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.

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.

30 Questions – Have I…?

 

My Life
Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.For “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun,” Randy Seaver, in his blog “Genea-Musings,” suggested answering some of the questions that have been going around Facebook.  Here are my answers to 30 personal questions.

Have I:

1)  Driven 100 mph: I think only once, however, I’ve been a passenger in cars doing so several times. (None in the past 45 years; oh, the stupidity of youth.)

2) Ridden in a helicopter: Several times in the Navy to and from the Kitty Hawk. Once from Clark Air Base (Philippines) to Cubi Air Station (Olongapo City, Philippines) with the door open (safety harnessed in with a short leash). What a way to see the country for the first time!

3) Gone zip lining: No and I’ve never had a desire to do so.

4) Been to an NFL game: yes, many, had season tickets the Vikings for several years. I was at the last game at the old Met Stadium (where the Mall of America is now).

5)  Been to Canada: As a teenager, I went to the Boundary Waters area and canoed in and out between Minnesota and Ontario many times. I have also visited Winnipeg, Windsor, and Vancouver.


6) Visited Florida: Yes, many times, mostly for work but a few times for pleasure.

7)  Visited Mexico: Yes, Tijuana when I was in the Navy stationed in San Diego.

8) Visited Vegas: Yes, several times mostly during my Navy Days, but also a few times for work.


9) Eaten alone at a restaurant: Yes, occasionally, I’ll have breakfast. I don’t recall ever having dinner alone in a restaurant, except while traveling.


10) Ability to read music: Not really.  I can see a note on a piece of paper and can find it on a piano, but slowly. Let’s see…. “every good boy does fine” EGBDF and “FACE” are the mnemonics I learned. Humm, they go from the bottom up, right?

My brother Mark and sister Sharon sitting on my 2nd motorcycle, a Honda 90, about 1967.

11) Ridden a motorcycle: Yes, I’ve owned several. My first was a Yamaha 60, a 2-stroke, which was the first motor vehicle I owned (I was 15). My last was a Yamaha Virago 750. My knee was getting too bad to enjoy long rides, so I sold it and bought a convertible.

12)  Ridden a horse: Yes, when I was a teenager living in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, I cleaned a barn & stable area at a farm nearby in order to ride the horses there. Also, when I lived in the Oregon desert in the early 1970s.  Not since then.


13) Stayed in a hospital: Yes, clavicle (as a kid), shoulder (twice while in the Navy), and a knee operations.


14) Donated blood: Yes. When I was young, I gave often, when I was young and feeling really broke, I’d give plasma too. While I was in the Navy, they’d have blood drives. If you gave blood, you would receive early liberty. We called that “vampire liberty.”


15)  Been snow skiing: Not really.  Cross country a few times. Never downhill.

16)  Been to Disney World or Disneyland: Yes, I’ve been to Disneyland a few times back in the 1970s. Once for a “Navy Day,” where the park was closed except to Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families. A three-minute wait at “Pirates of the Caribbean” and no wait at the “Matterhorn” made for the best theme park experience by far!

17)  Slept outside: Not intentionally, I prefer sleeping in a tent or RV. The Hilton doesn’t count as “outside,” does it?

18)  Driven a stick shift: Yes. I’ve owned many stick shifts when I was young — “four on the floor,” “three on the tree,” and “three by the knee.” I don’t think I’ve driven a stick in twenty years.

19)  Ridden in an 18-wheeler: Yes. I had a license to drive one while I was stationed in Oregon and one drove there. My license also had fire engine and bus endorsement. 

20) Ridden in a police car? Only as a juvenile. The first time was when I cut my wrist going through a window (NOT intentionally) and a police car took to the local hospital. They didn’t want to wait for an ambulance.


21) Driven a boat: Yes. My stepfather had boats and I did drive his occasionally. The Officer of the Watch was too smart to even consider handing over the con to me while I was on the Kitty Hawk.

 22)  Eaten Escargot: Sort of. I had snails once while in the Philippines. I got so sick; I’ve never eaten snails again. I don’t know if what I ate were land snails or sea snails. Either way, I’m playing it safe and not ever eating them again.

My “Cruise Ship”

23) Been on a cruise:  Do three and a half years aboard the USS Kitty Hawk count? My wife wants to take a cruise and thinks it’d be nice if I came along. (She’s said, “No thank you,” to our visiting the Kitty Hawk.)

24)  Run out of gas: Not that I recall. If I had, I would probably want to forget about it anyway.

25)  Been on TV: Yes, as one in a crowd or audience, not as an individual.  That doesn’t count community TV or a “TV Productions” course I took in college.

26)  Eaten Sushi: Yes, I have my particularly desired rolls (Philadelphia, Alaska, California). There are some I’d never touch – Snail sushi — <Shudder>. (See 22 above.)


