We’re up and moving from Austin to Denver in just a few days. We’ve sold tons of things, bought new things, and will probably break something along the way. This will close one of the biggest chapters in my life, although probably not in the way you think. One particular item has been with me for years and I really hate to see it go but I know its time to move on. We can’t take everything with us and really, after around 20 years, its time for a new one.
My desk chair:
It may not look like much, but this little chair has been with me a really long time. I don’t remember when the chair first appeared in my life. It was likely around the time that my Dad went back to college to get his degree, which would place me around 10 or so I guess. He bought a desk at the house to set the computer on and needed a chair to accompany it. The chair was from South Plains Office Supply, a secondary store my Dad started in Levelland that did so poorly it took the family almost to bankrupcy. From that store, only the chair remains, but I digress.
In that chair I started programming BASIC on a TRS-80 with 5.25″ floppy disks (a step up from the dual-8″ floppy disks the TRS-80s at my Dad’s business was running). The TRS-80 didn’t hold much appeal for me, however. Not long after that Dad bought a Compaq 8086 and a dot matrix printer and from that chair I printed many a poster from Print Shop Pro. In that chair I distinctly remember seeing an image from Print Shop Pro of a ‘mouse’ which didn’t look like any rodent I’d seen before. Mom said they must have labeled it wrong. On the 8086 I trounced into the BASIC interpreter once in a while but didn’t create anything of substance. At some point, maybe it was for a special occasion, I don’t recall, Dad upgraded the monitor on the 8086 from the green-screen to a CGA — woohoo, color!
My memory blurs on what came next, although I’m guessing the upgrade to the 386 (without the math co-processor) was next. Then, the heaven’s opened and in 1991, DOS 5.0 was released and my interest in programming was renewed with the introduction of QBasic. Looking back, QBasic certainly wasn’t the god-send of programming languages but it was low-level enough (and came with some working code examples) that got me producing some code. I learned tons by hacking around and creating code. I even bought a QBasic compiler to convert my .BAS files into an actual executable. In that language I created my first program that was useful to people, and still to this day (over 15 years later) is used in my Dad’s business – Lable Star (yes, “Label” is misspelled and no, that was not intentional but it does show that spelling was never my strong point!). Lable Star was robust enough to map different printers using NetWare Lite commands and print mailing, packaging, and folder labels that my Dad’s business used. Lable Star was, and is, primarily used for printing packaging labels that are stuck to finished printed products to indicate who it is for and most importantly ‘this is package X of Y’.
Luckily, my cousin Phil went off to college and saved me from langishing in QBasic all my life. While at college, Phil was introduced to C and C++. During one of his trips home he installed Borland Turbo C++ on my computer, gave me a Turbo C++ book and off I went hacking away in the chair. Later I did end up buying a copy of Borland Turbo C++ (on 20 something 3.5″ floppy disks) that included a copy of their OWL libraries for writing Windows 3.1 programs. I never did end up writing any Windows programs (I *still* hate writing GUIs) but I exercised the heck out of the DOS IDE. I wrote graphics-based programs, utility programs, and just about anything I could come up with.
It was in the chair that I learned the very vaulable lesson of backups on removeable media. No, it wasn’t a hard drive failure that cost me lost code, it was mistakingly copying a very old backup version of my code over my latest new code instead of the other way around. That still stings.
When I went off to TAMS, the chair staid home and was shuffled into storage as my folks built their new house. It remained in storage still during my first semester at A&M when I was in the dorm. Finally, we were reunited my second semester at A&M when I moved into an apartment. I sat in that chair working on my CS projects, writing code in a variety of languages. Some English papers were even hastily hacked out in it at the last minute too. I hacked on MFC code while working from home for Texas Digital Systems, hacked on PHP and MySQL integration for both my personal website and that of my employer. I hacked on my resume and cover letters in search of my first post-college job in that chair. At some point, I distinctly remember Kelly calling me and asking if I wanted a new chair to which I said “no, of course not” and I heard him turn around and say “see, I told you he didn’t want a new one”. Apparently my folks had bought a new chair for Christmas or my birthday and were going to surprise me with it. They returned it for sometihng else instead.
After getting my job at Tivoli/IBM the chair made its way to my new apartment in Austin. In it we saw the dot-com bubble burst, 9-11 happen, and me accepting who I was. A few years later the chair moved with me to my new house where it was vital in the creation of ConTrack, the contract tracking system that is the digital cornerstone of his rapidly growing business.
Many years, multiple coding languages, several hundreds of thousands of lines of code, three cities, and numerous addresses later – the chair is off to another owner via a free posting on craigslist. The new owner, who is expected to pick it up soon, is excited about getting an adult-sized chair to replace his daughter’s child-sized chair in front of the computer. I’m sure his daughter will appreciate it too.
Thus ends an era in my life, but it isn’t a particularly sad one (although I think that is the one thing I’m most sad to see go). In its place is a new Klappe swivel chair from IKEA.
I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship!