My Computer History

My History, My Memories
Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.In his blog, Genea Musings, Randy Seaver suggested that people write about their computer history – basically how we “became slaves” to our computers. I figured, because computers are such a big part of my life, it would be good to share my experience.

High School

Osseo High School, New Wing – Source: 1967 Osseo Yearbook

My first experience with computers was the “computer club” at Osseo High School. Members of the club learned to program in BASIC. We used a teletype with an acoustic coupler using a telephone. If I recall correctly, it ran at 300 bits per second. We did our programming offline and created a perforated tape to send our programs to a mainframe computer. (Again, if I remember correctly and IBM 360.) To send our programs, we would dial up the host and send our perf’ tape info. The computer would then do the work and send back the results of running the program. I was terrible at programming. I remember writing a program to generate the prime numbers from one to 1000. Most of the other kids’ programs took a second or two of computer time to generate the numbers. My program took nearly a minute—very inefficient programming by me.  Anyway, I learned enough BASIC to be dangerous.[i]

Navy Days

I didn’t work with computers directly, but I did work with crypto equipment, which was very computer-like. Some of the equipment I used had perforated tape and used the same Baudot code as my high school teletype terminal. While in the service, I took a college course in COBOL[ii] and learned some more computer skills. I also took a college course in “Introduction to Computer Systems.”

TRW

Woman at a Docuteller 300 – Courtesy Wells Fargo Archives

After my Navy time, I got a job with TRW[iii] Customer Service Division. With them, I repaired cash machines (Docutel Total Teller 300), window teller machines, and terminal processors. The Total Tellers had small minicomputers associated with them. The computers were Lockheed and CAI mini-computers. To load the program into memory, you had to enter code directly into memory to create a bootstrap program. That program then accepted the actual code from a cassette tape using a standard Radio Shack tape recorder.  Occasionally, when repairing equipment, it was necessary to write a simple program that would cause the cash machine to do a simple task, such as to pick up a money packet and deliver it to the money drawer, or pull in a card, read it, and send it back. Simple programs, but they were all done in machine language.

Metropolitan State University

commodore 64 – Photo by the NerdPatrol via Flickr. (CC 2.0)

I wrote about my experience at Metropolitan State University in “Schools I’ve Attended.” The bottom line is that I purchased a Commodore 64 and a word processing program to keep up with the rewrites I needed to do for a Non-fiction Writing class I took. That computer was the start of my using personal computers for home use. I’ve always had a home computer since then.

NAVPRO

For several years I worked for the Navy at the NAVal Plant Representative Office in Fridley, Minnesota. I worked as an Engineering Technician in the Quality Assurance Division. The office installed a Wang 2200. The system has a program called IDEAS, which was an interface to a compiler that compiled BASIC programs. I requested access and was granted access to write some programs to track waivers, deviations, and engineering change proposals. I then wrote a couple of other applications for the Quality Assurance Engineers’ use. Meanwhile, the computer programmer they hired could not get any programs he was working on to work well. The commanding officer (CO) asked if I would be willing to go TAD[iv] to the Computer Team and work on some things. After a 90 day assignment, the CO asked if I wanted to do another 90 days. I agreed. After six months, the CO asked if I’d go there permanently. I agreed and was made a Computer Specialist. There I led the integration of Wang PCs into dual roles of office automation and terminals to the Wang 2200.

DCMC

After the NAVPRO, I got a job with the Defense Contract Management Command as a computer specialist. There I worked with several different computer systems, but most importantly, I set up a Novell Netware system using Ethernet. While working for DCMC, I became Netware Certified. DCMC became its own agency (DCMA), and I continued working for them. I became certified in Microsoft Exchange Server and began working as the Exchange “subject matter expert” for the agency.

Technology Chief

I continued working for DCMA and was selected to be the Technology Chief for the Eastern District. As Chief, I had Computer Specialists in some 25 states reporting to me for technical direction[v].

