Donald Lee Ravey - 22 July 1929 - 22 August 2014
Computers

My interest in computers actually goes all the way back to my college senior project, which covered analog and digital computers in 1950. At that time, I was convinced that the future was in analog computing! Later, when I completed my Navy active duty in 1955, I worked for Convair, in the Analog Computer Laboratory, under Stanley Rogers, who had been a laboratory assistant to Dr. Lee DeForest, the inventor of the vacuum tube!

But that ancient history didn't immediately launch me into a career in computers. It was many years later that I reluctantly learned FORTRAN in graduate school. And I didn't use that for many years to follow.

It was probably about 1977, at Memorex, when I had to learn a database programming language called Nomad, that I really began to program computers -- mainframes, in this case. When we brought the application in-house from its earlier time-share environment, I scrambled to rewrite the whole application in FORTRAN (not a pretty thought). Over the next few years, I recognized how inappropriate the language was for the purpose, so I learned Pascal and converted all the old programs. Meanwhile, I began learning Rexx, IBM's interpreted language for System 370 mainframes.

I wish I could reconstruct just when I bought my first personal computer — an Apple ][ — not even a ][e — but it must have around 1980. After learning Applesoft BASIC, I began programming like wildfire. I wrote several articles published in Nibble and other Apple oriented magazines, from 1982 to 1986.

Around this time, too, I briefly made an appearance on ARPANET, using my association with MIT to obtain a user account. If I recall, I was using a 300 baud modem!

At some point, I replaced the Apple ][ with an Atari 1040 ST and experimented a little with MIDI music, as well as learning dbMan, a dBASE clone for the Atari. In the ensuing years, I graduated to a PC and learned Forth, C and dBASE.

When Unisys closed their Santa Clara plant (ex-Memorex) at the end of 1989 and I took early retirement, I began doing database consulting, as well as teaching. I developed databases with Paradox, dBASE and later, Microsoft Access. I learned the Visual Basic vernacular used in the Microsoft Office applications. More recently, I've added a Linux operating system to my local network, which hosts my web site, ftp site and mail server, so I've had to learn a lot about Linux/Unix, and have now begun to struggle through arcane topics like vi, grep, sed, awk, and Perl!

Update: after nearly 7 years of hosting my own servers over my DSL line, I realized that I was paying more for the electricity to run my 24x7 server than it would cost to get a shared hosting account and migrate everything over to Godaddy.com, where everything has been since late 2006. Gee, now I don't even worry about my server crashing or any of the multitude of other tasks of a system administrator!

For the next ten years I taught database and Internet classes at several local colleges and did commercial database development, primarily using Microsoft Access.

After that, I relaxed even more, which gave me time to learn something about MySQL open source database and PHP. I have used the combination of those two skills to implement several online databases for nonprofit organizations, such as an online events calendar and registration system for Hidden Villa in Los Altos.

More recently, I learned just a little ASP programming using Javascript, so that I could implement another data driven events calendar on a web site that only supports Microsoft scripting and database: NorCal Theatre Organ Society.

Update: I have since moved the NorCal Theatre Organ Society site to our own GoDaddy.com account and established several databases to enhance the usefulness of the site to our members.