Monday May 21, 2007

Blog Tag - 5 Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

Quite a while back Mark Petrovic tagged me in the ongoing chain game of "Five Things You Don't Know About Me". I won't link to the start of the chain. It's more fun following the chain backwards and read people's responses.
  1. My first paid job other than babysitting was picking cucumbers for a market garden in Peace River. I was 13 and I fairly quickly sought easier work selling computers and video games at Village Sound. By 16 I founded my own software company, M+ Applications Software. My company's first and only product was a Commodore 64 utility for the 1526 dot matrix printer. In the two years I operated the business I sold approximately 275 copies wholesale for $14 a piece through a Western Canada software distributor and perhaps 150 additional copies for $24.99 through a classified ad in the local computer magazine. I saw two huge benefits to being a software entrepreneur; independence and not having to work in food service. My (and everyone else's) interest in the Commodore 64 had waned by the time I finished high school. I closed the company when the Bank of Montreal decided to impose a $3 a month service fee on all business accounts. Besides paying for my first modem and providing all of my high school spending money I recall spending the last $100 dollars the company made on beer the first week of University.

  2. My first open source software contribution was in 1984. I extended Phil Kemp's excellent Commodore 64 "Terminal 80" program to add a screen dump capability, YModem support and a directory listing function to make uploading easier. For years I claimed that my first open source contribution was to add MacBinary support to Citadel BBS software in 1987 . Because "Terminal 80" was public domain software I somehow didn't consider it open source. I was not the original author of "Terminal 80" but used it's license for several of my own creations in the mid-80's. I've always preferred BSD/MIT style licenses for open source.

  3. The first software I ever consciously paid for was Brad Templeton's PAL 64 Assembler. I pirated and cracked a lot of software as a kid. I was still cracking software into my 20s, but by then it was just for the fun of it (wow, two games in every box, the one which everybody gets to play plus the added fun of cracking the copy protection). I paid for PAL 64 Assembler because I felt guilty that I was making money with my little software business using stolen software. Also, the software was developed by a fellow Canadian company in Ontario. Shortly after paying for PAL I came up with a maxim I still follow: "I'll happily pay for any software that I use longer than it takes me to earn the money to buy it." At the time I adopted this policy I was coming to think of myself as a professional programmer and I considered it only fair that if I expected to earn a living as a programmer I had to respect the efforts of other software professionals. I'm still amazed by the effects that a change in perspective can have on the choices we make, even many years later.

  4. Early in my programming career I was helped along by several mentors. My first programming mentor was Joyce Crowley who was the computer resource person at my Junior High School. She was a trained professional programmer with a computer science degree, but not a teacher. She ran the computer lab and wrote a few educational programs for the school. Though she wasn't allowed to teach classes, and indeed the school didn't offer any classes in programming, she did help me debug my first crazy chaotic spaghetti programs and I learned structured programming from her. Learning to build my BASIC and assembler programs using subroutines and logical organization I believe helped me have more success in creating working programs and having success definitely encouraged me to continue.

    Later on Barbara Beck, one of my first year computer science professors, was very helpful in developing my perspectives about how a programmer works as part of a team, how software products are created and what programmers do day-to-day in the IT industry. It really changed my mind about how I should go about pursuing my goals and eventually contributed to my decision to leave University when I had an opportunity to do a startup with friends.

  5. My wife and I met online via RELAY (the precursor to IRC) at 8:36PM on December 8th, 1988 (yes, I know the exact time and have the chat logs to prove it). She was living it Calgary (3 hours from where I was in Edmonton) at the time and was connected to the net using an account from "Disability Information Services of Canada". I was working as a network operator for the Project Othello educational network which used RELAY to support beginning teachers in remote locations across northern Canada with mentoring. I was already using the handle "bondolo" (and had been for almost 5 years), but she thought it was funny and unusual that I had filled in the "real name" of my profile with "Demi-god" rather than my actual real name like everyone else. We met for the first time in person in mid-January of 1989. and have been nearly inseparable ever since. I still think her spelling is atrocious and she still thinks that I am a horrible arm guide.

  6. I desperately want to learn how to write shorter blog entries.

I'm not going to tag anyone else since I suspect that the chain has died with me due to my huge delay in responding.




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