FBI

After 911, I decided to apply to the FBI. I was selected for a computer specialist position at CJIS Division in Clarksburg, WV. I worked in Requirements for a while. I studied to become a PMP (Project Management Professional). I was then selected to lead the test group where we tested changes to hardware and software to IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System),[vi] NCIC (National Crime Information Center)[vii], and NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System)[viii]

Triple-I

After I retired from the government, I used my Program Management Skills and Technical know-how to put together a NOSC (Network Operations and Security Center) for a Triple-I[ix] and SAIC[x] joint project. While there, besides putting my Project Management skills to use as the site leader, I became a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional).

Today

Today, I use an iMac for my personal use and have for probably ten years or so. I knew Windows NT very well back in the day, but I get confused and frustrated when I need to use Windows 10 (it works very differently from Mac). That said, I and the “Technology Guy” at the Historical Society where I volunteer. I also help out fellow genealogy folks in several genealogy groups I am a member of, particularly if it relates to online systems (Ancestry, Zoom meetings, etc.) or Mac.

I became interested in computers when I was in high school in the 1960s and began working with them as the key component of my employment in the 1980s. I’m not sure I’d agree I’m a “slave to my computer,” but I do use mine 40 to 50 hours a week, so some people (like my wife) might agree that I am a “slave to my computer.”


ENDNOTES

[i] Good thing BASIC stands for “Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.” I was definitely a beginner.

[ii] COBOL stands for “COmmon Business-Oriented Language,” and was used for data processing in business, finance, and administrative systems.

[iii] TRW stood for Thompson Ramo Wooldrige. It was qcquired by Northrop Grumman in 2002.

[iv] TAD – Temporary Assigned Duty.

[v] At that time the Computer Specialists reported to their local commanding officers for administrative purposes and most command required activities and to me for technical direction.

[vi] IAFIS is the system that law enforcement checks when fingerprints cannot be matched within their own local or state systems.

[vii] NCIC goes back to the 1960s. I remember Harry Morgan tearing off the NCIC printouts from the teletype machine and handing it to Jack Webb in the Dragnet revival.

[viii] NICS is a system used by 22 states to check that a gun purchaser is not prohibited from buying a gun.

[ix] Triple-I is Information Innovators, Inc. The company was acquired by Salient CRGT in 2017.

[x] SAIC is Science Applications International Corporation.

Halloween 1959

My “Best-est” Halloween

My Memories
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I got to thinking about Halloween and tried to remember what my “best-est” Halloween ever was when I was a kid.  Of course, memories from that long ago are often forgotten unless something, usually a photo, keeps the memory alive. Thanks to a 1959 photo taken outside our house in Fridley, MN, I remember the Halloween of ’59 reasonably well. It is the best Halloween I can remember. That year, for Halloween, my mom and I carved a Jack-O’-lantern and put it in the window (we did that most years). The pumpkin was nothing fancy, be we always had fun doing it. We didn’t have all the fancy carving tools that folks have nowadays. A simple knife was it.  But it wasn’t a bad looking pumpkin.

Donald Taylor (Larson) & friend Patty Hopkins – Fridley, MN – Halloween 1959 – Photo by Sylvia Larson (Matson)

The photo I have is of my friend Patty Hopkins and me dressed for Halloween, and that pumpkin is in the window. Both Patty’s and my family were pretty poor at the time.  Patty and I were the only children around with single mothers, so fancy costumes were out. Simple masks were about all we could afford. That year, my mom splurged for a “Captain Kidd” mask for me. It was a big deal – Aaaarrrrggghh! Patty had a simple Morris mask, but it was enough. Neither of us had costumes; we wore regular clothes. Patty had a couple red scarves she waived around to be exotic. I remember that Patty and I went around our neighborhood for a while, then we had a great idea, the 12-plexes on the other side of Highway 100 (I-694 now). It was only about a mile away, and if my mom would drive us, we could really clean up with the candy. Sure enough, we convinced her, so she took us down to 53rd & 3rd, to what is now called the “Northeast Villas.” It was a complex of apartments with almost a 100 units within about a block and a half covering both sides of the street. Trick-or-Treating there was a great experience and made for the “Best-est” Halloween ever.

