I accidentally stumbled into this whirlwind of a love hate relationship with computers in the early 80’s when the Commodore VIC-20 came out. I didn’t know anything about computers. It was $299 – a fortune back then. Check this real 1980’s ad out:
I bought one, brought it home, hooked it up to my black-and-white 13″ TV (I couldn’t afford a color TV or anything bigger) and turned it on. There was a white screen with a blinking cursor. Being totally computer illiterate I began my journey into the “abyss” by typing “Who was the first president of the United States?” and hit the enter key with both excitement and trepidation.
Imagine my surprise when the words “Syntax Error” returned on the screen. I thought it was broken. They say that ignorance is bliss, and boy was I ever ignorant. I thought computers knew everything. I brought it back to the store for a refund.
The salesman asked me to explain what was wrong with it, and I told him what happened. He didn’t laugh – he just pointed at the wall behind him and the software you could buy to load into the computer. Software? I didn’t know what that was. He showed me a spreadsheet, word processor, and a couple of others. They were very basic and rudimentary and cost way too much for me – $30 to $50 bucks apiece!!! When I told him I couldn’t afford that, he handed me a book on Basic programming – for $9.99. I bought it, brought it home, and the rest is history.
I put that VIC-20 through it’s paces. It only had 32K of RAM and no hard drive. But with 32K of RAM, I created a program called COCAID – Composer’s Creativity Aid – which was able to use low level machine addresses to “poke” it’s way to creating musical note sequences – as many notes as I wanted and in whatever key I specified – and then print the note sequences. With it I wrote some really cool riffs that I incorporated into some music – the best one is the lead solo in my song “Damn the Speed Limit” – which you can listen to here: https://psychodelectricmedia.com/singles/damnthespeedlimit/
I was painting houses and driving a school bus at the time, and had no clue I could get paid for this skill. I was just having fun with it. A friend of mine suggested I look for a job, and my path changed from that day forward. I ended up going to Computer Processing Institute in Bridgeport CT on a State sponsored education program and got certified in Mainframe Computer Operations, graduating with a 4.0 and 32 transferrable college credits. I worked on Mainframe Operations for several years, diverted over to selling Digital Musical Equipment for what was then one of the biggest mail order and brick-and-mortar Music Retailers in the country, and then got out of computers altogether when I got married and needed health insurance. I took a job at a Kimberly-Clark factory driving a forklift, and then eventually becoming a Huggies Diaper Machine Operator.
It wasn’t long before it was discovered that my computer skills eclipsed those of the others trying to create some way to document OSHA Training and Attendance, and at some point I learned about MS Access and suggested we create a database. I didn’t know how, but I committed to doing it anyway, and created their OSHA Training Tracking app – my first. Management was so impressed they asked me to write an FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) tracking app and I said “no problem” and did it, and it worked really good.
They loved it. And all the while I was working on a Diaper Machine and doing this programming on my days off, I was studying for the MS Access Certification. I got certified, got my first MCP, and put my resume on HotJobs and Monster.com. I was called almost immediately and had a new job 11 days after I received my certification. I had NO IDEA what I was doing, but I got a job and I dove into the fire with both feet first.
I worked for this company, Database Creations Consulting, for 3+ years. During that time I learned a lot, took on many challenges for stuff I’ve never done before and delivered way beyond expectations, and learned the consulting business. I had a chance to go off on my own and took it. That was 13 years ago, and I’ve been running my own Indie Consultant business since. Business was great until about two years ago, when both of my bread-and-butter major corporate clients went “poof” and vanished on me. One into the void of Bankruptcy and Liquidation, and the other into the “we don’t need you anymore we have our own IT department” void created by a buyout.
I have always been a self-made man. A rule breaker (because I don’t know the rules) and creator of elegant solutions to complex problems. I’m completely self-taught, and have never said “no I can’t do that” when asked to do something new. My latest foray into taking on a project I had no business doing was to take over the development of a Powerbuilder based commercial software system that is world famous and used by short track racing scorers all over the USA, Speednet Direct. At the time, I never heard of Powerbuilder but that didn’t stop me. I just said “ok” and figured it out. On a limited budget and very small number of hours, I developed some 15 upgrades and we very recently delivered the latest version of the software. I do customizations for the customers and even upgraded a Race Sanctioning Body’s custom software to give them new capabilities.
Anyone who hires me is going to get way more than just a programmer. I’m an architect, an artist, a thinker, a visionary, and will far exceed any expectations. I could be put in charge of an entire software company and even though I’ve never done it before, history dictates that I would blow away any perceived limitations or barriers and deliver way beyond any expectations placed on me.
That’s how I roll.
Jerry Boutot – MCAD MCP
AppDataWorks IT Consulting