Joe Blaszczak

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it? 1981 – IT99-4A. It booted into basic, hooked up to the TV, and had no eternal storage. If I was working on a long program, I needed to leave it plugged in and on and hoped that mom wouldn’t turn it off.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it? See #1.

3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer? I did data entry of ice cream orders on a dumb terminal for a company called Wicklow Frozen Deserts in 1986.

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.? VAX account at U of A in 1990. Used Pine and Elm as mail programs. Frequently used Archie, Veronica, and WAIS. First browser was Mosaic. And let’s not talk about the newsgroups and multi-part mime files.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access? Getting hired by AOL in Oct 1994

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)? The huge wave of human stupidity once the Internet became readily accessible. Damn you Jan Brandt for ruining the internet for us!

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Jonathan Ziegler

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer

In my elementary school, we always had Apples. I used that until my dad got us a Commodore 64. Then, we got an IBM 8088(?) with a green screen and MSDOS and WordPerfect. I learned batch files, basic, and scripting among other things. Oh and I played Leisure Suit Larry.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it?

The first computer I bought was a 386 with windows 3.1 and a whopping 16mb of RAM. Bought it used from my former college roommate and made it a 387 with the math co. Same machine I took my first programming class on (pascal).

3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer?

OfficeMax where I worked before AOL. I had never really used a computer or the internet for formal work before AOL

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.?

I took a C class on Vax (?) at UA. We had to send emails, files, assignments, etc via command line. I learned to connect to other university computers to download files and send them to my home folder. After I got my first computer (and a 14.4k modem), I also used a few BBSes, Prodigy, CompuServe, and, of course, AOL.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access?

AOL. When I got off the call floor. Every job since then.

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet

1) Social media in its current form. The sheer volume of it is not only staggering, but just the tip of the iceberg. This last presidential election has made social media a valid medium now since it was a factor in the election of a major world leader.

2) Online libraries of massive amounts of media and data. It’s not so much that it’s available, but that the amount is already massive and growing at an incredible rate. Include also data storage and warehousing services like AWS. It’s not enough that we have data in our drives, now we hire folks to store and distribute it for us.

3) The seeming return of newspapers reborn on the web as both media and social media. The web was supposed to kill newspapers and many have gone away, but the ones who have stayed have really dug in and changed the business.

4) I’m surprised how quickly the internet has become such an important and integral part of our lives. In this country anyhow. It’s become so ubiquitous in such a short time, it’s been culture shattering.

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Joseph Cox

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it?
An Osborne 1. The “little” guy ran with dual 5.25 floppy drives and an external CRT so you didn’t have to go blind using it.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it?
Cobbled together a Pentium in the early nineties from scavenged parts and a new motherboard, CPU, and video card. It was my first time with graphics better than EGA and it was very nice.

3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer?
Working for AOL.

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.?
Part of my scavenged items put a 1200 baud modem in my hands. I used a hijacked shell account through the UofA to mostly IRC, get files, and newsgroups.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access?
My work with AOL starting in ’94.

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)?
I did not see the bar for access becoming so low. The internet is so pervasive now that people accomplish tasks without even realizing what is occurring in the background.

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Millie Campbell

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it? 1975 ICL-1501 (I think) in a High School classroom.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it? 1999 I got it from Greg Hancock. It was an Apple. Greg, you know what kind Rosie was.

3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer? 1982 I traced military baggage that was lost coming back from overseas.

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.? 1999 AOL

5.  When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access? 2010 I worked for a major Bank’s Home Mortgage CS.

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)? I did not see phones coming with internet.

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Tricia Burrell

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it? I forgot which model it was. Commodore 64

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it? I was in 2nd grade, so I believe 1983. My mother gave it to me as a Christmas present.

3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer? AOL 1997-2001

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.? Can’t remember, but it was back in the Windows 3.1 days.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access? AOL 1997-2001

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)? Ability to view multimedia in 3-D

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Steve Baker

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it?

My first time using a programmable device (I hesitate to call it a computer) was when I bought an HP-25C programmable calculator back in the 70s. It hooked me on programming, and by the early 80s I was doing part time work programming HP-41s and HP-71s for colleges and private firms, mostly in the fields of archaeology and surveying.

My first time using a “real” computer was in high school in the mid-70s. They brought in an ASR-33 teletype with a paper tape reader for a week. It connected to an IBM mainframe of some kind in Detroit. We got to learn a little BASIC and FORTRAN during that week.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it?

Aside from the HP-25C mentioned above, my first computer was a COSMAC ELF, which I built from plans in the Aug 1976 issue of Popular Electronics. It initially had 256 whole bytes of RAM!

3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer?

US Air Force. We tracked maintenance information on a system which ran on a Burroughs mainframe. This was about 1980.

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.?

I bought a KayPro II around 1984 and discovered BBSs. There were 5 or 6 in my city. One was written and operated by a lovely young woman, who eventually consented to become my wife. We just had our 33rd anniversary.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access?

In 1998, I started working at AOL. This was my first job which REQUIRED internet access. I was in the Air Force before that, and while we had internet, it was not very well adopted at that time, and wasn’t greatly relied upon.

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)?

The divisiveness of social networking.