27) Seen a UFO:  Possibly. Back in the 1950s I saw something I didn’t recognize. A few moments later I saw two fighters speeding after it. I never heard what the military called the event.

28)  Been Bungie jumping: No. I wouldn’t do it on a bet. With my knees, I’d probably split into two.

29) Visited another continent: Yes – Asia & Africa. While I was in the Navy. I lost three 36-exposure rolls of film I shot when at Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The photos would have included why I think hyena’s are the scariest critters ever. They look at you and you just know they think you’re food.

30)  Been to Ellis Island?  No. I have no ancestors who came through Ellis Island, so I’ve never had a personal interest to visit. 

As I go through this list, I’m amazed at how many of the items I did while I was in the Navy. 

Cross-Country Travels

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
My Life
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.The Weekly Genealogist, produced by NEHGS, regularly has a survey question designed to make you think about your ancestors’ lives. They recently had a question asking if you or your ancestors traveled “across the country” not by airplane. In this case, “across the country” was a trip of more than 1500 miles.

Randy Seaver, in his blog, Genea-Musing, suggested taking that idea, cross country trips, and write about it.[i] I thought about the question and realized that with Detroit to Portland, Oregon, is over 2300 miles, my grandmother, mother, and I have all have had such travels, several times.

My Cross-Country Trips

I’ve made trips across the country several times.

1964 Ford Falcon Estate pic2
1964 Ford Falcon like I traveled in in 1969.
When I was in the service, (Christmas 1969) three of us drove a Ford Falcon station wagon from San Francisco to Minneapolis. One person drove, one sat in the passenger seat, and one person slept in the back. Each person would rotate positions every three hours. We only stopped for gas and made the 2000 mile trip in less than 34 hours.

My second cross country trip was when I left Oregon to go to training in Vallejo, California, in 1972. After training, we knew I was heading to a ship at sea, so my wife and son moved from Oregon to Minneapolis. I drove Mary (my first wife), and our son Matt, the 1600 miles back to Minnesota, where they lived during my time at school. I flew from Minneapolis to San Francisco to training and again to the Philippines for my first cruise aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.

The next cross-country trip was when I moved Mary-Alice from her home in Maine to Minneapolis. Just a little over 1500 miles, it only barely qualified for this list. That trip was in her Dodge Caravan, loaded to the top with stuff. We arrived in Minneapolis just after the “Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991.” Before I had told Mary-Alice that Minnesota was colder than Maine, but we didn’t get as much snow. When we got to Minnesota, Interstate 94 was two ruts heading up out of the Saint Croix river valley because of the 28 inches of snow the Twin Cities had received. She gave me that look, that said, “We never had this much snow in Maine in October.”

The Mojave Desert in Bloom – Photo by Geoff Stocker.

In 1998, Mary-Alice and I moved to Long Beach, California (about 1900 miles). I drove the car and Mary-Alice drove her van. We kept in contact with little radios. When we got to the Mohave Desert, she kept asking where the desert was. We drove through it during a “once-in-a-century” flower bloom. It was gorgeous, entire hillsides yellow with flowers.

In 2000, Mary-Alice and I moved from Long Beach to Boston, Massachusetts. Our van was over-loaded with stuff and relatively old, so I was afraid to try the shorter 3000-mile northern route because of the mountains on the way. So, we took the 3200 mile-route through Phoenix, El Paso, and Dallas. That was a brutal trip. We stopped at a weird motel in Tennessee and had a difficult time finding our room. Little did we know that the 200 rooms were downstairs from the 100 rooms.

I made the trip between Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, as an infant, twice with my mother. I don’t remember either trip and rely only upon my mother’s telling of the stories.

My Mother’s Cross-Country Trips.

Back in 1950, my mother got a job with an outfit that sold magazines door to door. They had a crew of kids, my mother was 18, and moved city to city. I know they started in Detroit and ended in Portland, Oregon, in just a few months, stopping at cities and towns all along the way. I still wasn’t born yet but was born a few weeks after her arrival in Portland.

In 1953, my mother was pregnant with my sister, Glennis. Mom like the hospital I was born in and decided she wanted her second child to be born in the same hospital. She hitch-hiked from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon (1700 miles) with 3-year-old me. Wow—What a trip that must have been for her.

My mom and Budgar traveled between Minneapolis and Phoenix (over 1600 miles) many times.

On one occasion she traveled between Phoenix and Minneapolis by herself and then continued with me to Clarksburg, West Virginia (about 2600 miles in total).

My Grandmother, Donna

My Grandmother was a fantastic traveler. She was born in Albion, Michigan and lived there until about 1914 when she went to California to be one of Max Sennett’s Bathing Beauties and to be in the movie, “Birth of a Nation.”

