I got ahold of the computer thing pretty early on, I guess it was 1985. We had bought the kids a Commodore I think a year or 2 before that. It was a box you hooked up to the TV for playing games and learning aids. We set it up on Madeline’s sewing machine cabinet using a spare TV we had for the monitor. It didn’t take long for one of the boys to turn a box of straight pins over on the keyboard and fried the whole thing.
But in 1985 I started working with a Compaq Portable Computer that had no memory. The programs were on 5 1/4″ floppy disks and since you had no hard drive everything was saved onto another floppy.
When I traveled around and even when I would bring it home with me, I guess everyone thought I was a sewing machine salesman, because that’s what they looked like. A portable Singer Sewing Machine.
I started off with Lotus 123 and used that as my spreadsheet of choice for the first 10 or 12 years. I had used a 13 column pad and a lead pencil for years prior to that and a big calculator with 3 different memories built into it. I forget the brand but it sure did seem high tech before this computer thing came along.
Heck, back in 1972 Texas Instruments built a handheld portable calculator that had tiny rolls of thermal paper, that was more like tin foil than the rolls paper we know now. I bought the first one I ever saw. It cost $129.95. That was an obscene amount of money in 1972 for a gadget. But it worked, which was unusual for that day. Most gadgets didn’t work. They were usually made in Japan and everything from Japan was more like buying something from Taiwan today.
Something that looked very similar to this calculator.
There were calculations you could put it through to prove up its accuracy. I would put every calculator I ran across to the test. It was amazing how many weren’t accurate at all back then.
Back to the early computers and Lotus 123: I think I memorized the Lotus 123 book on that program. In short order I had my 13 column pad transferred to a spreadsheet. I made it do things with formulas and macros that seemed impossible. All this stuff is very common place now, but when I’d type something in on the first page (or tab) and it would automatically transfer it to other parts of the worksheet. Of course that’s what the designers had set it all up to do, interact with its self, but it seemed magical to me.
I loved it. I dubbed my Bidding Program, EZ-Bid. Because it was pretty dang easy compared to adding up row after row, column after column.
After Lotus 123 went away in favor of Microsoft’s Excel we switched it all over to there and used it for years, without changing very much. We bid 100’s of millions of dollars worth of work with EZ-Bid. I turned loose of the bidding almost 20 years ago, knowing there were minds better equipped to do that work than me, so they moved on to a much more sophisticated bidding systems that helps them keep up with the times. Funny thing is, now after several years of using sophisticated bidding programs we are back to using my old EZ-Bid. It just seems more practical than all the stuff the new programs offer. And it’s free and you don’t have to buy new upgrades every year or two.
Of course now I sit at a computer seldom and when I do everything has become so complicated, because that’s what software companies do. That make things that appear to do more but don’t always work better. I find myself frustrated trying to continually be adapting to something new.
It’s like cell phones, iPhones in particular. I usually buy the newest thing to stay on the cutting edge, but I’m probably not using 10% of the features it has.
Believe it or not back in the mid 90s I said (and my sons still remind me of this): “I get so sick of this www dot this and www dot that. I’ll just be glad when it all goes away. This internet thing is just a fad”.
I am slow to change some things. I still have my original email address. It’s an AOL account. A lot of times when I give out that email address (I have another for business), some young punk with look at me like I’m the dinosaur I have become, and say “I haven’t heard of one of those emails in like forever, man. I didn’t know they were still in business”.
To which I say “I hope they are, man”.