My name is Andy Anderson, and I’ve been a computer professional since I graduated from the University of Georgia in June of 1983. My formal education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, and several additional courses in system administration and computer security.
On a less formal note, I grew up on the space program of the 1960s and lived through the personal computer revolution in the 1970s and 1980s – from the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore-64, through the Apple IIe, the original IBM PC, then the XT and AT, and on to the generic Windows-based computers of today. I’ve built computers from bare components and upgraded computers with new hard drives, more memory, video adapters, network cards – basically anything that was replaceable. I’ve installed, configured, and used every major version of Windows since Windows/386, as well as some other, less well-known operating systems such as Linux and FreeBSD. I was one of the few OS/2 users (back in the day, as they say), and I’ve even used Intel-based Macs with OS-X.
My very first brush with Information Technology was at Augusta College, in Augusta, Georgia, around 1977 or 1978. I was taking a math class and the instructor offered extra credit to anyone who would go to a room where there were teletype machines and create and run a BASIC program to print out my name (or something equally simple). The teletypes were connected to a mainframe computer at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, and they… were… sloooooow. Also, the connection was somewhat unreliable, and the teletype machines were somewhat, shall we say, cranky. I got the extra credit, but, sadly, this was not the epiphany moment that began my journey into Computer Science.
The event that did begin my journey into Computer Science is much clearer in my memory. I had transferred to the University of Georgia (after a couple of years off from college, during which time I worked full time driving a forklift at a local manufacturing plant) and was pursuing a degree in Chemistry (an interest I’d had for many years). On my second or third quarter there, I needed a Chemistry class that wasn’t being offered until the following Fall Quarter. So, I visited my advisor and inquired as to what I might take to constitute a “full load,” which was required by my student loans.
I will never forget what he said. His reply, not verbatim but pretty close, was “maybe you should take this FORTRAN class – it will probably be useful, and, you know, computers probably aren’t going to go away.” I wasn’t totally convinced, but I signed up for the class. I did not, however, purchase the textbook right away. I went to the first day of class, and it seemed pretty interesting. After the second day of class I went and bought a used copy of the book. After the third day, I went to the administration building and changed my major from Chemistry to Computer Science and never looked back. I first learned to program in FORTRAN using punch cards on an IBM 370 mainframe. After that I learned COBOL, Pascal, and IBM 360/370 assembly language while still in school. The rest, as they say, is history.
After graduating I found a job where I thought I’d be doing mostly programming. Unfortunately, the company I went to for work was a defense contractor trying to open a new office, and what they wanted was a roster with the “right mix” of degrees and experience. There was a little bit of programming to be done, but not much. After less than two years, I got an invitation to apply to a “Think Tank,” and during the interview process I inquired about the amount of programming that I’d be doing. I was assured that there would be plenty, and all of it would be in FORTRAN for the first few years, which was fine with me. The day after my interviews, the headhunter who had contacted me about the job called and said they wanted to make me an offer, and how much did I want to make. I wasn’t absolutely sure I wanted to work for them, so I named a figure that was something like 130% of what I was making at the time. I assumed they’d make a counteroffer, and we’d go from there. Much to my surprise, about 15 minutes later the headhunter called me back and said they agreed to the salary and wanted to know when I wanted to start. I started three weeks later; that was one of the best decisions of my life.
I did a lot of programming for the first several years. A lot of it was FORTRAN, but I also taught myself the C language and dabbled a bit with Ada. As time went on, I got pulled away from programming to do more and more system administration, and then some management tasks, and finally a bit of what amounted to customer relations. I still did get to do some programming now and then. I taught myself HTML and CGI (Common Gateway Interface) programming for a “Y2K” project, and then Java for another couple of projects. But programming was no longer my main focus.
I officially retired from that career in June of 2011. By then I had started a small company to provide IT management to small local businesses. That was a welcome change until my back began to complain about carrying heavy servers and printers around, and my knees began to complain about crawling around on the floor under and behind desks to chase cables. I finally gave that up and switched to creating, supporting, and hosting websites for a few clients – basically just enough to cover the expenses of staying in business.
My journey back to software development has begun.