Sunday, June 3, 2012

How much Web 2.0 am I?

No clue what went through my mind today, but all of sudden, out of nowhere, I just wanted to remember when I joined some of the popular networks on the Net. It's kind of interesting to know that, because, finding out actually puts me inside the 'innovators ' and at worst 'early adopters' in all of the most popular out there. What does this mean? Not much really, but I'm just stating this because I'm sick and tired of some laggards trying to 'teach me' web shite. 

Well, for starters, I wrote my first Fortran II (!) programs as an engineering student in 1972, at the NTUA (Metsovion). Soon after that, in 1974 we started using Fortran IV. In 1975 and 1976 I did my thesis on a weird mini computer that our Naval Architecture prof acquired, one with those funny IBM printers with fonts moulded on a rotating hollow metal ball! IBM earned a fortune with these gadgets. They used to break in pieces. The noise that thing did... driven by a computer! Like a machine gun, it was. We were happy to use that computer instead of the school's 'mainframe' because we could enter code online via a keyboard and monitor, whereas the mainframe could only read punchcards. And IBM's punchers were made of pure cast iron and steel; you could easily cut a finger operating those basterds. I hated them. We also used to go use computer time at the Ministry of Finance in Athens (it wasn't bankrupt yet those days), but I avoided that as one day that I was carrying a box with punchcards, the darn thing fell off my hands and I had to spend hours to reassemble. 
I came to Ghent to do my PhD and tried the school's mainframes still running Siemens BS1000 in 1978, which was another disaster area. I was fed up losing so much time correcting a few lines of code and wasting whole mornings to wait for compile reports to come out. I was soon given CPU time on one faculty department's mini computer next door to ours, and spent the rest of my doc work on that box, working late nights, especially after the mini's regular users left the office... In 1979, I was stupid to convince my wife to buy me a Tandy micro computer. I rather bought some Apple stock then, instead. We spent almost two months of her salary, and I only used the darn thing for... less than 5 hours in all (I never really told her or she would hack me). A piece of crap it was! Like anything else coming out of Radio Shack. Eventually, my sister brought the wicked shite to Lagos, Nigeria (where she lived with her spouse working for Bell Telephone) and sold it to some other nutter for almost twice as much... She brought back two pieces of fake (plastic) ivory to me as a payment pretending it was genuine and we were all happy, that cost her less than half of what I paid for the Tandy. So, she pocketed the delta, of about 150% of its price, her soul rest in peace. See how us Greeks make money on our family? Don't tell me you didn't know, or I'll piss myself.
Ever since I left school in 1980, I was hired in technology depts and managed tech companies for the following 25 years. I also taught computer stuff at UFSIA since 1987. I worked on IBM PCs since their first commercial release at customer sites working for Andersen Consulting. I used to do email and word processing at CINB since 1980, and was asked to talk about my experiences a few times, in some of the earliest public talks about email in the country, at the University of Louvain in 1982* and in Antwerp Crest Hotel in 1984. I've used  Apple III and the first Mackintosh at Andersen's in 1984 and 1985 respectively. I first entered Internet via slow modems in the late 80ies and was one of the early browser users on HTML 1.0, I guess. What was the name again. It was definitely before Netscape. It took me years to figure out where to find a commercial ISP to buy me an Internet email account. Can you imagine? I spent a fortune on telephone charges calling US Bulletin Boards to downloading tiny less than 2 MB files waiting 30 min and more, whereby connections would break the last five secs and then all over again. It was a bitch! In 1980 we used to do email on a line by line electric teletype with acoustic couplers. You'd pick up the receiver of a regular landline phone and secure it on two rubber pockets of the coupler. That was then the modem. Slow and practical. I don't remember how many bauds it was on, but it must have been the slowest ever in the known history of mankind!
Problem is, I have never been a pro computer expert. I used to do a lot of shite, but mostly as an end-user and out of healthy curiosity. I always had a weak spot for software. I even taught customers methodologies about how to develop industrial strength computer apps but I've  never programmed a single line of COBOL that went into any real production system. In other words, I knew how to do stuff, but I never did them. But I managed hundreds of others who did. Maybe a few thousand in all. I guess, I always been a consultant. And a manager...
I also did a shitload of amateur sound and movie stuff, and all sorts of image processing and spent fortunes on gear that didn't work. I've been a Photoshop 2.5 user just to mention something. I also used Multimate, a lookalike for MS-DOS of Wang's proprietary Wordprocessor, and in spreadsheets, Visicalc and Lotus 123. I've used Microsoft's first versions of their Office (word and excel) on the early Macintosh. I even tested that piece of crap that eventually became windows (it was Windows V1.0 then, running on my portable MS DOS Toshiba... it's dead now, but I still have it somewhere in the loft picking up dust). What can I say? Been there done that. 
I upgraded my computing gear and moved entirely to Mac from 2001 onwards. Only at work I continued using Windows and swearing about it all the time. I loved Mac ever since that little Jobs marvel hit the road mid 80ies. I didn't have enough money to buy one then, and my first Mac eventually became the iMac with the funny colors. I bought a blue and a grey box. I gave them away later on. I never bought a cube or the iMac with the floating monitor on an arm standing on top of a half ball... I came in the Mac world on OS 9 and jumped on OSX 1.0 from day one. But I also tried a NEXT box for a few hours in 1992, when one of my Swiss customers was convinced by his Jobness himself to buy about a dozen. My customer later donated them to the EPFL in Lausanne as he couldn't do anything useful with them in his department at the BCV. 
Recently, I bought the iPad via a friend on the Monday following their first commercial launch the Friday before, somewhere in April, three-four years ago? I must have been one of the first dozens of iPad users in Europe then. When was that? I forgot. I was among the early flocks downloading podcasts and videocasts when amateurs were still dominating the scenery. Like I said. Been there, done that...
Last but not least, I learned to built my own PCs in the early nineties. I wasted months of my life literally fixing Windows crap. I must have installed hundreds of Windows installs for my own, family and friends. The life that I wasted on Windows makes me hate monkey boy even more. Bill was to blame in the first place, but I never managed to 'hate' Gates. I actually respect him a lot. But that P-o-S Ballmer?!?! I despise the fokker. Incompetent sob.
I wish I had studied computers from day one, instead of ship-building! With all the time I spent in the computing business, I might have made a fortune getting early enough in my career as a computer expert rather than a manager on the back of an MBA. But you know, like my pal John in Atlanta sez, it is only money. On its own it helps a wee bit, but it ain't gonna make you happy. Sort of...

