Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How the Fed accidentally restarted my IT career in 1981; remember Data General? ADR?

I recall another juicy interview on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day in 1981, in Dallas, in the old mainframe days, when personal computers had barely been mentioned in the news.

I had been asked by a recruiter how I felt about a “very small shop” of two people. An entrepreneur in a strip mall in North Dallas was developing fire-casualty application to sell. It was going to run on Data General machines. He was going to hire a “technical director.” This was going to be the kind of job that you had to land on your feet the first day, or “I will just have to tell you.” He talked like the godfather-like character Stefano on “Days of our Lives.” This was an interview right out of a soap opera.

The job was going to pay $27000, which was fair by the salary standards then.

I thought I needed a job then because I was working for the Combined A&B Medicare Consortium as an analyst, and the project was tanking. I had a problem because I was doing a lot of analysis but little hands-on coding. The way the market was then, this was a big problem.

On my birthday, in July, I had interviewed a furniture company called Brinkman in Irving that had a DOS CICS shop. Remember DOS on the mainframe? I had also interviewed the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which seems like an interesting memory today.

It would turn out that the Federal Reserve Bank did lead trading with Chilton Corporation, a credit reporting company that has now morphed into Experian. I would actually receive a letter from Chilton inviting me to an interview later that same month (September 1981).

I spend six years with Chilton, nestled conveniently then in Dallas’s Oak Lawn neighborhood. (The lowrise building would eventually become a data center for Hibernia Bank, and then get torn down for space for condos, probably cannon fodder now for subprime mortgages). They were stable, but I didn’t get back to actually implementing anything until Labor Day 1985, when we put in my changes into a DOS (DUO) assembler batch system that ran the monthly bills for their bureaus. (We called them the 162’s and 165’s). The change was to put in “consolidated billing across bureaus.”

Chilton had Datacomm DB/DC (rather than something like IMS DB/DC or CICS) on Amdhal machines that ran MVS emulation (having converted from DOS). The product mix came from a company named ADR, up on LBJ Freeway in Dallas. That would set the stage for what would happen next, when I returned to the East Coast, because Datacomm died out as a marketable skill, as IBM came to completely dominate the mainframe world and job market.

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