His uncle had a telescope and showed Schmidt heavenly bodies close up.
"Soon I built myself a small telescope and it sort of took off from there," Schmidt said.
And at 84, he still gazes out many billions of light years into the universe to find new quasars.
Their vast distance from us is what makes them particularly interesting.
Because they are so far away, by the time their images traverse the universe at the speed of light and arrive here for Schmidt to see them, more time has passed than the Earth and the sun are old.
Often, he is looking at something that happened 10 billion years ago -- in a universe that scientists believe to be 13 billion years old. The quasars provide him a view on the history of the universe.
So much time has passed, that the quasars no longer even exist anymore. In fact, they've been dying out handily, he said.
"10 billion years ago there were 100 times as many quasars in the universe as there are now," Schmidt said. It shows how massively the universe has evolved.
After all this time, Schmidt still has a child's fascination for the heavens.
"I certainly enjoy going to the desert and just seeing the sky from a dark location," he said. "It is a joy to me."
He leaves the telescope at home and stares into the endless night sky with the naked eye.
And still, he often sees something he's never noticed before.