With a long time friend of mine, a computer programmer of the first rate, we have had this discussion several times over the years. He started programming in the late 70s as did I.
He was self taught in software and admittedly became far better at it than I did. Worked for Xerox Los Angeles in the 70s doing systems programming for a Xerox printer running a new microprocessor. Tried to convince them, about the time of “The Woz“, of making a small affordable computer. Both had similar results in trying to convince a large corporation to make a microcomputer.
One went on to co-found Apple Computer.
Anyway we both started programming when the mainframe computer was the absolute King. Mini Computers were starting to make big inroads with a smaller computer, still costing in the 6 figures, but attainable by smaller businesses. That is also a class largely swept away by ever-more powerful micro computers. Bill Gates learned programming on mini computers.
I learned programming at a trade school, Coleman College in San Diego. I learned at the last Lexican’s get together that Coleman had closed. But when I was there, they were considered by Computerworld magazine, an industry journal, to be one of the best places in the country to learn programming. They had everything from a small IBM Mainframe to IBM mini computers.
Unlike most universities, Coleman had teachers with recent experience in the industry. And among the best of those teachers were “alumni” from Ross Perot‘s Electronic Data Systems. When mainframes were king, they were of course very expensive. Perot was a star salesman at IBM, but in the early 60s he got the idea of facilities management.
Instead of a government agency or large corporation having their own data processing staff, worrying about the hiring and firing, and purchasing or leasing these very expensive systems (and which to get?), EDS would come in, install their IBM mainframes and with their own people do that work for the customer.
Perot caught that wave just as mainframes were really taking off, and he became a billionaire.
To work for EDS meant job transfers to various cities not only in the US but around the world. Much was demanded but it would be rewarding. And forget the image of the programmer coming to work in sandals and Hawaiian shirt – EDS enforced a very rigid dress code. As I recall during an interview at Coleman, there was even a hair length restriction. Was it 1/2″ or an inch length restriction for males? Something like that.
A classmate of mine, a former Army Drill Sgt, said to me after his interview that if he “wanted that, he would have stayed in the Army“.
I interviewed and honestly can’t remember whether they invited me to Dallas for more interview rounds. In any event I did not go to Dallas. The interview process was rigorous. I later went to work for Cessna Aircraft in Wichita, making programs that charted production progress for their business jets.
EDS was washed away by subsequent technological waves, chiefly the cheap microprocessor.
But their people were among the best.
Like Lee Iaccoca, he seemed like a larger-than-life character.
Update: 7/12/19: Came across this, courtesy of one of the Lexicans on the F/B page, and gives a bit of insight into Ross’ character.
A nice story.