It was said that I have a natural instinct or knowledge of analog and digital electronics in general. When I think about a microprocessor instruction, I see a path of logic that begins by moving the instruction and data into registers, follows a path of logic gates to execute the instruction and process the data, and ends with a result moving into a memory location or register.
Binary logic just makes sense to me and I often apply it to my everyday life.
I've written assembly and machine code for more processors than I can remember, many from Intel's 8xxx line and beyond, but also from Rockwell, Texas Instruments, and others. Higher level languages included C, Fortran, Pascal, COBOL, among others, and among pleasant company I will admit to dabbling in Basic if asked. I experimented with some of the early AI languages, but abandoned them for their inherent flaws and limitations.
Some say I was lucky to have avoided the era of punch cards, but they don't know what it means to enter an OS in octal using toggle switches. I used to read ASCII paper tape as easily as I read a book.
In 1979, I graduated high school in the upper top third of my class with four years of math, science, English, and other studies, and as a three-year varsity football Letterman.
A year later, I decided to attend Milwaukee School of Engineering as an electrical engineering technology student. I left MSOE and went to DeVry University in Lombard, IL, but after landing a job with a PCB test fixture finishing house, I did not return and instead chose to pursue my career.
Early in my career, it was my ability to communicate through writing that helped to push me up the ladder. Expression through writing also helped me process information and apply it to engineering and programming.
The year 2016 should see the publication of the first in a series of novels about a post-apocalyptic United States.
I worked at the fixture finishing house for nine years on bed-of-nails test fixtures for bare and loaded circuit boards and wrote in-circuit test programs on a Zehntel 850. I also designed and built interactive cable assembly fixtures, cable test fixtures, and PCB functional test fixtures to customer specifications.
The use of PCB CAD data to specify and build ICT fixtures was just beginning to take hold. I wrote numerous programs and tools to extract data for test points and formulate test plans, and to generate x-y coordinates for NC and CNC drills and tool paths for CNC mills. This eliminated the time-consuming, digitizing phase of the test-fixture finishing process and more importantly, added accuracy to probe locations on the fixtures.
Around 1988, I responded to a call for white papers regarding the use of CAD data in ICT fixturing. No one mentioned that much of what I did was a proprietary process and the paper I submitted through the company was heavily edited by the company owner/president. Even so, parts of the paper were used for an article in a trade magazine, which if I recall correctly, was In-Circuit Test Magazine.
In the spring of 1993, the company was sold to fixture and probe manufacturer Everett Charles Test and my position was eliminated along with a number of other employees.
After the leaving the PCB fixturing company, I took several freelance opportunities writing custom programs for processing medical forms and for a custom window manufacturer. That led to a contractor position with a company that provided technical services to other companies, and I worked at Ameritech (later sold to AT&T) for nearly two years leading the Fast Track support team in Chicago, which provided internal support for desktop computer issues.
As the project at Ameritech began to change, I moved on to a company that processed medical insurance forms for health care providers as their data center manager. I left after about a year when our office was consolidated with one in another state.
I turned down several offers which mainly centered around writing assembly code for obsolete processors, and for several under-paying positions supporting out-of-date operating systems. There was more freelance programming until I went to work, again as a contractor, for the Federal Government. As a network manager, I supported network operations at the Chicago office of the Federal Supply Service—an agency within GSA—which included email, intranet, internet, and local area network operation. I also managed a three-tier internal support help desk, supported the network and computers at a warehouse, and a number of satellite offices.
I stayed at this position for the full term of the five-year contract. During this time, I also returned to writing and began offering my work to local newspapers in the form of letters and articles, some of which were published, some were not. I began and finished my first attempt at a novel and published a number of short stories online.
When the FSS contract ended in 2002, we were just beginning to invest in real estate and I started a remodeling business as an offshoot. I had a reputation for uncompromising quality and fair prices. Even today, after going out of business in 2008 as a result of the housing crash, former customers will see me and talk to me about the projects I did for them and tell me how they are still happy with the work I did.
Unsure of my next move, I began writing yet again and saw opportunities for online publishing. I sold my work through several websites, some now defunct and others wholly changed, to various publishers. At the same time, I began building my own websites and also websites for local businesses.
Writing web content and building websites for businesses goes hand in hand. Doing either well is a good business, but doing both well is an advantage.
I enjoy working with my clients to provide a well-written product that is useful and provides information to those who need it. Despite a long and diverse career in engineering and information technology, writing remains the one constant that has stayed with me since my earliest years in grade school.
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