Computers

My first computer was a Radio Shack programmable calculator (TRS-80).  I spent hours staring at the small one line screen and punching the calculator-like keys.  It started my long interest in the challenge computers offer.  "Man versus machine."

My interest was stimulated by conversations in the lounge/coffee room in the Medical City operating room.  Dr. Don Logan (urologist) was the first computer user I talked to.   He had a Radio Shack "real" computer.

Xerox 820

My first "real computer" was a Xerox 820.  A patient ran a computer store in downtown Dallas and sold Xerox office equipment of all types.  She let me take one home and try it out (believe that!) and I was immediately hooked.  It had dual eight inch floppy disks and used CPM as the operating system.  This was in 1981.  Within a year I upgraded to a hard disk with an unbelievable 10 megabytes of storage space.  Ram was 64k!  Word Star was the word processor and there was no spreadsheet available.   As I recall, VisiCalc was one of the first, and it only ran on Apple machines.   I looked down on Apples, as they used 5 inch disks and were even slower than my Xerox.

IBM PC

Soon after I got my first Xerox, IBM announced and released their first PC (August 12, 1981), and it had 5 1/4 floppy drives.  I remember how silly I thought these small drives were when everything else in the computer world was eight inch!

About a year later, I took my first programming class at Richland.  It was an introduction to Cobol.  As part of being a student I was able to buy my first IBM PC at a "discount."  I learned that programming was not my thing.  I was more interested in learning to use applications that added value to what I was doing.   I learned that transforming manual processes into computerized ones was where my interest lay.

New Business 

In 1985 I considered going back to school and getting my MBA.   I spoke with many friends and associates for advice.   I had a counseling session with one of the professors in the business school at SMU.  The best advice came from a successful business man friend at church who told me that if I wanted to learn more about business, then start one.  I followed his advice and abandoned the MBA dream.

I don't want to think of the number and variety of computers I have had since the first Xerox.  They included PCs that I bought in pieces and configured myself.  This stimulated my interest in becoming a PC reseller, and I made a relationship with an IBM dealer and was an IBM VAR (value added reseller). 

My biggest customer was a friend who worked in the restaurant industry.  I sold IBM PCs that were "upgraded" to 30 megabyte hard disks.  They were used in their back office operations.  I learned  a lot about configuring PCs and the computer business in general.  I operated this business for about three years.  I had a chilling experience of buying a PC from a company I did not know and got a "special" discount by pre-paying.   When I went to pick up the machine, I learned that they were in bankruptcy and I lost the $2000 I had paid for the unit.  This unit was for one of my best friends.  

I wound up ordering another PC from someone else and the sale of the PC to my friend cost me $2000.  This was about the time that what is now known as CompUSA went into business in a small location in North Dallas, mostly selling memory chips.  I soon learned that I could not compete, as I could buy part and supplies from them for about what I was buying them from my "wholesaler."  This was the beginning of the "clones" that are now everywhere.

Educating children

My children were just becoming teenagers and I tried to get them interested in computers.  I bought the oldest son a Sinclair computer that hooked up to a TV set.   He was hooked from then until now.  He makes his living as a software design engineer in the telecommunications industry.  He is shopping now (summer '98) for a 400 megahertz machine with a 10 gigabyte hard disk.  My oldest son soon got my first IBM PC as I upgraded to something more grand called the XT. 

 I soon learned that both of my sons were interested in computers, and I determined to give them as much rope as they could swing on.  I bought them both IBM Model 60's.  Soon after that I bought a Model 80 to use as the file server in my office.  It served well and later followed me into my second career in the insurance industry.  It also served my daughter and her children until it finally gave up the ghost last year (1997) when it was at least 10 years old.

We am very proud of all of my children for many reasons.  They have given us much pleasure.  Our two sons both make their living with computers and our daughter and her four daughters are computer users and keep me on my toes.  One selling point of Windows 95 was one time when our granddaughters visited us soon after I had installed Windows 95.   They had never seen it before.  All I had to do was to teach them how to turn the machine on and they were off and running.   My oldest granddaughter has her own laptop.  Her mother is in process of buying her "very own" PC so that she can use it when she wants to rather than when the girls are asleep.

Personal preferance

I am a confirmed Microsoft PC user.  Last year (2005), when the Apple "mini" came out, I bought one.  It had been several years since I had used an Apple computer.  After using it for a few weeks, I decided it could not do anything better than my Windows XP based computer and I gave it to my church.  In the fall of 2006 I bought a "Vista ready" PC from Dell.  I have owned several Dell devices.  My wife is currently using a Dell PC we bought a couple of years ago.  I have an old Dell in my workshop that we bought in 2001.  When Windows Vista came out, I bought a copy of Vista Home Premium.  After working with it for about a month, I gave up and restored my Windows XP and all of my software.  I found that Vista could not support many of the software tools I find invaluable.  When the first "Service Patch" comes out, I may try it again.

 I did try Vista again after the service patch.  The only problem I have with Vista is many vendors have not chosen to provide software drivers for devices.  For example, I have a Canon multifunction copier/printer/fax.  There is no Vista driver.  My older copy of Quick Books was not compatible with Vista which required me to upgrade to the current version.  These problems will resolve with time.

Church IT

 I began a new volunteer job at my church in April, 2007 to help out with maintaining computer systems.  I have learned a lot, as it is an Apple shop.  We have a Windows server and 11 Apple client computers.  Along the way, I have become a "partial" Apple convert.  I know own a MacBook and my wife has a new iMac.  Apples require less care and feeding than Windows machines.  I very seldom have other than hardware failure issues with the Apple PCs.  The difference is Apple is a closed world and the operating system does not support the myriad of third parties as Windows does.  At Apple, it is "our way or the highway."  It presents a problem in the real world, which is a Windows world.  Just try to get phone support for Apple computers from AT&T.  They want you to pay extra when they find out you have an Apple computer!

We were continuing to have problems with the Windows server communicating with the Apple client machines, and in December of 2009 we bought an Apple Mini Server.  It immediately resolved our communication problems, but then we had two "hardware" failures and we are now on our third machine.  The failures were unable to be explained.  I think it was software, as we lost our directory structure.  We have been ok for the last 18 months.  We again learned how important an Apple hardware/software warranty it!

Retirement

I resigned from my church IT job at the end of January, 2017.  I felt that since I was nearing my 80th birthday they needed a younger man.  It has been a fun ten years, but I am having more problem with my back and arthritis that sometimes is made worse carrying computers around, especially when they may weigh 50 pounds!

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Last revised 4/26/2017