* I was in charge of an office automation team inside the Bank then, and my Dutch wasn't that fluent yet. It was better than my French** though... I had to present my experiences in Dutch, I guess, to a Flemish audience on a Saturday. As I was talking, I noticed my audience having a good time by the way I was speaking. They seemed to think it was funny because they laughed a lot. Well email was not a subject for laughs, I suppose, but they did LTFAO indeed... I must have told them a lot of crap then, who knows?  I remember, there were even two nuns in the audience, and at a point in time, as I was explaining the impact on our female secretarial staff in the Bank of email and word-processing, I said : You know, at our place, we don't 'use' the secretaries anymore for 'typing' at all... Well, dirty basterds in the audience burst in laughter to the point that whatever I said after that seemed hilarious to them, even if there was nothing wrong with it. They wouldn't mind. Kept on laughing. It must have been my first ever appearance as a stand up comedian... I wasn't 30 yet. Start early they say... 

** True story. In the summer if '78 I worked as a student at my wife's employer, Citibank in Brussels. I did boring stuff all day long, stamping papers and counting the hours to the end of the working day. The first day at work at about 10 am a 'coffee lady' arrives with her chariot full of thermos with hot coffee. Those days companies used to spend money on staff doing just that, indeed. They were later replaced by coffee automata and the ladies went on living supported by unemployment benefits to their retirement... That one lady though comes to my desk and asks me in impeccable French: Du café, monsieur? So much I figured out and I proudly go, putting up my best French accent: Oui! What a performance! She probably thought I was born at the Cartier Latin. Damn her though, she continues: Au lait, cher monsieur? WTF was that again? What happened next would have made Faulty Towers Manuel a proud compatriot. I utter... Olé Olé Caramba!  My early stand up comedian steps. Like I said... An early starter.

1 comment:

Bavo said...

You forgot IG ;-)