When I first left home

My History, My Memories
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I was reading Randy Seaver’s Blog “Genea-Musings,” (http://www.geneamusings.com) where, in his blog, he asked, “When [did] You First Left Home.” He had five questions,

    1. When did you first leave your parents’ home? 
    2. Why did you leave? 
    3. Where did you move to? 
    4. What was it like? 
    5. What did you learn?

That is complicated to answer. An abusive stepfather complicated my life and my mother’s life. My mom left him several times. One of those times, we left him in Minneapolis and went west to Denver, Colorado. He convinced her that he had “changed,” and we returned to him in Minneapolis.

A few months later, I had had enough and ran away, this time by myself. I hopped on a bus by myself and headed for Denver. I had learned there was a circus operating there and intended to join it. (Yes, I really did “run away to join the circus.” On the bus, I fortuitously encountered a man that was returning to the circus. He had been a clown with the circus. He dissuaded me from joining that life. So, once I got to Denver, I didn’t join the circus. Instead, I got a room at a rooming house and a job at a nearby store. It was summer, but I registered for school in the fall and intended to live independently, go to school, and work enough to pay for food and a place to live. I was 14, living just off East Colfax, and working at a Safeway (I lied about my age) just a few blocks away from my rooming house. I was in Denver for about four weeks.

Then, one evening, I was walking home quite late and the police stopped me. I didn’t have any ID and they suspected I was underage, so they brought me in for a “curfew violation.” I didn’t want to give them my address, but after a few hours, I finally gave them 2419 Bryant. A few minutes later, a furious policeman came back to inform me they sent a car there, but there was no 2419 on Bryant. I thought I had been so cute, but they didn’t think it was funny. It was then I told them it was 2419 Bryant, Minneapolis (not Denver).

Apparently, they contacted the Minneapolis Police Department, because the next day, the police informed me that my “parents” were informed where I was, and they were going to have me fly back to Minneapolis. I don’t recall if it was the third or fourth day being in custody in Denver, but I was eventually taken to the Denver airport and put on a non-stop flight to Minneapolis. The social worker person told the flight crew I wasn’t to be allowed to slip out of the plane. The plane was met in Minneapolis by my mom and my stepfather.

I learned to not be cute, clever, or difficult with the police. I also learned making a life for yourself is difficult.

Things with my stepfather improved for a while. First, my stepfather didn’t get on me for a couple of months, then my parents bought a new house, and we moved to a temporary home for a few months while the new house was being built. While in that temporary house, one of my step-sisters lived with us. My stepfather was always “good” when she was around. Anyway, she returned to her mother’s about when we moved to the new house in the suburbs. It was several months before I ran away again, but that is another story.

My Worst Christmas: 1961

My History
By Don Taylor

I’ve seen several blog posts from folks about their best Christmas family experiences. So, I thought that I’d go against the grain and write about my worst Christmas. It was 1961.

It had the potential of being the best Christmas ever. My mother married Budgar on December 8, 1961, and the two returned from a short honeymoon on December 10th. For Christmas, we were going to have a family get together. Budgar’s daughters, my new stepsisters, were coming and my grandmother was cooking a turkey with the fixings. Eleven-year-old me, had a hard time waiting until my stepsisters got to our house, but we waited so we could open presents together.

We opened our gifts and everyone was pleased. I’m not sure I remember exactly what my big present was. It might have been a “Paladin gun with holster,” maybe it was a toy “Rifleman cap gun,” I’m not sure which year I received which. I’m sure though I received new army men to play with; I received army men every year for several years. My stepsisters, ages 11 and 10, were especially excited about their new Barbie dolls and a Barbie game – The Barbie Game: Queen of the Prom – “A fun game with real-life appeal for all girls.”

