Thomas A. Anderson was born in Lower Downtown, Capital City, USA on March 11, 1962 (so, in the real world near 2162) according to his criminal record, or September 13, 1971 according to his passport (both seen in the film). His mother was Michelle McGahey (the name of the first film's art director) and his father was John Anderson. He attended Central West Junior High and Owen Patterson High (named after the film's production designer). In high school, he excelled at science, math and computer courses, and displayed an aptitude for literature and history. Although he had disciplinary troubles when he was thirteen to fourteen years old, Anderson went on to become a respected member of the school community through his involvement in football and hockey.
At the start of the series, Neo is one of billions of humans neurally connected to the Matrix, unaware that the world he lives in is a simulated reality.
In his legitimate activities, he is a quiet programmer for the "respectable software company" Meta Cortex; but he is also a computer hacker who penetrates computer systems illicitly and steals information under his hacker alias "Neo", and he also sells illegal untraceable computer systems and hacking programs along with controlling computer viruses stashed on CDs and diskettes. During his time as a hacker, Anderson has learned about something known only as "The Matrix". It is described as a vague notion that Neo has felt his whole life that "there is something wrong with the world".
During the years prior to the events of The Matrix, Neo has spent his time trying to find the one man who he thought could tell him what the Matrix was: a supposed terrorist known only as Morpheus. Anderson is suddenly contacted by Morpheus via a cell phone mailed to his office, but is almost immediately captured by the virtual reality's Agents, led by Agent Smith. After refusing to co-operate with the agents, Neo has an electronic bug implanted within his Matrix-simulated body so that his actions can be tracked and those seeking to make contact from the free world can be traced and destroyed. He is then contacted by Trinity, freed from the bug, and taken to meet Morpheus.
Neo is offered a choice to remain in his everyday life and forget about the Matrix or to learn what the Matrix really is. Choosing to learn what the Matrix really is, he takes a drug (commonly called the "red pill") designed to disrupt his body's neural connection to the Matrix, and wakes up disoriented and alarmed to find himself weak, hairless, naked in a pod full of red liquid, and connected to many wires.