My dad was a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at St. Ambrose College (now St. Ambrose University) in Davenport, Iowa. In the early 70’s, I would help to punch IBM cards on the weekends during a time when he was experimenting with FORTRAN. Every week, he would bring home a stack of magazines from the college library. He brought this one (see image) home in 1975, and things changed. My path was set. Then came Don Lancaster’s TV Typewriter Cookbook, and then came the day I was working in Radio Shack selling the usual stereos and CBs and was asked to unpack and set up the first TRS-80 to arrive in the store. I haven’t looked up from the keyboard much since then, unless it was to reach for the soldering iron.
At home, my dad fed me a steady diet of cast-off lab equipment and office equipment that companies donated to the college for a tax writeoff, no matter how useless it was. But it was gold to me, including an Edison wax-cylinder Dictograph and a complete IBM 360 with Selectric typewriter that filled the basement for years and was steadily canibalized – We put shelves in the “Storage Controller” so that it could be used again to control storage. Just looking back and being thankful to my dad for a lifetime of inspiration, patience and tolerance.
What got you started? What was your initial inspiration?
Well, if I followed my dad’s path, I would sit in an excavator or loader now
My 1st contact with computers have been the C64 and C128 of my friends.
The only thing we had at home was a (at that time already quite old) pong like console to connect to the TV, which we weren’t allowed to touch.
Don’t know why, nobody ever used it (except me in secret :-[
Later my older brother bought his 1st computer, an EURO PC from Schneider with a 10" or 12" all yellow screen and a 3.5" floppy.
It had a x(0)86 lice CPU I guess. http://www.homecomputermuseum.de/comp/55_de.htm
I was looking over his shoulder, by which I learned to code in GW basic then, but I wrote most of my code on paper, since my access to my brothers computer was very limited.
Later (I guess at the age of 11/12) my brother got a new computer, and my parents bought the old one from him for me.
After that, it did not took long until I left my brother far behind in coding and similar stuff.
Well that’s my story.
The roots of my interest for electronics reach back to the early 1970s. I made some do it yourself projects with transistors, the timer IC NE555 and TTL-Cuircits In those times Computers only existed at universities or large companies. In 1977 the magazine “Elektor” published a do it yourself computer (see picture), since then I could not get rid of this fun and vice. On the machine from elector I later wrote my about 100 pages long thesis on a text-processing program, where one could see the written text only on 8 LED 7-segment displays or printed on a daisywheel typewriter with homemade computer interface. Later steps were a 8088 DIY PC with CP/M 86 -then DOS-, with monitor, diskette drive and a great 20 Mbyte hard disk drive. Languages of the following years are Turbo Pascal and MS Office with VBA. Then I wanted to learn C++ and ordered a book with the title Visual C#, Step by Step (…thought it was a typo)…, well, lucky me! Then 1/2012 I read the article
"Gadgets im Eigenbau" in the german computer magazine c’t. Wow, that’s it,… bullet proof libraries to make great things, … we’re already near and will soon be there! The journey is its own reward.
I was just thinking that quite a few will be looking at these images and think, wow, lots of old folk on here. It certainly wasn’t from my father as he was a plumber.
I can’t recall my exact time I became interested but it would be in my teens so somewhere in the late 70’s as I recall at that time my need to dismantle any gadget that my parents purchased. I would wait until they would go out for the evening and then I would arm with myself with the screwdrivers and start to open up everything I could (betting many here did the same). The video player for the first experiment (Betamax at the time). The TV also got opened but I was careful back then to not probe around inside that too much. They used to have so many boards to control the TV tube back then. Now it’s almost all one board, even on tube sets that you can still buy, the whole control is on the board that fits around the neck.
My first foray into computers was a Commodore VIC20 which was mainly for games but it was the BBC Micro that I got next that I started to learn programming. Ah the good old days of BBC Basic and 6502 assembly language. This was well past my school days though.
Funnily enough I ended up working in mechanical engineering as there was no jobs when I left school in electronics and certainly not for someone who didn’t have enough grades to go to uni or college. I spent my spare time learning electronics and programming so to this day all my knowledge is self taught I am still learning new stuff even having reached the half century and I still prefer hands on work instead of pen pushing as most of my friends now do.
Two of the best developers I ever hired were a carpenter and a cabinet maker - a couple of inseparable beer buddies who decided that because construction was down that they ought to try working in a computer field. They were working as test engineers at the time, but had web experience and we were going to try to build a web mail client, so I hired them on as the first ASP developers in Microsoft Exchange. The project was known internally as Kluane (a mountain in Alaska) and it was released as Outlook Web Access - one of the first apps to use the asynchronous JS patterns that came to be known as AJAX. Sadly, one of the two passed away right after the first version shipped. The other has gone on to become a partner-level leader in the Exchange team.
In all, the best hires I’ve made over the last 20 years at MS have ended up being people who studied something else (chem/mech/elec engineering, biology, various trades) and then came to the job with raw problem solving talent and a passion for technology. That’s why this thread got named ‘Inspiration’, and not ‘education’.