I’ve had an interesting morning. After having spent yesterday researching how to effectively use tag words, and being somewhat depressed at how much tech progress i’ve literally missed along the way, I began to reminisce about my relatively early introduction to the pc generation. One thing led to another, and before long, i was deep into googling the history of the computer, and it started bringing back long buried memories.
In my late adolescent wanderings, I migrated to Westchester County, NY, in 1961, for my second college experience, which was to last for 4 more years. In those days, college was one of the few alternatives to Viet Nam, and I was a major player in the game. My wanderings were entirely self-financed, and it was important to find a prime job for support. Every student at my school yearned to work at the nearby IBM Thomas Watson Research Center, but two things were impeding factors: it was some 10 miles out in the country – most fellow students were car-less – I was not – and IBM wasn’t in the habit of hiring college students, except for a few entry level, unattractive, jobs. I’ve always been a strategic thinker, and my sense was, “If I take any job they have open, I can work on the inside to get something better.” I signed on as a dishwasher, which turned out to be a wise move. A year later, I parlayed that position (which I only sadly left) into a new one with the IBM Club, part of IBM’s “silver-spoon” treatment of its nonunion workforce. Only the frequent reminders from my draft board kept me from staying for many years!
My responsibilities were few – I’d arrive at the clubhouse at 4pm each day, open up, brush the Har-Tru tennis courts, sell a few tennis balls, play ping-pong with any single players showing up, and lock up and leave at 10pm – there has never been a better job for a college student – ever! Weekends were even better; I’d work either Sat. or Sun., on a rotating shift I shared with my cohort – we also shared shifts during the week too. Our total workweek would be either 28 hours, or 34 hours, depending on the shared schedule. But the best thing about the weekends was that it was double-time! And if a holiday occurred on the weekend, it went to triple-time – like I said, there never was a better job for a college student.
I found this aerial view of the Thomas Watson Research Center campus today – you can see the Clubhouse and tennis courts on the right side, a few more trees there today than I remember. The baseball diamond, where I perfected my 9 iron game, is now the parking lot at the bottom of the pic. And immediately to the right of the Clubhouse, and out of view in the pic, was a beautiful pond, which was kept stocked with fish, and where I, among other IBM’ers, would practice our fly-rod skills. It was a bucolic environment, and totally accessible to the general public in those days – however, the notes from the site where I got the pic says no longer is it an open campus. But those were different times.
I certainly was not involved in anything even remotely related to computer development while at IBM, but I’ve often been reminded that I sure was rubbing elbows with those who were directly responsible. It’s kind of exciting to think just how close I was. But none of that enabled me to join the computer revolution early, and neither did the cost! Not until the mid 80’s did prices fall low enough to tempt me to stick my big toe in the pool. For Christmas, 1985, I bought our family an IBM PC – we all ooo’d and ahhh’d for weeks, and finally boxed it up up again, where it stayed for the next year. I finally went to my agency’s finance director and begged him to give me a quick and dirty orientation. Then I went out and bought a DOS book, and went home ready to conquer this beast. it’s a gross understatement to say that was the opening of a whole new world. But somewhere along the road between then and now, I missed huge chunks of the scenery.
But the journey ain’t over yet, and I guess that’s the most important thing!