“You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife. You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” – The Talking Heads
Maybe I should answer the “who?” question first. I am Frank, the “his point of view” side of this blog. I am also a geek. I have had a love for technology, in one way or another, for as long as I can remember. Much of that love came with my love for science fiction as a kid. I loved robots and spaceships more than anything. I can’t recall building anything out of Lego bricks that was not either a robot or a spaceship. My early love for sci-fi started with reruns of Star Trek (the original series), Lost in Space, UFO, Battlestar Galactica, and Space: 1999. When I got a little older and my attention shifted to reading, I could not get enough of the classics like The Martian Chronicles and R is for Rocket by Ray Bradbury; 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke; Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein; there were so many more. These stories and the sci-fi movies of the time were filled with technology, but it was exciting, futuristic, and seemed (sadly) way out of reach.
Video games became part of my life just before my early teens. When I was around 11, my dad bought our family the Sears-branded Pong video game system. It only played the one game (no cartridges!) but we had so much fun with it! A year later, as I graduated eighth grade, I got a Mattel Intellivision console. Do you remember Astrosmash and Space Armada? I LOVED those games! One year later, I remember seeing my first real arcade video game – Space Invaders – at our local roller skating rink. I remember playing that game until my fingers and hands ached (or I ran out of quarters, which usually came first). A local arcade opened not long after and my early teen years were filled with Asteroids, Galaxian, Robotron 2084, and Defender.
To me, video games, especially sci-fi themed ones, had a certain magical quality. Yes, they still had the science fiction storylines that I loved, but I (the player) had the chance to be “IN” the game. I could interact with them and experience the story. I had to repel hordes of alien invaders, or “save the last human family” in Robotron 2084. Real technology hid behind the scenes giving us experiences that did not exist before.
Let’s fast forward to mid-1993. Previous to this time, I had graduated from high school and did not know what direction I wanted to go for my career. I opted out of college in favor of taking that “year off to work before going back to school.” That return to school did not happen for many years (topic for another post?) and I had worked many different jobs. I had worked in fast food, and did my time in retail sales. I remember buying my dad a Commodore 64 computer for his home business around 1985 and using it more than he did, to play games like Zork (1, 2, and 3) and Planetfall and Ultima II. I enjoyed working as a repair tech on the state lottery machine terminals but had to leave when my speeding tickets started to add up. I worked as a sales manager for an electronics store selling home theater and car stereo – which was really fun but there really wasn’t a career future there. That’s just about when my good friend Brian C. stepped in and changed my life’s direction.
My friend Brian had gone to college, and was working for a Fortune 100 company as an engineer. Knowing how much I had enjoyed working as a service technician for the lottery, he pushed me to apply for a service technician job at his company. I was afraid of this new career direction because I had avoided getting familiar with computers to the extent that I expected I would need in this new job. After all, when I worked for the lottery, I had been trained on their proprietary hardware, but never really worked on personal computers. I remember going over to my friend Brian’s house so he could teach me the basics of PCs. Not only did he teach me the basics of the (then) state of the art Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Office, but we played video games (imagine that!). My favorites were Doom and The 7th Guest. I recall at least 2 rushed trips to a local computer store to get RAM memory and an upgraded video card with Brian so we could play 7th Guest.
So I survived the crash course in computers (while having fun) and applied for the new job. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the position I wanted (service technician) was on a freeze and I was encouraged to temporarily apply for the open service dispatcher position at least as a foot in the door with the company. I did, and was hired. The job was fun and I had lots of great experiences there. I quickly became the office’s “go-to guy” when others had computer problems. This was fun for me, and I realized that I had a natural aptitude for trouble shooting computers. I remember being asked to help the Network Administrator cobble together a few working IBM 386 processor computers from broken, unused parts so that the service department could be outfitted with a few PCs. We used the computers primarily for client letters but I remember creating my first Access database to manage our service agreements. I also became part of a very early group to start using email for communication with my counterparts in our other offices, using AOL’s email service. I was very successful in my job and the company soon adopted some of the ideas that I lucky enough to test (such as email and using Access to help manage our service customers).
In the years that followed, I accepted a few promotions and moved from one office in northern New Jersey to another in Philadelphia, and finally to one in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. While in the San Francisco office, I ended up being asked to back up for the Network Administrator when she was out of the office. A couple of years later, when she moved and left the company, I applied for the Network Admin position and got it. My professional career in IT had begun.
To be continued…
My current addiction: Dead Space on PS3