A lot of my friends at work call me PapaGeek, but I want to set one thing straight before we start, “I do not predate the first computer!” Work on the first electronic-digital computer started in 1939 and the first real computer, ENIAC, was created for a military contract in 1946. I wasn’t born until 1947, so there, computers existed before I did!
Even during my grade school years, I was fascinated with the articles about computers published in Popular Science and Scientific America. Unfortunately, very few colleges had any available undergraduate courses in computer science in 1965 when I graduated from high school. I started my college studies as a math major but soon discovered that my real interests were in computers. So, I dropped out of college in 1967 to join the Army Security Agency where I could get computer training and experience. This was during the Vietnam conflict, and I was very lucky that they did recognize my aptitude for computers and trained me in that field.
Early computers were a real challenge. You couldn’t go out and buy a USB interface to anything, much less a Linear Displacement Array Antenna or the frequency knob of a radio receiver. You worked at the bit level with Boolean math, AND and OR gates, and you had to wire wrap just about everything. The work was tedious, but I l earned a lot.
It was also during this time (1968) that the military began working on ARPANET, the precursor to today’s Internet. They wanted a reliable communication system that would automatically reroute communication if the primary link from point A to point B was lost.
The TCP/IP protocol was standardized in 1982, and the Internet was born, but all communication was performed with keyboard based protocols like telnet and ftp. What we know as today’s internet, the World Wide Web, began with the first documented version of HTTP in 1991. In the early 90’s computers did not come with the internet installed. You had to obtain a floppy disk from AOL and install the modem and software yourself, so only a few techies were on line, I actually started on the net in the mid 80’s; does the term geek have any meaning here?
The popularity of the Internet exploded when Microsoft began shipping Windows 95 with the web browser and dial up networking pre-installed. My first website was on-line before Microsoft started shipping Windows 95.
I began work with a typesetting company when I got out of the Army in 1971. Within a few years we had developed an automated text book publishing system.
The software would break the raw text of the book into pages, place the footnotes at the bottom of the proper page, place illustrations and tables near their references in the text, number the pages, place chapter and section names at the top of each page, and most important, typeset complex mathematical and chemical equations in place.
This software became so popular that by the mid 80’s over 80% of all college level textbooks in the US were typeset using our system. Due to the ability to set equations in place, the majority of that number was in the math and science areas. Many if not most of the college professors knew how to “mark up” their raw manuscripts for entry into our system. This is a paragraph, this is a chapter heading, reference an illustration or footnote here, this is a block quote, etc. Though no credit has ever been given, it is by no coincidence that the initial HTML language that was created by these same professors looked very similar to the mark up for our publishing system.
Oh, by the way, as a side note, Al Gore did not work for us! Sorry, just had to drop that one in!
To typeset a book, and fix any problems, the operator had to be able to see the finished product. We actually created a standalone windows type product with WYSIWYG fonts and used a mouse as a pointer. This product was introduced and in production in 1981. We didn’t think of it at the time, but we had beaten both Xwindows for UNIX (1984) and MS Windows 1.0 (1985) to the market.
The typesetting company went the way of the dodo with the advent of the personal computer and word processing software. The technology group in the company said that shrink wrap software was the way to go, but sales told the owners to move toward a mainframe approach where you could sell huge systems for millions. The company sunk every penny into huge editorial management systems that no one wanted.
From typesetting I moved on to a large personal loan company that specialized in loans for those with less than perfect credit histories, those that the banks would not even talk to! While there I modernized their loan document preparation by producing documents with the customer’s name and personal information already embedded, just sign on the dotted line!
When the government started pushing banks to make loans to our client base, not only make the loans, but with no money down, things started going south for our company and eventually the entire banking industry.
Now I have another position with an investment group and run my internet business as a side line.
I love what I do and love giving it away for free, so enjoy this site and I hope you learn a lot from it.