The first computers I played with were back in the 1960s and 70s. I remember touring SFU when it first opened, ‘the computer’ was the size of your garage and about as powerful as a handheld calculator. But that was amazing at the time, just remember that the H-bomb, nuclear reactors and the Space Program were accomplished with a slide rule. How many people even know what those are in this day and age? Some of the early computing devices we played with were mechanical devices, you pushed gears and levers about with a stylus!
I had an uncle with Honeywell-Aero back east. He took me to the first computerized auto plant in St. Thomas where they built the Ford Pinto (boom!) and programming was done with crates of punchcards. He was a favorite among customers, one apple-box of cards he took everywhere, when you loaded it in the computer would churn out a picture of Snoopy on his doghouse, with a calendar below. On a dot-matrix made out of Xs an Os for the graphics. I guess it’s all his fault…
So after an aborted attempt to appease the parents by entering Dad’s alma mater at UBC and realizing it was more fun building light organs and fancy looking gizmos that simply ground started a payphone and blowing Cap’n Crunch whistles, I cut my hair and got a real job. Which paid so well I could buy reel-to-reel tape recorders, synthesizers and all sorts of fun stuff. But I quit to become one of the highest paid writers in the world. Believe it or not, over fifty bucks a word! Every two weeks I’d write NO-NO-NO-NO-YES-NO on a punchcard, mail it in and the government would send me over $300.
Which being a geek only piqued my curiosity, all they had to do was marker pen those words and use an optical reader or punch a hole and feed them through a computer…. but being gov’t they probably had a clerk hand punch another card.
I married a girl with family in the phone company, that was back in the days when that’s all you needed was a name to get in. And ended up in a department where I ended up all over the province converting the old mechanical offices into digital switches. Took a computer course when I ended up somewhere for a whole semester and quickly bought myself a Vic20 to pass the time. Punching in ones and zeros from the back of a computer magazine and saving them to cassettes. Learning two and two = two and how to divide D8 by 10. Dropping over $400 for a whole 4 kilobytes of extra RAM so I could have a system a powerful as the schools. Checking out BASIC and PASCAL and DOS, invited to Apple for the unveiling of the Macintosh and wondering how could anyone do any real programming with icons and a mouse.
Worked mainly with Commodore systems (C64, Amiga, Commodore PC) until they folded and Billy Gates came up with Win98 SE, a system stable enough to work with.
At any rate I ended up here in the Fort fixing phones, as the office was being converted. It had a teletype link to print our work orders and then got upgraded to a real data line. I was writing tech and consumer articles for the local rag and I could reference them over the the computer at work – the beginning of the Internet. I was never a good pole climber and they pointed out how my knees were popping and I’d have to look for some other work as they were planning to scale back at the phone company. So I took a buyout and opened the first Internet service outside P.G. Then another. Merged with the others, and eventually into Max Internet.
So let’s clear something up now, I never owned it. I owned shares in a company that held the majority of shares in it. And worked the office, sales, installation and repairs.
We quickly disposed of those racks of dialup modems squealing and awking in the backroom and in it’s dialup heyday had 46 incoming lines and one of the only T1s in town. Started playing with wireless delivery for higher speeds, and resold ADSL lines for a while. Forgot all my Cisco training as we could never afford their switches and had to ‘make do’. Bought myself some Macs, learned Linux and ran our own server banks, web servers, mail servers, our own DNS servers, etc. Lots of fun. No money.
Thanks to all the guys kids that worked for us and with us, Sean and Alan for turning me onto Linux and Brock for kicking me in the ass to get serious with it. Keegan for proving someone from the Fort really could go somewhere in tech. Johnny the most amazing salesman I ever met, why he’d not only sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, he’d sell him one with an LCD in it and another for his bar! Shara for making me wish I kept writing and drawing and got somewhere with that. Lynn and Sebastien who could make the customers smile.
Spent the last three years trying to sell out, and finally did. But I still hack lines of webcode, fix computers and configure things just for the fun (and hopefully some profit) of it. Just like how I used to just pick up your phone and discover what needed to be fixed, I can still tell you within a few minutes what your computer or Internet connection needs to be fixed. And people tell me I have the patience of a Saint, so after practicing that for all these years serving the public, I can show you how to do something on your computer.