For as long as I can remember, I have been hotwiring solutions for all sorts of interests. In the early ’70s I was taking apart and reassembling my parent’s alarm clocks and electronics. Ten years later I was making a music console out of second-hand and discarded electronics, one that could play or tune into any type of media available at the time: tape player, normal and micro-cassette, AM/FM and short wave, and even 8-track. Eventually I built a Z80 computer and then extended its memory-map so that bank interleaving gave me more than the 8KB RAM needed to make a playable version of Atari’s Night Driver.
The mid-80’s caught me writing a Calculus study aid that would take derivatives, integrals, and then graph all original and resulting equations, which I built for myself and my classmates to visualize how those equations went together. It ran in Escalante’s classroom and earned first place at Rockwell International’s Computer Science competition thanks to my school counselor who had applied for me. In college I took pieces of equipment lying around everywhere and built a professional AV studio offering U-Matic, digital special effects and timebase editing, and worked on multimedia projects on the side for local businesses. Thanks to pro-AV capabilities, our dorm’s parties were well known among the Claremont Colleges and all over Pomona.
I had grown as the proverbial “boy with toys” and it was at Sanyo, where I landed a job manually routing electronic shipments all over North America, that I saw for the first time technology applied to do useful work. Every morning and afternoon, my job was to cull through the over 500 shipping orders the company’s mainframe would spit out on tabloid-sized fan-fold paper and verify or override shipping routes based on a short policy list. It was shortly after the Fischer acquisition, and I happened to find a PC in the hallway across from where the accounting department once was, complete with an IRMA 3720/SNA card and terminal emulation software. I commandeered the PC which replaced the 3720 terminal on my desk, and wrote a screen-scraper application to process all the terminal screens needed to get soft-copy of each order. I had those saved to a text file, imported into dBase, processed according to the policy list criteria, and then uploaded corrections and approvals one by one back to the mainframe to release the orders to the public warehouses in Long Beach. The whole process was taking less than 10 minutes and made my management suspicious that I wasn’t working. Soon after explaining and demonstrating, waiting while management was talking behind closed doors in Japanese, I was told to get the whole department working like me. I was soon reassigned to work on the Fischer inventory system integration/upgrade project. My career in applying technology had seen its first commercial application.
Filled with the zest of working in software, I moved to the California Bay Area, the Silicon Valley, and landed a role with QMS as a sales engineer. Never having worked with graphical interfaces, it was a challenge to quickly get up to speed in creating demos on Macintosh, Ventura, and early Windows, but late nights working with all the pieces available in the sales lab made it possible to run the technical side of trade shows and generally come up with professional desktop publishing configurations and solutions for those who wanted an alternative to Apple’s formidable LaserWriter/Macintosh combination. Looking to get more core technical exposure, I joined Advanced Micro Devices. Working with enterprise software developers, game developers, trying to support a fledgling PGL, working on new products and trying new things.
And that’s when things started to get interesting.