I’ve been crazy about computers since I stumbled in to the computer lab freshman year at my rural high school in Vermont. I remember taking home an intro book to programming in the BASIC computer language. I read that thing cover to cover in one night. I’m guessing that I ‘forgot’ all the homework assignments which were due the next day! (I was a classic underachiever in high school.)
Unlike most entering liberal arts college students, I was lucky enough to already know exactly what I wanted to do with my life before I got to college. My school had a cooperative education program like Northeastern’s, and my first assignment was with Raytheon in Wayland MA. This lead to my working at Raytheon full-time after I graduated, and moving to the Boston area permanently.
During my corporate career, I’ve had the good fortune to work in lots of different areas. Each time I worked in a new area, I got to learn about something completely different!
Here is a sampling of the kinds of things I did:
I wrote programs for those big circular displays like you see in air traffic control rooms. These programs allowed technicians to run tests on a radar system Raytheon was building for the Air Force to spy on Russian missile tests.
At Digital the computer company, I worked in a group writing programs to help assembly-line folks in DEC’s factories keep track of circuit boards and parts during the manufacturing process.
Later, I worked on programs to let an IT guy remotely change the settings on a kind of network equipment called a terminal server (sorta like your wireless router on steroids). One of the things I liked about that job was that DEC was downsizing like crazy then, and I got to be the project leader and chief bottle washer. If I was having a low-IQ day, I could just go into our computer lab, and re-organize two huge racks of equipment (one of every model of terminal server DEC had ever made.) I used that hardware to test my programs.
That lead to another networking job where I was responsible for fixing bugs and maintaining Digital’s DECdns software. DNS naming services help one computer find another computer’s address on a network, just like calling information helps you look up someone’s phone number.
This is the kind of software which nobody knows or cares anything about until it stops working. Problem is, when one of these ‘411’ name servers crashes, EVERYTHING grinds to a halt, email, databases, the web — everything. DEC had one customer who allowed one SCHEDULED downtime of one minute once a month. The reliability of DEC’s software was phenomenal compared to PCs of the time, where Windows 95 was regarded as a huge improvement because it only crashed 2-3 times a week.
Anyway, Digital had downsized from a team of like 5-10 people, who all had been working on the code for years, to just me and one junior programmer. He and I were in *way* over our heads, but we somehow managed, but that job was high pressure. I can remember getting calls from a national phone company customer at 4AM in the morning with 50 people on a conference call, including the VP.
I then worked for stints at two different computer networking startups during the Internet boom in the late 1990’s. Problem was, when the Internet bubble collapsed, I found I had to re-invent myself, and out of this came a new career in computers: tech support for local small business and home users. This job found me, as I already had forty customers before I even printed business cards or picked a name for my business.
…And about that business name. I hope it conveys several important things about my business. Its local, it’s not a franchise, or part of a big corporation that might try to sell you hardware. It’s just me. I also hope you get my sense of humor. Its all a bit much calling yourself a hero (and writing about yourself so much for that matter).
So after a career where projects sometimes took years, I have found the pleasure of day-to-day problem solving to be a joy. Every day brings new puzzles to solve, whether it’s an annoying wireless network, Macs or Windows, or installing a new printer or computer. The immediate feedback from reducing the pain out of folks tech lives is wonderful, and involves learning something new almost every day.