I was born September 30th, 1956, in Sewickley, PA. I have a brother (David,) and a sister (Nancy). I attended Quaker Valley schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. My favorite teachers were:
Mr. Obroski (6th grade science and reading)
Mrs. Iacabucci (English)
Mr. Larry Baumgartel (Plane Geometry), and Mr. Robert A. Roth (Physics)
I consider these four exceptional because they were perceptive enough to see that I was bored, and found ways to motivate me. I also ran Varsity Track for four years, and I owe Mr. Ken Johns a great debt of gratitude. Perhaps without realizing it, Ken Johns taught me how to push myself. If I occasionally failed to apply those lessons after High School, I have no one to blame but myself.
One Step Beyond
I enrolled at Penn State University for the fall '74 trimester, as an Electrical Engineering major. I met a lot of great people who I still think about, learned a lot, and ultimately wasted two whole years of college because I wasn't focused on what was truly important. I went to work for a year, figured out what I did wrong and then took the best opportunity left open to me.
From the fall of '77 through the spring of '79 I attended the Community College of Beaver County, and earned an Associates Degree in Electronics Technology. I met a lot of great people , (including my first wife, Denise), learned a lot, and developed the skills I'd need for the next stage of my life.
The Pittsburgh job market was already starting to crash in '79, and I spent three months on a hopeless search for a decent entry level job. In September of that year, I was recruited by Texas Instruments, and relocated to Dallas, Texas.
I couldn't have dreamed of a better job. I went to work in the Component Test Facility, writing software and building fixtures for big automated digital integrated circuit test machines. My duties also included a shared responsibility to troubleshoot problems out on the test floor, which turned out to be great exposure to the coding styles of my coworkers.
Within a year I married Denise, and we had our first child, Mary. We also moved to a larger apartment in Addison, a suburb just north of Dallas.
By 1982 my skills had advanced to the point that I was recruited away from T.I. by E-Systems. (Now part of Raytheon) E-Systems had recently purchased a digital tester like the ones I worked on at T.I., and they lacked experienced programmers. This was the best career move I ever made. Now, rather than follow a standard created by others, I was able to architect a fresh standard that addressed the weaknesses I had found in the T.I. programs. In addition, I was now working with state-of-the-art components, and finding fresh challenges almost every day. The standards I created endured over ten years, until the IC Test Lab itself was shut down.
In the spring of '83 I purchased my first "Home Computer". This was a major purchase at the time, and set in motion a chain of events that would eventually have a profound effect on my career. By the fall of '83 Denise and I were expecting our second child, so we moved again. This time, we rented a house back in Dallas. In February of '84 our son Brian was born, and our family was complete. In '85, with Mary nearing school age, we moved yet again. This time though, we were buying our own house in the suburb of Rowlett. Our house was just a few hundred yards from one of the largest man-made lakes in Texas.
At work, PCs were finally entering the workplace, and I seized the opportunity to learn to write relational database applications with a SQL based product named R:Base. Over time, writing database applications became a larger and larger part of my job.
At home I upgraded to a 386 PC, and in the pre-internet world that existed then, I discovered electronic bulletin boards. (BBSs) Anyone who didn't go online until after the internet appeared, missed a lot. Dallas alone had hundreds of BBSs, most of them owned by hobbyists who never charged for access. Most of the system operators (Sysops) monitored their systems quite closely and could be paged for a chat by the user. File sharing was popular, but so were online games. I myself became an assistant Sysop on one of the major boards in the area, and even ran my own for a while.
In '92, for reasons I won't discuss here, Denise and I were divorced, and the house in Rowlett was sold. For the next year and a half, I rented a house a couple of blocks away, so that the kids could continue to attend the same school.
By November of '92 I was a regular caller to a chat BBS named Texas Talk that could host 32 callers at once. One of the nice things about BBSs was that all of the callers were local, so it was easy to meet someone over lunch, or get everyone together for a party. In January of '93, after chatting with her for a couple of months, I met Karen. Karen grew up in New Castle, PA. She and I hit it off quite well, and we started dating immediately.
I also left E-Systems in January, after they closed the test lab. I stayed in Dallas for a few months, but the test engineering jobs just weren't there anymore, and I decided that if I were going to switch careers and work as a database developer, I'd rather move back close to my family and develop my second career there. So, I moved to Moon Township, and Karen moved back to New Castle.
Home At Last
Karen and I married in August of '95, and we've been blissfully happy ever since. When I moved, Mary stayed with her mother in Texas. She now has an apartment of her own in Garland, and works for a supermarket chain. Brian moved with me, graduated from high school in 2002, and is now preparing for a career in law enforcement.
My own career has taken a few twists, but I've progressed from R:Base to MS Access to Oracle, then Web Developer and now EDI Developer. Karen, once a jack of all trades, has settled into a career as a Master Pet Groomer, and now spends her days in the company of Yorkshire Terriers, Bishons, and Golden Retrievers.
After living in Moon Township for eight years and Ingram for three, Karen and I purchased a home overlooking Pittsburgh's West End in 2006. It is a Craftsman Style bungalow, in need of some TLC, but ideal for us. Several projects have already been completed, and more are planned.
I've been working for Highmark since June of 2003, and I'm currently assigned to the Legacy Modernization project. This is a terrific place to be within Highmark, because it exposes me to many new technologies, tools, and people. One think's for sure: Software developers can never be content to stand on what they know...