My Personal History With Computers

Late 1970s - fascinated by the teletype and accounting computer at my father's office.
  The computer was a big special formed metal desk, with an electric typewriter and a printing calculator built in. Below the calculator was a magnetic card reader/writer. Where the drawers on the side would have been was a big metal box.  It ran simple accounting programs and simple mail-merge processing, and had a coil of wire for the main memory storage. My favorite thing was to do powers of 2 on the calculator - having no idea that those were natural binary values.

My Uncle worked for IBM, and one time when he was visiting NYC, we visited him at one of the offices. This was my first time seeing green-screen terminals connected to bigger systems.

1975 - my father buys an SR-52 programmable calculator - which had a tiny magnetic card reader for storing programs. I learned an early version of machine code programming using the calculator. My favorite game was the lunar lander simulator.

1976 - my father decided to get in on the hobby computer crazy which had started less than a year before when a company called ALTAIR came out with a kit using an 8-bit processor known as the 8080 (the specific chip were cheaper seconds from the manufacturing line due to defects that kept them from being used as full pin-out or full speed for the original use, but worked perfectly for hobby computers).
While deciding which kit to get, my father decided to let me check out what he was looking at. He took me along to 1 of 2 computer stores in the whole United States - in mid-town Manhattan.
My father had to leave, but I stayed and taught myself BASIC programming, by looking at the code and bugging the salesman. I was 12.
My dad decided to by a different brand, the IMSAI 8080, which was basically a clone of the ALTAIR kit. We spend a few weeks soldering the different parts of the computer before we could turn it on.
At first, the computer only knew binary, and you had to load programs from hex tables. After entering a bootstrap program, we could save and load programs from the cassette tape. I did a lot of work in 4k and 8k basic, occasionally going to 12k basic, and played occasionally with 8080 machine code and assembler.

1978 - my dad got 8" floppy drives and boot rom for the computer. It ran a system called CP/M. We could now fit over a 100k of data on a floppy!

1979 - I got my own computer: it was a Ohio Scientific Challenge 4p. It had 8k basic in ROM, and 4k of RAM. It hooked up to a TV for display and used a cassette to store programs. The keyboard was built into the case, which was unusual in those days. I wrote lots of small programs, including a version of space invaders. I learned about 6502 machine code, and created some hybrid basic-6502 programs.

I used a DEC time-share system at school for BASIC programming. I also took z80 assembler coding in high school. The school eventually replaced the time-share system with a bunch of z80-based TRS-80 computers.

1980 - My step-brother got a Commodore-64. I spent many, many hours working on it when he was not at home. I worked on a number of games, including a variation of Donkey Kong that I called Snoopy Kong. I spent a lot of time creating utilities for creating graphics using the keyboard. When we only had a tape cassette system for storing data, I created a data compression system. It used multi-factor compression depending on the kind of data it encountered. It took a 25 minute save/load to under 5 minutes.

1981 - my step-dad purchased an Apple Macintosh through his university. I learned how to use the computer mouse, paint and spreadsheets among other things. I missed having a convenient line command and scripting language. My favorite game was Lode Runner.

1982 - I got a CP/M based machine from my dad. I also inherited a fast 300 baud modem from a friend. I spent a little time learning about bulletin board systems. Luckily, I never got into the dark side of BBS systems.

I took Fortran in College. They had us enter our programs on punch cards or optical marked cards. It was slow and clunky. Considering how many years I'd already used interactive systems, it was really backwards. I still got an 'A'.

1984 - After too many years not working with computers, I decided to try my hand getting a piece of paper - to open doors working with computers. The local tech school had a class starting in only a few days, and I signed up. I was disappointed that it was an Operations-based course, and that they would not let me into the programming course. It was also with mainframes, which were where most of the jobs were at that point, though it didn't sound too exciting. Yet, it was computers, which was a step up. I learn RPG programming, and JCL coding among other things. Graduate with honors and land a part time job before I graduated.

Hired by AT&T to work on mainframes. I learn CLIST (mainframe scripting language) and SAS.
My first exposure to IBM PC. It is an XT system - basically the first generation PC. I was surprised to learn the features they had added to CPUs and Microcomputer systems - such as multiplication instructions.

1987 - moved on to work for a Wall Street Company.

They give me a luggable PC to log in from home (Laptop-like device, but you still had to plug it in to the wall to run). It had a monochrome screen and for the first time, a hard drive. I was excited to have 10Meg hard drive for storing data, instead of only using floppies! It had a faster 80286 processor, and ran about 12 Mhz. I hacked a plug to allow it to display CGA color on a PC-JR monitor. It also had a 1200 baud modem - talk about some better speed for getting online!

I learned Stratus minicomputers.

I went back to college at night and took a number of computer courses: DBase-IV, Visual Basic, Cobol Programming, C Programming and modems.

I learned Unix - they had SunOS at work, which eventually was upgraded to Solaris. To understand Unix, I installed Linux from Slackware on a 386-32Mhz computer, that I dual-booted with DOS.

I learned Windows - playing with Widnows 2, then 3.0, then 3.1 then 3.3. At 3.3 mixed with Unix, I started to learn more about the Internet. I also went online to a very early version of the web via a dial-up service through a computer-book-seller from which I had a subscription service.
At first it was only text-based with Lynx, then I was able to get a version of Netscape 1.0 working to see some pictures. Of course, if the server was slow or locked up, Netscape would hang waiting for the picture to load.

I learned about Windows NT and administration of NT systems.

I started coding web systems using the CGI-interface (not computer generated characters, but a low-level web-programming interface) and taught myself HTML.

I worked on learning Java and XML.

I started working with databases.

2000 - went to work in Colorado for a different big phone company. This time I was doing Sybase and Unix coding.

Got involved in Hobby Robotics. Learned about 68HC11 and Atmel MCU chips.
Won 2 trophies for a Lego Robot (Mindstorms - pre NXT)

2001 - Unix and NT admin. Also created web systems using IIS and Access.

2003 - IIS and MS/Access - learned T/SQL

2004 - Back to mainframes and Cobol :(

2010 - some Java programming for a short while

2011 - worked on learning programming Android Apps

2015 - working with single board computers, using Raspberry Pi systems and others, including Onion Omega and Pine A64.