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Friday, December 5, 2008

Clever Old Guy, Will Do Tech for Money

Day 5.

I have been lucky enough, for most of my life, to not own new or cutting edge computers.

Since the mid-70's, I've been fiddling with whatever computers I could get my greasy little fingers on. Initially, that was a time-sharing system through the local high school. Later on, I'd have whatever the latest (programmable) calculator I could afford. And I couldn't afford much.

I did, briefly, have three new computers, back in the First Home Computer Boom. Yes, there were two. In the first, lots of companies making game machines added keyboards, put in ROM-based BASIC (which is how Microsoft got their start), and called it a "home computer." It was, sort of. Those I had were Tandy Color Computers. And the ads at the time claimed that you hadda get your kid a computer, or they'd be behind the other kids in school, and would never get a really good job. Right.

During the Second Home Computer Boom, the market was dominated by IBM PC's and Compatibles, and by Apple's Macs. I couldn't afford the "real thing," but I could occasionally get someone's old or broken computer at a rummage sale for $50 or so. And, since I was starting with nothing, I really had to learn how to squeeze as much as possible out of this very old hardware. I wrote batch files, did a bit of programming, wrote my own mailmerge program for sending out resumes en masse. I couldn't afford to be afraid of breaking stuff, and had to learn what would and wouldn't foul up the computer.

So now, even though most of the stuff I know how to do is out-dated, I know enough of the fundamentals of why things work the way they do, I can puzzle out how to use the newer hardware and software, often better than other folks. And I can tell when things are just not working, as compared to being something I don't understand. The new hardware and software is created based on habits and ideas from the old hardware and software. So it's still helpful. Just not profitable, sad to say.

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