I started out with a Commodore VIC-20 when I was really young (8 or 9, maybe?), and I was hooked. I transcribed a kaleidoscope program from a “Learning to Program” book. It was awesome, but there was a fatal flaw. Once it started, I couldn’t figure out how to stop it. I hadn’t saved it to the attached cassette tape drive (and I can’t even remember if it was an option, actually). I remember leaving the computer running for as long as I possibly could, until my parents finally told me to shut it off. I was sad and happy at the same time; sad I lost the program (that I typed, didn’t create), but able to start working on new stuff. Eventually as I got older, we moved up to the 64, and even got to work on other friends’ 128 systems. We ended up getting a modem, and I subscribed to services like Q-Link and Prodigy over time. Q-Link eventually became AOL, but that wasn’t my fault.
Later on, my Dad brought home a CompuAdd PC build kit. This came complete with a 40 mb hard drive AND a matching tape backup drive. That was amazing. It also marked the shift for me to PCs, and I never looked back. I glommed on to DOS, the menuing systems, everything. Eventually branching out to BBS networks, FidoNet (1:280/5!), and the like. By either 1991 or1992, I had found my way to the Internet, courtesy of a Johnson County Community College uplink.
I had access to Apple computers through some of the schools I went to. In middle school, we didn’t have a computer lab. Instead, they had a small fleet of Apple machines on metal rolling desks. On computer day, they’d roll all the desks and plug them in. We didn’t have much latitude in what we could do during computer time. I mainly remember three things about Apple at the time:
- Using Logo to move the turtle around.
- Playing Oregon Trail.
- Realizing that since they plugged one desk into the next, if you positioned your hand so that you were touching both desks, you’d feel the electical current flowing through your hand. That was neat!
For whatever reason, those remembrances had always caused me to always think of Apple being primarily used for education. Obviously, this changed over time, but I didn’t necessarily change my view. Plus, once Apple moved to hardware that you couldn’t upgrade, I just didn’t see a ton of value in spending time in that ecosystem.
The introduction of Windows was pretty awesome (for the time). It reminded me of GEOS that was available on the Commodore 64, but it was much more powerful. By this time, I realized wanted to do this for a career, but I still wasn’t sure how to translate that. I stumbled through a few things as I was trying to find my way. It was awesome, the technology just kept getting better and better. I never really stopped to think about it, but now I realize I always liked figuring out how things worked as well as creating programs of various complexity.
I had a little experience with Unix-based systems, but I wasn’t all that drawn to them. Since I had mainly worked on systems with a GUI, systems that were terminal based seemed powerful, yet limiting at the same time. I had respect for them, but after using a VAX at UWGB, I wondered when (and if) that technology would ever progress.
Enter Linux. Around that time, Linux was starting to take off. I was intrigued by it, but it was awfully finicky. Device compatibility was terribly difficult to determine, and most answers to problems seemed to be “write your own drivers, and you’ll be all set”. There was potential, but since it wasn’t as polished, I opted to build my career on Microsoft tech.
I made a career, launched a consulting company, and even ran my own servers at home. After a while, I burned out a little bit. The boys were young, and I decided to wrap things up. All of the Web 2.0 companies were taking off, hosting services. Maybe I could just coast for a while, becoming a user for the most part.
Right around this time, the iPhone was released and looked like a game changer. I had no interest in the Mac platform, but man, could Apple make phones look attracted. I just wanted things to work; I didn’t want to have to mess around with things. That’s why I really enjoyed my iPhone (and still do).
Cloud was starting to heat up, which of course was the underpinning of the companies that let me take my foot off the gas. I found this fascinating from the start, but the companies I was working for weren’t even considering cloud at the time. This meant I needed to build my own personal projects, so I generated little things to keep me plugged in.
Finally, over the past two or three years, I have found myself getting interested in the nuts and bolts of technology again. I have been tinkering with a bunch of stuff, both on-prem and in the cloud, but I haven’t been documenting much here. Time to change that. I’m thinking to look back across all of the topics I raised here, as well as documenting some of the projects I’ve been working on.