Computers, Software, Hardware… and my life…
In 1968 my high school district bought a mainframe computer to do payroll. It occupied several rooms in district headquarters. Since it was sitting unused most of the time, someone got the idea to teach a programming class to HS kids. No one knew how to program, but the HS chemistry teacher volunteered to teach the class and the teacher and class of about 10 budding geeks all learned to program together. We had a key punch in a closet, and every day someone would drop off our decks of cards in the evening and pick up our stacks of computer-fold printouts in the morning. I kind of joke that in that one semester HS class doing Fortran, I learned more about computers than in any class since then. I was a programmer, but the computer was far away, out of sight, and I didn’t think much about it. When I look back, I realize how incredibly privileged I was to have a HS programming class then.
I did a little Fortran programming in college to support my physics, but it wasn’t my favorite thing. The calculator moment came and went. But then, in graduate school, I found that we had a Digital Equipment PDP-8 in a closet. It had a paper tape reader and a teletype, and I was hooked immediately. It was so fun to have a computer that you could actually interact with. This was 1974 and by 1975 I was daydreaming with friends about building a home computer. Job prospects were not abundant. While living in Eugene, Oregon, I saw an advertisement in the Portland newspaper for a technician job at Intel. I applied mostly because I was excited about getting a tour of the plant, and was amazed when they offered me a job.
I worked for 40 years in the semiconductor industry, finding my way to my beloved home in the the beautiful Santa Clara valley. I worked on many technologies and IC’s, and was exposed to many types of digital and analog products, and many kinds of programmable architectures. I was always more of a hardware guy, but nowadays nothing can be done without some software expertise, so I learned every new language that came along. The biggest thing though was that I never stopped using programming as a tool to solve whatever problem was in front of me.