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.
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.