Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Twenty-five Years of Programming

This month is the 25th anniversary of the start of my career as a computer programmer. It was December 3rd, 1979 that I started at Dun and Bradstreet as an Assembler/COBOL programmer. I was working on an IBM 370, which was a state of the art mainframe. This was before the days of personal PC's so programmers were looked on as almost magical. No matter what information you wanted, if it was on a computer you needed a programmer to get it for you.

This first job was in New York City on Church St., just a few blocks north of the World Trade Center. I worked with a fantastic group of people and it was probably the most fun of any job I have ever had. There were a few not-so-fun things that happened shortly after I started. First, the Long Island Rail Road went on strike for a week in what was one of the coldest Decembers in memory. I had to take a bus into the city and then catch the subway. I was tempted to quit right off the start. Then in the Spring, the subways went on strike. The first couple of days I took the train in to the city and then walked, took a bus, took PATH trains, to get to the downtown office. Then they started letting us go into work at night. That actually worked out great as parking was available on the street at night.

In twenty-five years the changes that have happened in the IT field have been amazing. The things that come to my mind are: the change from mainframes to servers, the growth of languages like C and Java, object oriented programming, open source programming, and the biggest one of all, the growth of the internet. From an IT person's point of view, not all of these things have made our jobs better. In many ways, these changes have commoditized what we do making us less valuable as individuals to a corporation. Or maybe I'm just missing the good old days of my mispent youth. I do know this... I would not recommend an IT career to anyone.


Helen said...

I think you'll like Tom Van Vleck's trip down IT memory lane on his blog. See my last post. What's the new IBM z series but the reinvented 370s. And there are still COBOL programmers starting their careers on the 370 mainframe. I met some two years ago ; they are probably starting to retrain to the z-series. Here's to another 25 years in IT. You know you love it.

I think I'll go and chew Map's bog for a while.

Elblog said...

I've got news for you, pal. The "commoditization" of work is taking place everywhere; you just talked about it at Dell. I can't believe what's happened to the career path I had set before me, I wouldn't take those jobs now for twice what they were paying, and they're paying less now. From the Wal-Mart strong-arming of suppliers to the fact that, as someone who works 100 yards away from an x-ray machine in a hospital, I have to travel 5 miles to a different company to get scanned. We have personally embraced the compartmentalization of goods and services by price point rather than service or even location, driving to Costco for this, Rite-Aid for that, grocery store for this, taking our cues from the giants of industry.
Wow, I guess you hit one of my last nerves.
I'm just saying, lol.

Helen said...

Here's the link to Tom Van Vlenk's pages in case it's difficult to find amongst my rattling.Some of the terms are scaringly familiar to me : VTOC,EBCIDIC though I think I'd have had several degrees of separation than the level of familiarity he had.
He co-invented the ancestor of the modern e-mail and now works with Java. You can't keep a good software engineer down.