Before I had my very own computer, we had a family computer. Our mom bought us a Magnavox Odyssey in the late 1970’s. You could play games on it. It even had a keyboard. We used it to also play a prank with our friends. I would climb into the cabinet where our television sat on top. My sister would ask the computer questions and I would type the answers as if it were the computer. Then, she would get the friend to ask something. We only pulled it off a couple of times. We always told in the end, because we weren’t very good at secrets.
My first computer was a hand me down from brother. The Texas Instruments TI 99/4a (the YouTube video in the link is not me). My older brother gave it to me around 1983 and this is when I first discovered programming. It would store the programs on audio cassettes.
Then, in 1985, we purchased a brand new IBM PCjr. I convinced Kay that she could use it for her new law school classes, but it didn’t work out that way. It was clear that this was for me and I dove in with a passion. I learned programming and just like a guy with a hot rod, I was constantly looking for ways to soup it up (add on memory, faster processors, etc). While I enjoyed the fun stuff, I quickly learned that it could help with my work. So, we eventually used some of these at work and my computer education continued.
I still recall a conversation I had about programming loops with the driver for one of our flower shop customers. His name was Mark. He had long hair and chained smoked. He explained how I could create a loop with a goto/line #. To test it, I used it with some graphics that created a sort of art project on my screen. It was an aha! moment for me and my computer education.
In 1988, we bought a new computer system for work. The company that sold it to us went bankrupt right after the sale. We ended up with the program source code and permission to modify it for our own use. We hired a consultant/programmer that knew the language and went about paying him to modify the code. I was getting more and more into computers at that time and was very interested in the language used by our work computers. I remember taking the printouts out of the the shredding bin and trying to read the code. Amazingly, it made sense.
In 1990, I proposed that we fire the consultant and allow me to do the programming for work. The owners agreed. It was a good arrangement and after several years, we hired a programmer so I could focus more on the business. We’ve had different programmers over the years, but I have always kept my fingers in it. I love to write programs that help people do things faster and better and make us more efficient and better at customer service. It is also a form of creative therapy for me. Many nights I have spent working on programs and getting lost in the “flow”.
Now, in 2018, we are working on a massive conversion from the old language to the new, Ruby language. The project is lead by someone I met back in 1991 while attending a computer conference. I don’t know the Ruby language, but there are millions that do and that is one of the main reasons to convert.