A little background: I started with the phone company (Pacific Northwest Bell, then a subsidiary of AT&T) long before cell phones (whaaa?? Before cell phones??). PNB was eventually part of the “consent decree” that broke up AT&T into 7 “regional Bell companies”, and became part of USWest. While at PNB and working in the “Minicomputer Maintenance Center” I got started in programming with PWB (Programmers’ Workbench) on UNIX System V back in the late 70’s not long after UNIX was invented and got my feet wet using DEC hardware (11/05, 11/40, 11/70, VAX) and learning shell and C programming. While at USWest Newvector (a cellular service provider before being part of Verizon), I was fortunate enough to meet the late Dennis Ritchie (one of the creators of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system and shown standing in the header image on the home page), Larry Wall (THE Perl Guru), Tom Christiansen (another Perl Guru), and other UNIX/Linux/OpenSource movers and shakers at USENIX conventions. Larry signed my Perl (the Camel) book and Dennis signed my USENIX badge (didn’t have my K&R C programming book with me – damn!). (OK, I’m a true geek.) I was also able to meet the late W. Richard Stevens who was the author of “UNIX Network Programming” and “Programming in the UNIX Environment” books and attend his network programming classes at USENIX in San Diego many moons ago. Very good books and a cool guy. RIP Richard. And I still have my “The C Programming Language” by K & R (Brian Kernigan and Dennis Ritchie)! I got started with Linux back in the late 90’s with Slackware and it was very cool to be able to meet Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system, when I was at the USENIX conference in San Diego many moons ago.
I’ve been interested in all things electrical/electronic since I was about 13 years old. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure where this interest in the sciences came from – my dad worked for a lumber packaging company on the Tacoma, Washington tideflats. Heh, at that time I was dabbling in atomic energy (I built a small cloud chamber for viewing atomic particles, a Van De Graff generator, and was trying to build a linear accelerator), robotics and rocketry. I did mange to build a solid-fuel engine that worked great but I wasn’t able to actually test it in a rocket…oh well…but I DID mange probably scare our neighbors with all the smoke from my makeshift engine test stand. 😮 I built a whole slew of Heathkits (mostly test equipment like voltmeters, scopes, and such) and Knightkits by the time I was 20. Also built a Heathkit AR15 stereo receiver that I had for like 15 years. It pained me to give it away – I spent hours and hours making the soldering and all the wire runs beautiful. (RIP Heathkit and Knightkit) For those that don’t know, Knightkits were sold by Allied Electronics, and it was fun to see the latest catalog in the mail. I just saw on another website that reminded me that Allied was bought by Radio Shack (really?!?). And I think we all know what happened to them! I used to also get catalogs from Burstein-Applebee – they had some cool stuff for electronics geeks like me. Not sure when the last catalog was, but I lost track of them after I went off to college in 1970 (!).
As a kid, there was a local TV/radio repair business and I would go there to buy transistors. I don’t know how many of these transistors I destroyed before I knew what I was doing. :-). I’m sure I let the smoke out of a lot of them. Growing up outside of Tacoma, I remember patiently (?) waiting for the mailman to come with my package of electronic parts from Allied Electronics or Burstein-Applebee for my next project. I was fortunate to be able to go attend electronics classes at Franklin Pierce high school; took 2 years of electronics (great enthusiastic teachers!), and for my last year my instructor saw my talent for electronics and I became a “lab assistant” helping others out for the lab experiments. Also used to subscribe to Popular Electronics and Radio-Electronics magazines. Pop’tronics was a great magazine and I built quite a few projects from articles featured in the magazine like the “shotgun sound snooper” . When Pop’tronics went the way of the dodo bird, I wrote to one of the first editors of the magazine, Art Salsburg, and he said that Ziff-Davis, in their infinite wisdom, decided they wanted to make Pop’tronics more like a computer rag, which were the rage then. I noticed the change right away. Gone were the circuit diagrams and descriptions and in their place were the glitzy color pictures of modems, how a modem works, and crap. After that, the magazine didn’t last very long. It’s too bad – there are virtually no electronics magazines, except “Nuts and Volts”, which is a British rag, I think. And it’s OK…it just doesn’t appeal to me the way Pop’tronics did.
Now I just turned 70 and I’m still very much the geek, dabbling in the Internet of Things and home automation. It’s fascinating to me that now home automation is all the rage, with Alexa, Google Assistant, etc. When I bought my first house there was no Internet or WiFi, so I had wires running all over the house (much to my wife’s dismay), the goal having the home security, lights and heating eventually controlled by a microcrontroller running NSC Tiny Basic. Well, I never completed that. But I learned a lot! So, now there are SO MANY platforms for the Internet of Things it’s hard to keep track of all of them; you have Blynk, IFTTT (IF This Then That), Cayenne, etc, etc. See my blog about Node-RED, MQTT, and more.