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Adult Programming

My Programming Autobiography, Part 3

By Rex Goode


Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

My first paying job was teaching programming classes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to children and adults. This was back when it was located next to the zoo in Washington Park.

I made only minimum wage, but really enjoyed it. There was such a marked difference between teaching adults and children. Teaching programming to adults is like trying to drag a boulder through the mud. Teaching children is like trying to sweep back the tide with a straw broom.It really was a silly job. Adults came to the class hoping to use computers like CoCo’s, Atari’s, and Commodores to do complex business applications. They came to OMSI because they were too cheap or couldn’t afford to learn how to use the emerging IBM PC’s. I worked at that job for a few months and then got laid off when interest in the classes dropped.

It took me a few months to find my next job. The economy was in a slump and I didn’t have a lot of experience that would impress people. Really, teaching BASIC at OMSI was not the highlight of a resume when you’re trying to get hired to some serious programming.

It was then that a man at church, who was also my Elders Quorum President (you LDS readers will know what that means), told me that he had an opening for a contract position at his firm. He was an electrical engineer who managed a company that did software development for utility companies. The applications were systems that energy auditors could take with them to peoples homes and factories and calculate for them how much money they could save on their utility bills by making certain improvements.

Me, Thirtysomething

I interviewed with one of the engineers and was hired for my first job at $20 per hour. It was really a log of money back then. After a few months, I was hired. I maintained the programming activities for several contracts with utility companies. I coded in BASIC, only now it was compiled BASIC. It took me some effort to remember that every line of code didn’t need a number.

It was there that I really started doing what I would call adult programming. There were no more 100-line programs at the most. There were modules and thousands of lines of code. I created user interfaces translated engineering formulas into code.

We won a contract not only writing and implementing energy auditing software, but a turnkey program of keeping track of audits for a large Midwest utility company. It required me to learn Sybase, a database management system (DBMS). The company flew me to Emory, California where I was trained in being a database administrator. I learned about second and third normal forms, indexing, and a marvelous language called SQL, or Structured Query Language.

I also was able to branch out of MS DOS into the worlds of VAX and UNIX. Prior to that, we mainly used IBM PC’s and their clones. I had on my desk a terminal for using the VAX system, an IBM XT, and a COMPAQ. My COMPAQ looked like a sewing machine when it was closed up. I carried that thing through many an airport. It had a little tiny green screen.

I enjoyed that job for about six years. I especially liked traveling around the country helping to set things up and auditors in using the software. When the parent company shut down the operation, I was the last one out the door.

To be continued in Torn Between Two Lovers.

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One Response to “Adult Programming”

  1. Rex Goode » A Nerd Is Born! said:

    […] be continued… Adult Programming Like Unlike Posted by Rex Goode under BASIC,Early Marriage,Personal,Software Engineering. […]

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