How I got Started in my Career
In the fall of 1972, when I was 15, I was a junior in high school.† I had never been very disciplined in school and my grades reflected it.† Although I was supposedly following the college prep curriculum, it didnít look like I would make it because of my grades.† At that age, I just didnít have the vision to connect studying now with success later.
My high school counselor suggested that I look into taking some vocational preparation classes instead and told me about the East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program (ROP).† They had just opened a new facility across from the district football field that included lots of keypunch machines (as they were called then).† New classes were opening up the next semester, in January or February.
So I signed up for a class in keypunching although I donít think I had ever taken a typing class before, which I think was one of the prerequisites.† I believe the counselor signed a waiver for me to get me in.† I wasnít too excited about it, but took the class because it was off-campus.† I probably thought it would be a good way to ditch classes.
The first day there I noticed another room at the other end of the building that looked a lot more interesting than the keypunch class.† The people taking keypunching were mostly older married girls in their twenties and thirties (Well, they seemed a lot older to me then).† They were trying to qualify for keypunch jobs that were plentiful then (we would call it data entry today).
I noticed people would come out of the room with one or two cards that were a special size, sit down at a keypunch machine, make a few corrections and then go back to the other room.† I wondered what they were doing.† I also wondered about the size of the little cards since the machines I was working on only used 80-column cards.
These old machines used a drum on which you would put a master card you created.† You wrapped it around the drum and it was the guide for all the other cards you keypunched.† The new machines these people worked on didnít have a drum and the cards were about half the size, using little round holes in 96 columns instead of the 80 columns of chads.
I guess what intrigued me most was that the people working with the smaller cards were closer to my age and were mostly males.† What were they working on?† And why wasnít I working with them instead of all these old women in the keypunch class?† I thought about it every time I went to class and finally got up enough nerve to ask someone.
I found out that the little cards were used by a new computer, an IBM System/3 that had the district had just purchased.† They were one of the first to receive the machines in the area and it was very popular with the local employers who also had one but couldnít find enough people trained to operate and program them.† They used a new computer language called RPG Ė Report Program Generator.
I was fascinated when I found out that there was a real computer in the next room, but we couldnít go in there because we were only learning to be keypunch operators on old peripheral equipment.† One day, towards the end of the semester, they announced we would be taking a tour of the computer room and that the computer instructor would be showing a movie about the IBM System/3.† I couldnít wait!
I learned that the district also offered classes in computer operations and computer programming.† Something in me told me to wake up and pay attention.† Here was something I could get into!† This wasnít boring classroom instruction on theory or history.† I just never was very good at learning through lectures.† But this class was all hands-on Ė do as you learn.† I was salivating to get into the class.
The prerequisite for getting into the computer programming class was to take and pass computer operations and at least one keypunch class.† Up until then I hadnít been really applying myself in the keypunch class.† I probably would have failed the class like most of the others I was taking on campus.† But that all changed as soon as I realized that I needed to pass the class to get into programming.
I passed my keypunch classes with ĎCís and immediately enrolled in the Computer Operations class and the RPG II programming class.† Iím not even sure if I took the classes as part of the regular high school curriculum.† I seem to remember that I even took some night classes, which was amazing because I hated school so much.† I was fascinated with what I was learning and couldnít get enough.
Because I loved the new skill I was learning, I remember and appreciate my instructor, Mr Kidre.† Although I only knew him for a few short months, his love of what he was doing changed my life forever.† Later that year, he took a job as the director of Information Systems at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.† I think he even told us that he would be making $50,000 a year Ė a huge sum then.
I completed the computer operations course and received a card-sized certificate of completion, which I carried around in my wallet for years.† It helped me get at least three jobs as a computer operator.† While my memory gets a little fuzzy here because of other things that were going on in my life, I recall taking and passing RPG II programming and starting COBOL programming sometime that summer or fall.
Although I did well in the computer operations class, it was programming that I loved the most.† I know I aced the RPG class, but I didnít get to use my new skill until the next year when I got a job in the computer lab at Ricks College, first on the early morning operations staff and later as a programmer.† Despite some problems growing up that summer, I knew I had found what I wanted to do with my life.
After I came home from Ricks college, I got a job as a computer operator on an IBM System/3 Mod 10 at a place called Federated Sales Company in South El Monte for about six months Apr to Oct 75.† After my mission and a year of college, I got another job as a computer operator / programmer at the City of Baldwin Park on an IBM System/3 Mod 15D, that also lasted six months until I moved up in my career.
Looking back now, I would say that the combination of exciting new technology and an instructor who loved what he was doing focused my life and gave me direction that continues to this day.† My love of new technology and the power of the computer have enabled me to live a lifestyle that my parents could not have dreamed of when they were my age.† I appreciate the power this knowledge has given me.