Over 25 Years of IT
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June 13, 2009 officially marked 25 years that I have been with IBM. I thought I'd focus this blog entry on my IT journey -- highlighting some of the IT-related items I have experienced in the time that lead up joining IBM as well the years since then. I have truly enjoyed the journey...
I'm not sure which came first in my life in high school... the TI-55 calculator or a Teletype device with a phone attached to the back and yellow punch tape... but both of those devices (and a high school teacher
-- Mr. Don Skinner -- that cared) were influencial in my decision to pursue a career using Computer Science. Using the Teletype, we probably played a Star Trek game more than actually doing real homework.
When I started college at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1980, the DECwriter was our main diet the first year. The DECwriter (like the earlier Teletype) was basically a keyboard built into a printer... there was no display and we had 300-baud communications to PDP-11 servers. Later, the DECwriters and PDP-11s were replaced with many DEC Gigi color displays connected to VAX 11/780 systems. These new systems were a significant advancement in the availability and flexibility of handling programming assignments.
Also, Tandy's TRS-80 (which we affectionately called "trash-80" ) sold thru Radio Shack had started to make its way into the college dorms for personal computing. Programs were written in BASIC, and user data was stored on cassette tape or later floppy disks. Around this timeframe, video games such as Space Invaders, Galaxian (and Galaga), and Pac-Man were popular on floor standing consoles.
While attending college, I worked for the RIT Sports Information Office, and helped to program (in BASIC) the first set of applications for compiling team sports statistics, all on IBM's first PC. My boss and great
influence on my college years -- J Roger Dykes -- was a heavy user of IBM's Selectric typewriter. Known for having a "golfball" style printhead, this device really helped mark the beginning of desktop publishing. In addition, articles written and printed using the IBM Selectric typewriter would be fed into an ancient mimeograph machine in our office to make copies. We were quite busy in the early 1980's loading all the handwritten statistics into the new software programs. During my college years, it was highly satisfying to see RIT's hockey team capture the NCAA Div II national championship in 1983.
While at RIT, I was fortunate enough to participate in a co-operative education program starting after my sophomore year. In 1982 I worked for 6 months with Pennsylvania Power and Light Company in Allentown PA in PP&L's power control center. I worked on a 3279 4-color terminal communicating with an MVS-based system. Among other things, my main job there was to write an application which helped PP&L determine which of their dozens of generating stations to draw power from, or temporarily shut down, based on energy supply & demand. PP&L later used this application as part of a solution to determine when to buy or sell power among other providers. In the event of a power outage in its grid, IT of course played a big part in PP&L's ability to re-route power to homes and businesses.
I also had two co-op assignments with IBM in 1983 and 1984 at the Boca Raton Florida lab, as IBM was getting into the PC market in a big way. I worked for IBM PC Marketing (while sitting with Development) to write demo software for IBM's PCjr, PC/AT, and PC Color Printer. The PCjr was IBM's first attempt to enter the market with an inexpensive PC for home and educational use. Although it had a revolutionary design in several areas, the PCjr was not very well received by the market. The PC/AT, a successor to the PC/XT, offered a 20 Megabyte hard drive and eventually became a reliable workhorse in the industry. It was an exciting time to be in IBM with the beginning of the PC boom, and along with the positive influence I received from several people at the time (including Bill Flynn, Diana McVeay and Hal Jennings who remain in IBM), these people are reasons why I am with IBM today.
Upon joining IBM in Bethesda Maryland after graduation from RIT, I started working on a Videotex-based project that was the start of an online service to bring subscribers news, weather, and shopping over phone lines. The joint-venture between CBS, Sears, and IBM eventually grew into and was marketed as "Prodigy", which lasted several years in the marketplace. Beginning in the late 1980's I worked on BookManager, IBM's program to display user documentation into electronic books. This was primarily a VM-based application, but was rewritten to work across other platforms such as MVS and the workstation. In 1992, I relocated to the Raleigh NC area with IBM and soon after started managing development for IBM's ISPF product, an MVS based solution that brought TSO to life with a user interface, editor, development facility, utilities, library management, and much more. By 1998, I was thrown into managing a whirlwind that became WebSphere Application Server. Starting out with only a Java Servlet
engine, WAS was built using open standards such as Java, Web services, and XML, and remains the market leader in the industry 11 years later. By the late 1990's, the world wide web had taken off and I was right there with it. Growing out of that effort was WebSphere Site Analyzer, an IBM product I helped start which handled content and usage analysis of web pages. With many hooks and dependencies into web IT, the Site Analyzer experience provided a rich experience into web topologies and data schemas. In 2003 I was lucky to be offered the opportunity I am in today, with IBM developerWorks and alphaWorks. Within developerWorks, I manage development of several applications, and support operations for the site. developerWorks is a set of web applications that run on IBM's p-series hardware, AIX OS, and IBM WAS and DB2 middleware.
During my career with IBM I have worked with a great many outstanding people. A few of these have had a great influence on where I am today... Harris Kravatz for hiring me in Bethesda MD, Dr Anthony Hall and Dean Marsh for moving me to Raleigh NC, Jamie Thomas for my first management position, Dennis King for getting me involved with WebSphere Application server, Gina Poole and Scott Bosworth for hiring me into developerWorks, and the many good folks I work with that share the journey...