In 1981 IBM introduced the IBM Personal Computer. I recognized that the “PC” was a game changer and opened a new opportunity. Based on my experience of porting the EPA atmospheric dispersion models to minicomputers I knew I could port some of them to the IBM PC. My employer agreed to market the ported models, but he would not fund the model development. He did approve of my development of the models on my own time.
I purchased a ‘loaded’ IBM PC (384 kb RAM, a 5 mb hard drive, IBM Fortran compiler with DOS 1.1) for $5,000. I spend many early mornings and weekends fighting the buggy Fortran compiler, DOS limitations (no file folders in those days) and slow execution times. The Intel 8087 floating-point processor help to increase the execution speeds. However, the IBM compiler did not support the 8087, so significant increases in execution speed were not realized until Microsoft released a Fortran Compiler supporting the 8087 chip.
Full-Time at JCA
In 1984 my “second job” became larger than my day job. I resigned from my job and went to work full time for my firm Jim Clary and Associates (JCA). I was the only full-time employee. My duties included software development, marketing the software, conducting computer labs, processing meteorological data stored on magnetic tapes and consulting. I was a busy guy!
Merger and a Change in Focus
After a few years, I realized that I could not support the software and consulting. I had worked with Tom at my last “real” job. Tom and I decided to merge JCA into his company. He would handle the software and I would handle the consulting side of the business.
The consulting grew and we hired a couple of consultants. I finally had some help! Our best client was in Hawaii and I started commuting from Dallas to Honolulu. I would spend a week in Dallas, then a week in Hawaii. Not only was this challenging from a personal prospective “if I’m use to the time, it is time to leave”, but also was a technological challenge. How would I say in sync with the Dallas office while I was in Hawaii?
At that time there wasn’t an internet. (Side note – I remember the first time I got on the internet through CompuServe.) So, we ran our on dial-up network that allowed file sharing on an extremely limited basis. The introduction of laptops made things even easier. I could carry my computer to Hawaii.
Back to JCA
After a few years Tom and I decided to go our separate ways. He kept the software and I the consulting side of the business. I now had my own independent company with several employees. I continued my Hawaii commute as well as serving other ‘mainland’ clients. I served as an expert witness on several tort cases.
The following describes the technology improvements made at JCA.
• My 1st network was a bus network using windows for workgroups. No internet. Wow - we could share files & printers in the office! But what a pain - the coax cable was difficult to work with & the connectors were prone to break. When they did, troubleshooting was hard - you had to go device to device.
• Once dumb hubs became affordable, I moved to a star network using twisted pair cable. Still no internet (WAN). We added individual dial-up for each computer when the internet became available. Everyone had their own dial-up internet connection.
• Later DSL became available. I added the DSL modem to the hub. Used fixed IP addresses on each computer & the printer (with our DSL subscription we got 5 fixed IP addresses). We had 3 computers & one printer. No security at all - they were all accessible from the internet. No router. All you needed was the IP address to connect. This is the era of friendly internet. No LAN, we were all WAN. (Can you imagine this now - hooking a computer directly to the internet. Sends shivers down my spine.)
• Affordable routers was the next big step. This is where I start learning about NAT & DHCP. Still using our DSL modem. But it was hooked to the WAN side of the router. We got to use non-routable IP addresses on the LAN side. I recall a steep learning curve here. I had to "teach myself" about NAT, DHCP, DNS, etc.) But it worked!
• No more quantum leaps in the remaining years. Internet speed improved. I upgraded to WiMAX, as we could not get affordable high-speed internet at our office in Dallas. Then we moved to Plano where we could get Fios. Heaven! I also added VPN so we could work from home & securely access our number crunching Linux computer remotely. (I learned what a pain VPN setup was! That wasn't really solved until we got Open VPN.) Also added a file server for common file access. We later moved to Dropbox, followed by Onedrive. And the usual move to WiFi.
As I got older, I realized that I must stop commuting between Dallas and Honolulu and find an exit path. With the tremendous increase in remote capabilities, we were able to support our Hawaiian client without the travel.
The exit path was a little more difficult. After some hard work on both sides a large consulting firm agreed to acquire JCA. I was once again an employee after over 30 years of being my own boss. I found that transition to be difficult. The good side was no more worries about invoicing, accounts payable and payroll. (I believe only those that have had to make payroll understand how difficult it can be.) The difficult side was the loss of independence.
I completed my employee contract and retired from JCA and environmental consulting in 2018.