genoa 6800 (I think) graphics accelerator, that could do 800x600
in 256 colors non-interlaced, and 1024x768 interlaced and a 16 bit Intel 80286 based PC.
And the operating system, of course, was DOS.
remember clearly, that I started out wanting to 'shade' a 'sphere', so that the intensity was greater in the center (front, 2D) of the 'sphere', which was then really only a 2D circle that was brightest in the center, suggesting a light soure. My first 'sphere'
I then started investigating the math of spheres, vectors, discovered surface normals, and from there it took off for my interest in ray tracing.
Mind you; at that time we didn't have the internet, and Google was never heard of. So things were down to inventing stuff, and crunching problems on your own.