My History With Computers
I have been around computers since gradschool, back when the 8Mhz Radio Shack TRS/80 (or "Trash 80" as we called it) was state-of-the-art. I started learning BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instructional Code) back then and writing simple text choose-your-own adventure style programs while the rest of my class was playing bowling, archery, or whichever monochromatic stick-figure game was popular that week.
When high school rolled around, I hit the big time. 386s! And Apple IIe! Pretty much as soon as I got to high school, I picked up a job in the Library, which was also the computer center for the school. Most of my time was spent handling library tasks or studying for other classes, but I was usually called on to fix the computer problems in the school. At the beginning, this was just a writing lab with about 20 Apple computers.
I knew the quirks of the computers there, and I could make short work of any problems that came up. The best part of the job was the fact that there was such a wide gap between the level of knowledge I had about computers, and the level that most of the students were at. They could fiddle around with one of the computers for 10 minutes before buzzing the library, and I would have the problem fixed with a few keystrokes in most cases. I didn't think much of it, but it wowed most of the students and teachers.
Around my Junior year of high school, we had a few PCs in the library with multimedia capability. I also got my first PC to call my own that year. An IBM PS/2 486 SX/33, which I added an external dual speed CD-ROM drive to. In my Senior year and after graduation I helped in setting up a networked computer lab with around 20 or so Pentium PCs, which was the beginning of my networking experience.
I graduated high school and headed to Columbia, MO to attend Mizzou. I started out pre-vet due to my love of animals, but after one semester I decided to change to Computer Science, which I was better suited for. When I was visiting the computer lab in my residence hall, I saw a sign by the phone with a list of problems and a phone number to call if they occur. So I called the number, and said, "I can FIX all these problems, why don't you hire me?" Those weren't my exact words, but the point was taken and by the next week I was the Residential Computer Consultant for my hall.
I stayed on as the RCC for both years I attended Mizzou, and in my second year I was given the additional responsibilities of a Tech Assistant. I spent part of my time running one of the public labs as well as fixing computer problems in other residence halls that the local RCCs couldn't handle (most of them were software oriented, I had hardware experience also).
This period of time at Mizzou is where I really started to pick things up. I worked in labs with Novell PC networks and AppleTalk Macintosh networks, as well as Linux machines. I got to play with the inner workings of the PCs and started to teach myself how to fix/upgrade/build them on my own. The jobs I was involved in called for a very wide range of skills, since I was not only handling the standard chore of monitoring a residence hall lab, but fixing computers (phyically and through software fixes and system reinstalls), handling networks, printers, etc.
I continued to get a lot of the same reactions from high school... people were amazed that I could get a call and fix a problem in minutes that they had been dealing with for a half hour. The good thing about new computer users is that they are easy to impress. The bad thing is that most of the problems you have to fix are there because of them.
So I continued to teach myself everything I could about computers. I started getting into programming and settled fairly quickly on C/C++ for its ease and versatility. It was a great asset by the time I actually started taking programming classes. Having a grasp of the language allowed me more time to concentrate on solving the problems in the best way possible. Spending more time on program design than on programing was a tremendous help.
It was around this time that I picked up my second PC. I had a small computer company in Columbia build it to my specifications. It was a Pentium 133 with 32MB of RAM. Pretty good for that time. My brother back at home got the 486.
In my final semester at Mizzou, I did a lot more Tech work than anything else. One project I had was running network wiring for in-room Ethernet drops for one of the residence halls. Most of my work was in the wiring closet, but that helped a lot in getting me familiar with the backbone equipment of networking instead of just the PC at the end.
I left Mizzou and returned home to attend school at UMSL. I continued to take Computer Science courses, though I can honestly say that to this day I have not been told anything in a computer class that I hadn't already learned on my own.
In the summer between Mizzou and UMSL, I picked up a short term job as a tech assistant at UMSL. I did a lot of upgrade work throughout the campus labs, most of which involved the network. I completely rebuilt about 30 machines in one lab, and installed Ethernet cards in most others. I also helped set up all of machines in the 'MegaLab,' which is the largest lab on campus.
After the semester started, I picked up a job at a local HVAC/R wholesaler called Crescent Parts & Equipment. It was originally a part time job with the intention of leaving me enough free time that it doesn't interfere with school. I was doing warehouse work.. stocking and picking. The kind of stuff that you don't take home with you, which was perfect. After a few months, I began working on warranty claims in addition to my main job. After about a year, my job became full time, and school moved to evening courses and pushed my graduation date farther back.
I had started attenting computer conventions that came through the Saint Louis area, and in 1998, I built myself a new PC from scratch. A Pentium II 400 system with 128MB RAM which I used in addition to my existing computer. It was intended for better graphics work, and helped quite a bit with web design and other projects.
The computer system that Crescent runs on is UNIX based, which I am very familiar with, so I would occasionaly jump in and help to fix problems. The president of the company soon realized that my computer skills were going to waste in the warehouse, so I was promoted from the warehouse / warranty area straight to Network and Systems Administrator, and I took on the task of designing and maintaining Crescent's web page.
My first job in my new position was to set up a PC network for the entire company. This is the project that I am currently in the middle of. Three Windows NT servers are in place, and I am building the Windows 98 PCs that will be at the branches and in the office from scratch. In the end, there will be about 70 PCs company wide, all networked back to the main location.
In August of 1999, I picked up a laptop computer to add to my arsenal, and February of 2000, I bought additional parts and rebuilt the machines I had, ending up with a Pentium III 600, a Pentium II 400, and the Pentium 133, which I gave to my brother. Having two computers and a laptop at my disposal has helped a lot with being able to do web design, as well as expand my networking knowledge now that I have one set up at home. I also built 6 computers for friends and coworkers.
In the meantime, I have also been picked up by Key Wholesaler Group Association and Key Refrigeration Supply of Kansas City -- two companies associated with Crescent -- to design and maintain their web sites.
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last modified: Friday, July 14, 2000