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Bill Ponder

1. When was the first time you touched a computer and what kind of computer was it?
My first encounter with a computer was in an Introduction to Computers class at Kent State University in 1967. I didn’t actually get to touch it. Instead I had to write Fortran programs on a coding sheet; use a keypunch machine to punch Hollerith cards, one per line of code; hand in the cards at the computer room where they were executed on an IBM 360; then picked up my cards and the error report that told me what I’d done wrong the next day; fix the errors and repeat.
The first time I actually touched a computer was when I acquired a Microdata REALITY(r) minicomputer, an innovative demand-paged, multiuser, virtual memory, time-sharing computer operating system based around a unique MultiValue database for a drug treatment and healthcare program I ran in 1976. The system had 24k of virtual memory and a 10 MB hard disk and tape backup and we couldn’t imagine how we would ever use a whole 10 Megabytes of disk space. It was the size of a small refrigerator and supported four user terminals. Languages were databasic, English(r) (an amazing function at the time that let you ask English queries like, “List all male clients younger than 18 who had heroin overdoses after midnight and before 8 am between January 1976 and July 1976.” and Proc that let you create and store complex queries including complex selections, subgroups, subtotals and formations of reports and/or displays. It was however, only monochromatic text. In addition to work I enjoyed playing the text-based Adventure game on the machine in my free time.

2. When was the first time you actually owned a computer and where/how did you get it?
The first computer I owned personally was an Atari(r) 400. It connected to a TV, a matrix printer and used cartridges to perform a variety of tasks including programming in Basic, font creation, word processing and playing a variety of games.
3. What was the first job that you had which required you to use a computer? Executive Director of Terros, a drug crisis intervention and treatment agency and free clinic. That morphed into a business analyst position and eventually a manager of business software development.

4. When was the first time you got online and how did you? -Was it a BBS, AOL, Netscape etc.?
AOL (You’ve got mail!). Can’t say exactly when but as soon as I could find a less restricted environment, using Netscape I think, I moved to it but I don’t really remember much of the blur after that. Things advanced pretty fast.

5. When was the first time that your job required you to have internet access?
Northrop Corporation (now Northrop Grumman) in the ‘80s. We had one of the first PCs with two floppy disk drives, but only one for a while as we figured out what to do with it. As I remember it had 16 or 32k of memory – not sure which. As things progressed we got many more and better ones over time including hard disks and more memory. I remember when Bill Gates said, “I can’t imagine anyone needing more than 640 k!” Expanded into other brands – mostly HPs since we were a mostly Big Blue (IBM) and HP shop with UNIX machines scattered around for the scientific work. I also remember when a couple of engineering labs got Xerox Stars, the first commercial machines that used a GUI desktop approach with a mouse. I thought it was magic and knew I needed one. Unfortunately it was WAY outside my price range but when Steve Jobs demonstrated the Lisa (named after his daughter) it was getting closer. Finally when he demonstrated the Macintosh classic at COMDEX, I think that was in Las Vegas, we got two at the office and I was in love. It never gained acceptance at my office but my wife had an advertising agency and she bought several including one for at home. Since then I was forced to be a PC person a

6. What did you not see coming (in the computer/internet industry)? Facebook and the expansion of social apps was a surprise but the complete interconnection of business, industry, banking, even machine controls and infrastructure. Even if I had imagined all that I never would have expected the Russian government (aka Putin) to use the internet to attack our electoral system using hacked emails strategically released and social media to identify willing dupes and then use that medium to influence their votes with targeted “fake news.” Bank robbery I could imagine, even perhaps infrastructure hacking but election hacking? I guess I just think too small.
**Sorry to be so long but I’m old 

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David Kha

1. Sometime in the early 80’s, my mom brought home an Osborne 1. It ran CP/M and had a tiny-tiny display with a large floppy drive to the left and right of the screen. The main thing I did with it was learn and use WordStar, with friendly commands like to save, control K (as in blocK) D (as in save?). If you were writing a full line of text, the tiny screen really couldn’t display a whole line, so you’d have to hold the control key down and hit an arrow to move the screen so you could see where your cursor was and then continue typing. I don’t think we had a printer for a long time, so everything was trapped on those 5.25″ disks. It also had GWBASIC, so once I learned how to use that, I could write crappy adventure games and then there were games to play.

2. The first computer I ever owned that I could call my own was a Macintosh SE. In 1989 I picked it up at a weird electronics shop in New York and it got me through the end of high school and the beginning of college. I covered it in PEZ wrappers.

3. I used to transcribe for a woman who has a neurological disorder during high school. I would go to her house and she would dictate the story she was writing to me and I would type it up on a word procesor (probably Word Perfect). It paid better than a selling popcorn and peanuts at the football games and was a lot less work.

4. My first exposure to being online was in the mid 80’s calling up local BBS’s from an Apple //e. We started with a 300 baud modem, then upgraded to 1200 baud. At that point one of the local BBS’s was called The Liverpool Express, and the owner had wanted to get rid of it, so my dad decided he would take it over, despite having zero experience with programming or having his phone line tied up forever. We ran that thing in off hours and people would call in and use the BBS. There was a “chat the Sysop” option, and I would often answer them and chat with random people in the city. Over the years we had a dedicated phone line, bought a massave, shoebox-sized 1MB hard drive and loaded the whole system onto a single drive.

5. AOL was the first job where I really the first job where I needed proper internet access. You know the rest.

6. Nearly everything blindsided me about computers. I didn’t think a GUI was a good idea, command line was what I was used to and I saw no reason to make me move a mouse around. I was on Compuserve, GEnie and Apple Link and they seemed like giant BBSes, but I never thought that would go mainstream. I was on Six Degrees of Separation (an old social media site) and loved the idea, but with only two friends on it, I figured social media would never catch on because nobody else was on the internet and why would you just want to message those other two people? I did think the future of music was digital and that instead of buying stereo components, you’d buy software to play your music on. No more buying fancy graphic equalizers, just download that component to your computer and you had a brand new piece of hardware. I was kind of right.

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The first AOL reunion was a hit

We had our reunion on March 24th and had a fantastic time. We started with a nostalgia tour to all of the old buildings and ended up at Harbottle.

I was able to gather 23 additional interviews which will be placed together for our podcast.

 

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