Jon Erickson at DDJ is looking for "early computer career" stories...

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In the most recent Dr. Dobbs Update email I received, Jon Erickson, DDJ Editor, asks "Let's Hear About Your Personal Computing History". "What was your first programming job? Anything as exciting as COBOL programs for the Yellow Pages? How did you get Job #1 and why did you move to Job #2?"

Send an email to Jon (jerickson 'at' with the subject line "Early Career". He says "I'll put together a report of sorts, and we'll all have a little fun in the process. Be sure to add any anecdotes, of course. And thanks in advance for sharing."

I just wrote to Jon with my own early career notes:
    What was your first programming job? I was a computer operator and COBOL programmer for a summer job on a Burroughs B500 computer – doing log (as in redwood trees and others) inventory analysis up in Arcata California for Helm Data Processing. It was a summer job between my Sophomore and Junior years in college as a Computer Science student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.“Anything as exciting as COBOL programs for the Yellow Pages?” – well, the log inventory COBOL programming and batch runs were pretty boring. So, I wrote an artillery cannon game in COBOL (had to write my own random number generator) to play while I was doing the batch runs in the evening.
    How did you get Job #1? My parents lived in Eureka California and I heard about the job through my dad.Why did you move to Job #2? Since it was a summer job, my next job was on Campus at Cal Poly SLO working the help desk in the computer center (I was also an ACM Student member and volunteer helping Freshmen get their first punch card jobs to work on the campus IBM 360/40).
    First real Job after college? At TRW in Los Angeles, writing loads of real-time assembly language programs on Data Genera Nova minicomputers. I built back office minicomputer software that connected to a department store’s (all the major ones) cash registers, keypads, and security terminals to track credit card, check cashing, shoplifting, and other applications. At TRW I also wrote the back office minicomputer software for the first ATM “total teller” system at First National Bank of Atlanta (“Tillie the All-Time Teller Girl”) that let you do more than just cash dispensing – you could also do deposits, transfers, balance inquiry, etc.

Working at Embarcadero Technologies and using, writing about, and talking about our developer tools and database tools is light years beyond anything I could have expected to be doing "in the future" while I was sitting in front of that Burroughs B500 computer in the summer of 1971.

One B500 historical note - the computer had a head-per-track disk drive for speed along with tape drives.  My college summertime job in 1971 coincided with the appearance of the Pascal programming language by Nicklaus Wirth.  In college we were still using Fortran, COBOL, PL/1, and assembler.  But soon after, we had access to a Pascal compiler via the college system's timesharing computers.

Gold User, Rank: 1, Points: 2466
David Intersimone (known to many as David I.) is a passionate and innovative software industry veteran-often referred to as a developer icon-who extols and educates the world on Embarcadero developer tools. He shares his visions as an active member of the industry speaking circuit and is tapped as an expert source by the media. He is a long-standing champion of architects, developers and database professionals and works to ensure that their needs are folded into Embarcadero's strategic product plans. David holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, California.


  • Guest
    E. Doyle Edgerton Jr Monday, 26 December 2011

    I started out on a Burroughs B80, in 1979. The leaped into the next century with an an IBM System/38. Cooking RPGIII.

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