After a short while, my stepsisters wanted me to play their new game with them. I said, “No.” I was 11 and enjoyed playing with my toys by myself, as I had done in previous years. Besides, I wasn’t about to play a “girlie game.” They insisted and then whined to their father, Budgar, that I needed to play with them because the game “wasn’t any good for just two.” They needed at least three players. So, Budgar took me away from my new toys and made me play the Barbie Game with his daughters. I was mortified.

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and my grandmother’s cake put me in a better mood later that afternoon. She was an excellent cook and an amazing baker.

 

 

Memories – My First Pet

Memories – My First Pet – Ginger?
Me playing with Ginger
Christmas Morning c. 1958
I was recently asked about my first pet. I thought immediately about “Ginger,” a ginger colored cat we had back in the late 1950s. Not only did Ginger love to play, but she liked to “hang out.” She was a great cat. I knew that I had a couple photos of her so I decided to find them. When I found photos of Ginger I realized a previous blog I wrote was wrong. When I wrote about my first television a couple weeks ago I completely forgot about having a television while we lived in Fridley. There, in the background of me playing with Ginger, was a television. Oh my. 
Ginger “hanging out” in my
tent. c. 1960
I then thought about memories and how we often need triggers to recall them. Because of that photo with Ginger, I knew that we had a television years earlier than I had recalled before. I don’t recall watching it, but now I know we had one. That makes me wonder about what was my first pet. I know about and remember Ginger because I have photos of her and me together. I remember that Christmas and her being totally freaked out by the electric train set I received that year. However, I believe that I remember Ginger, that Christmas, and the train set because I have reinforced that memory through seeing these photos over the years. So, was Ginger really my first pet, or did I have pets before her that I don’t remember because we don’t have any photos? Certainly, it is possible.
Donna with “Wolf” & a cat, c. 1951
I have a photo of my grandmother with a dog, Wolf, and a cat. It is from about 1951. My grandmother lived with us then so we must have had pets then. I just don’t recall either of them. The photo makes me wonder just how long we had Wolf and that cat. Were they replaced when I was a child and I just don’t recall them because we don’t have any photos of them? Maybe, maybe not, I just don’t know because I don’t have the photos to trigger those memories.
I guess the take away from this is that there is a need to take photos of family members, particularly young ones, with their pets. Those photos may be the basis for warm memories for their entire lives. Memories like my playing with Ginger on Christmas morning or memories of Ginger hanging out in my tent.

Pets of my Family

Aunt Barbara says: I grew up in the Chicago Julia Lathrop housing project and pets weren’t allowed…ha..ha..ha..I had a pet it was a little turtle I called him Turtle. He would get loose every so often and be gone for days

My niece Kerresa: Oh so many pets I guess the first pet of mine would be Dee Dee the extra furry pony when I was around five. I don’t remember how it got named Dee Dee maybe because she/he walked soooo slow. But my mom and aunt have always been into horses so naturally I loved it.

My sister-in-law Libby: Growing up we had a family cat named Meow Pinkel Purr. [The name] came from a book of poems [which included “Pinkle Purr” by A. A. Milne.] The first line was, “Tattoo was the mother of Pinkel Purr.”

My sister-in-law Liz: The family has always had either a couple of cats or a dog. Sunbug and George were the cats I grew up with and Tesha was our dog, My own cat wasn’t until I got Casey for Christmas when I was living in the Brookside building in the 90s. That cat went everywhere around the old Down East building with me.

My great niece Maggie: The first pet that I remember was a cockatiel named Amadeus. I was 6 or 7, I think (maybe [Libby] can confirm that), living in Indiana. I chose that name because I had recently seen the movie.

Future Actions 
Take lots of photos of family members interacting with their pets and print those photos for permanent use.

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