The Early Days

A continuation of The History of Cutter and Computers

In February of my senior year of High School I went down to the Military Enlistment Processing Station in Atlanta, GA to sign up for the U.S. Army's Delayed Entry Program. I told them I wanted to work with computers, so they sat me down to watch a little movie, off a 12 inch Laser Disc, about the wonders and joys of working as a Tactical Fire Direction Control Specialist in the Field Artillery. Eight months later, while going through Advanced Individual Training in Fort Sill, OK, I discovered that these highly advanced system [note the sarcasm here] were invented during the Korean War, sat on the back of a five-ton truck hauling a noisy generator, and gave it's user a battlefield life expectency of about thirty seconds. (This machinery has been replaced since my time.)

OK, so the Army, computers, and myself, didn't get off to the rockin' start I had been hoping for. But, that was OK. I was young (18 my first tour of duty) and stupid, and really only wanted to get drunk and laid in those days anyway.

In '90, when I came back stateside from Germany (to Fort Sill again), I was blessed enough to be placed in a Brigade Headquarters. At that echelon, when not out on maneuvers, a TacFire Specialist would work in the Brigade's rear operations center. I had to learn to do things like supply requests and training schedules. These were typically done on IBM clones running DOS based programs, and we may have even had a system or two running Windows 2.0, but this is quite some time back so my memory is sketchy.

When my first four-year tour was up I decided to change Military Operation Specialties. After some re-training for my new position I was assigned to Fort Meade, MD, where I began training on Sparc 10 Unix systems. I also began tooling around this new thing called the World Wide Web, in a free browser called Mosaic. It was fairly cut and dry, text-only kinda stuff, until the HTML 2.0 specification came out supporting the image tag. Mosaic updated their browser, Netscape came along (it was still free then), and people went image happy. Add in the changes to the table tag in the HTML 3.0 spec and, Wham!, nothing is ever the same. Around this time is when I started learning HTML, gleaning what I could from various sites.

Also in this time frame, I bought my first PC. It came with Windows 3.11 and a 3 month trial subscription to Prodigy. A friend of mine later upgraded my system with the final beta for Windows 95. Wow!, thanks Bill. This changes everything. I would sit at my system from the time I got off work til two, maybe three in the morning. Just downloading this and that, trying new programs, or marveling at this new thing called 'online porn' (which really wasn't that new, it had been around in the ARPANET days, and even had entire BBSs devoted to it). At some point I switched providers over to America Online, then switched back to an actual Internet Service Provider when I got sick of the 'directed' content aspect of the Online Service Providers of the day (AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, etc.) A basic ISP gave you a browser and a connection and let you find your own way, which I liked.

My friend had also given me copies of Word and Access 2.0a. I became fascinated with database programming. This is when I was also introduced to the WYSIWYG HTML editors (like HoTDoG), which (at the time) was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And don't forget PaintShop Pro, a budding web developer's dream come true! But, tools quickly got replaced in those days. Microsoft had finally caught on to this web thing, releasing Internet Explorer for free (Netscape was for sale at this point) and Frontpage. Add in a copy of Corel Draw 6 and I was flying.

OK, enough! I have to stop for now. Tune in for Part 3: Bad Habits and Disillusionment.