My Computer Experience So Far

My first experience with a computer, if I remember correctly, was playing the Atari with Dad in the living room of the trailer we lived in the early 1980s.  I distinctly remember playing pong, but there may have been other games. While some of you may not consider that a computer, I will take this opportunity to let you know that you are wrong.
In 1985, my brother and I received our Nintendo game system with Mario Bros. in what I consider our first real “house”.  We had a blast playing it and other games, some of which we swapped with the kids next door and across the street.  I never got into the geek mode that the older kids did with games.  I just liked trying to figure out how to complete the games, and learn their quirks.
In 3rd grade, we were introduced to the Apple IIe at school (1986). We did not do much on them.  The only thing I remember doing was drawing a picture using graph paper, translating that into code, and slowly typing said code into the computer to see the drawing in color on the screen.  We saved our code on a 5 1/2″ floppy disk.  There is no GUI (Graphical User Interface) on the Apple IIe.  At least, there was no GUI on the computers at my school…

I found out recently that my old school was torn down a few years ago…  🙁

Dad brought a computer home a few years later.  It was installed with Windows 3.1, or some version close to that. He showed me all of the components on the inside.  He taught me the basics of how it all worked together.  I helped him put together a few that he had sold through his side business. He taught me how to install the Microsoft Windows OS (operating system), as well as the applications to actually be able to do work, such as Microsoft Word and Excel (There was no MS Office at the time).
We upgraded to Windows 95, which was one of the biggest advances I had seen in computer interaction.  AOL came a year or two later.  It was difficult to use AOL, though, because it seemed like we couldn’t call 10 miles down the road without getting charged for long distance service.  It made the potential uses of the personal computer exponentially greater, though.
In the fall of 1996, I went to the local University and learned about HAL (C++), which was the name of the University mail system.  It wasn’t completely isolated from the rest of the world, but it was very limited and text based.  I did, however set up at least 2 blind dates by looking for nursing students on there.
In 1997, I did some computer upgrades for a power company.  We upgraded all of the computers from Windows NT 3.51 to Windows NT 4.0.  It was a cool experience because I learned a little networking (Token Ring, which they were dropping for TCP/IP). I knew very little about these technologies at the time.
I bought a Gateway PC in late 1998 shortly after I moved into my own place.  It was really cool to be able to dial in to AOL (local number) and not have to time my dial-up connection.  I also used Netzero, and some other dial-up (EV1.net) services for several years.
In 2000, I was asked to work at ExxonMobil as a computer technician. I learned about Laser Jet Printers and repaired those along with the computers they were using at the time. I took part in their upgrade from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000.  I was laid off in 2002 because the upgrades were complete, they had fewer positions available, and I was the low guy on the list at the time.
In 2003, the cable company came by the house and upgraded our cable box for who knows what reason (I knew the reason), and I called them that afternoon to come back out and install my cable modem!  THAT was awesome!  At the time there was a BMW Films series that I had been downloading over the modem that took me at least a day of downloading to complete each 7 minute video.  When I got cable internet service I downloaded them again just to see the difference and it only took a few minutes.
I did some data recovery work from 2003 to 2004.  We took crashed hard drives, cracked CDs/DVDs, and even some broken floppies from people who really needed the data stored on them, and recovered the data.  I worked in a clean room, and swapped the platters out.  I did some really neat stuff to recover data off of destroyed media.  The only one I can remember not recovering was a drive that the heads had broken off of the arms.  The person had tried accessing the data so much before sending it in, that the arms had scratched the metal off of the discs.  The drive was filled with metallic dust, and the discs looked like scratched glass.
For a few years in there, I had my own DBA (Doing Business As), doing small computer jobs for individuals.  I built, repaired, and freshened up computers, as well as installed extra phone cables and hookups in their homes.  It didn’t take me long to realize that building computers was turning into a losing business strategy.  The big computer makers were lowering their prices so drastically, that my labor to purchase the pieces and build myself just had little to no profit.
I went back to work at ExxonMobil in 2004 for the upgrade to Windows XP, and worked for several of their sites through the upgrade to Windows 7.  Shortly before the upgrade, though, I changed departments, and started working on the control systems.
I installed my own network cabling in my house for our home network when I installed the CAT6 cabling for our new cable service. The idea of installing my own network infrastructure has always been intriguing. I do not know why, because it is really simple. I just like knowing how everything is built, because if you know how it is built, you can figure out where the problem is when there is one.
Since the first Gateway computer I bought, I have built several computers for myself, family, friends, and church.  I have also purchased a few desktops and laptops. Windows XP was beginning to feel a little stale after a few years, so I started using Ubuntu (Linux) for approximately 9 months solid (at home). It was a pleasant experience, but there were too many things I couldn’t (didn’t want to take the time to learn how to) do there that I could in Windows, and eventually went back to Windows.  Microsoft Windows 7 was the best version I have ever used. Windows 8 (I have had approximately 45 minutes of experience with it) makes me sick to my stomach. On a desktop, it feels like I should be using a touchscreen tablet. On a tablet, it may work well, but I’m not gonna spend the cash to find out if I like it. For the past year, I have been using a Mac Mini, and it is the best desktop I have ever owned.
I’ll write another post about my transition from Windows to OS X.
I no longer work at ExxonMobil (the correct way to spell it, btw), but I have been working on Honeywell, Foxboro, and Emerson Delta V control systems for the past 5.5 years. To put it simply, a control system is a computer system that controls all of the instruments in a refinery or chemical plant, and transmits data to the operators in the control room. It allows them the safety of operating the process without having to be in the danger zones.
It seems that every part of computer technology I have used in the past is in use in some part of the control systems I support today, except for the games.

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