Where it all began... or, "in my day, we didn't have '1's and '0's... we only had '1's"

Although my career spans over 35 years, I've been programming and writing code for close to 40 years now. That notion wasn't lost on me when the other day I was talking to other "grizzled" engineers about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In truth though, software development and engineering is just one side of a craft I fell in love with really since I can remember. Hardware and electronics is where I got started. I took apart every thing I could find just to see how it worked. I used to spend hours in my parents basement reading all of my dad's science books. He used to bring home old worn out copies of Popular Mechanics, Popular Electronics, and the like. If it had wires or gears or required some modicum of technical knowledge, I was all over it.

The first computer I ever wrote software for was an Apple ][. To a 14 year old, entering commands in in Apple Integer BASIC and displaying color sprites was nothing short of miraculous. During that same time period, I would ride my bicycle for miles behind industrial parks dumpster diving for any discarded electronics that I could take apart.

Anyone remember these?

Poly-Paks would sell surplus parts for $1 per bag. For an extra 1¢, you could get a second bag. What a deal!

That's how I learned electronics, long before I had a formal education. Similarly, I learned to write software on an Apple ][ and a TRS-80 Model III without formalized schooling.

Here's the thing... how does one measure the success of a career? By the salary? The highest position attained? Number of direct reports? Type of projects? Or maybe, it can be measured not by any of those metrics, but if you can look back fondly secure in the knowledge that not only was your path the right choice, but there were no regrets. That its not only what you feel, such as accomplished, but its what you don't feel, such as burn out.

Maybe it can be measured by the smile at the sight of an old vintage Poly-Paks bag of parts you just bought for pennies on eBay.


  1. We are all the sum of our experiences. They nice ones make the trip worth while.


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