She traveled from California to Massachusetts in 1915 and lived in the Boston area for a few years.

In 1919, Donna traveled from New York to Decatur, Illinois to join the cast of “Chin Chin.” She then toured with the show to Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before the show ended.

Known locations Donna was at during the “Chin Chin” Tour.

In 1922 & 1923, “Donna Darling and Company” went on the road. They started in New York and went to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

In 1924, Donna went on another tour heading west from New York to include Montana, Oregon, and California with stops all over in between.

In 1926, Donna had another tour heading west from New York and including Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wisconsin, Michigan.

In 1927, Donna had another tour heading south from New York and across to New Orleans and back.

During her travels, virtually all of the trips were via train. A typical day, she’d board the first train out of a city, take the train with her crew, cast, and sets to another town, typically 2 to 4 hours away. The crew would unload and install the sets at the theater. She would then do a show or two that day. After the show, they’d head to a hotel for the night then head out again with the first train to another town. Sometimes, on longer travels, I’m sure they’d sleep on the train while heading to the next city. She had a train stuck in the snow in Nebraska for several days, a trestle washed out in Arizona (where they needed to carry their scenery past the wash-out on their backs), and had an earthquake break the tracks in California.

As I get more and more of her vaudeville career documented, I’ll create maps showing her travels and some of her many travel challenges.

Others

Oxen Team pulling covered wagon – Photo by Don Harrison (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I don’t know anything about my biological father’s life travels, nor do I know about his parents’ travels. I know that grandpa Dick was in the service and probably traveled cross country with that. He served in Panama, so I’m sure he at least traveled from Minnesota to the Gulf (or a coast) as a minimum. My great-grandmother Mary (Manning) Brown never traveled 1500 miles (to my knowledge), but she did travel the 1000 miles, from Kentucky to Minnesota, by oxen-driven wagon. That trip was with her grandparents, Enoch & Minerva (Toliver) Mannin.  I think a 1000 miles trip by oxen-driven wagon is much tougher than twice that distance by train or automobile, so it should count.

ENDNOTES

[i] Internet: Genea-Musings by Randy Seaver – 27 July 2019 – “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Ancestors Trans-Continental Travel (not by Airplane)

 

Ages of my 3rd Great-Grandparents

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
Brown/Montran Research
Roberts/Barnes Research

By Don Taylor

Randy Seaver, of Genea-Musings, suggested taking a look at our third great-grandparents lifespan.  When were they born; how long did they live? Randy’s suggestions often make me think about my tree and point out where I have holes or other problems in my genealogical research, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Randy’s suggestion this time was no different.

Of my 32 great-grandparents, I only have 23 named in my database. Two are women for whom I only know their married surname.   Only 13 of them, do I have birth and death dates. I have much more work to do to fill in the blanks.

NEW & on my “Want” list.

My earliest born 3rd Great’ was John Calvin Roberts, born 3 March 1795; the most recent born was Andrew Haley born 1837. I was surprised there were 42 years between two ancestors in the same generation.

The youngest to die that I know about was Joel Cruff Taft who died at the age of 48. Barney Daney Brown was born about 1814 and died sometime between 1860 and 1870 could have died at age 46, age 56 or any age in between.

My longest living 3rd great-grandparent was William Sanford who lived to 92. However, I must mention that my great-grandmother Mary (Manning) Brown lived to be 105.

The average age at death for my 3rd great-grandparents was 70.6 years old.

My Ancestors for whom I know their birth and death dates include:
Name Birth Death Age at Death
[Brown], Mary C Abt. 1824 24 Jun 1900 76
Blackhurst, Stephen 1801 24 Dec 1869 68
Blackwell, Elizabeth 10 Sep 1796 05 Jul 1867 70
Brown, Barney Daney Abt. 1814 1860 to 1870 46-56
Haley, Andrew J. 24 Aug 1837 29-Dec-05 68
Mannin, Enoch 03 Jan 1823 7-Apr-07 84
Parsons, Mary Electa 14 Sep 1828 18 Jun 1888 59
Roberts, John Calvin 03 Mar 1795 Apr 1873 76
Sanford, William M 30 Mar 1823 5-Jun-1915 92
Southerland, Fanny 03 Apr 1796 24 Mar 1864 67
Taft, Joel Cruff 25 Dec 1800 19 Apr 1849 48
Taylor, Fanny 1806 1889 83
Tolliver, Minerva Ann 05 Feb 1821 24 Oct 1902 81

As is so often the case with Randy’s exercises, Randy reminds me how much more genealogical work I still need to do. I’d love to learn the birthdates and death dates of all my 3rd great-grandparents. Then again, my genealogical goal is not to fill in the blanks; instead, my goal is to get to know my ancestors, to try to understand them, and to appreciate their lives.