Ok, another year, another attempt at a blog - I've been getting more into non-networkish projects as a way of some nerd therapy, so I will try to use those as a jumping-off point.
A little about my technical background and what has lead me to this. Less technical info can be found here.
My recent history
The last 20 years of my career have been mostly network-focussed, specifically Cisco networks. In fact, my first experience with Cisco devices and IP networks started in 1995 with the advent of commercial ISPs. It was then that I learned how to subnet and how to configure a router. In 1999, I decided to focus on networking primarily, and started down the certification path of CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, etc.
My origin story
My history with IT and computers, however, goes much further back – to early 1986 – when my Mom got us a brand new IBM PC XT clone as part of an employee purchase plan at 3M. This beast came with dual 5 1/4 inch floppy drives, a CGA monitor (4 colors, woo!), MS-DOS 3.2, and even a dot matrix printer to suddenly make me an A student (spoiler-alert: that didn't happen).
That's all it came with, though - No extra software, no guides beyond the MS-DOS and GW-BASIC manuals, and no instructions on how to use it. This was well-before the days of O'Reilly, Books for Dummies, Google, and Wikipedia, so I really had no structured or guided way to learn how to use it. All I had were things like these:
So I read them, and read them, and read them - the problem was that I actually didn't understand them. Until then, the only experience I had with computers was with the Commodore PETs at school, and playing Commodore Vic-20 games at my friends' places. Concepts and commands such as format and initialize had no real meaning to me in the context of computers and data, so I would just type random commands from the manuals and hope for something good to happen. You can see probably where this is going....
Don't try this at home
Yes, I formatted the only floppy disks that I owned, which were the MS-DOS system disk, and the GW-Basic disk.
The silly thing was that I somehow managed to figure out how to put tape over the write-protect tabs on the disks in order to do it.
Fortunately, Mom knew the Computer Guy at work, and he gave her copies of his disks, so I was back in business a few weeks later, with strict instructions to never format those disks again.
Hey, I can make money at this..
Fast-forward a year or so, when my parents' friends and relatives started to get their own PCs. By then, with plenty of trial-and-error, I had gotten pretty good at working with these things, so they would have me over after school to show them how to do basic things like load Wordperfect or Lotus 1-2-3, and to print whatever they were working on. I had even purchased and installed a 1200 baud modem and learned how to use Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) so that I could chat with my fellow nerds and download utilities to help me learn more. Thus started my "hobby" as the local Computer Guy in the family and community.
By the time my high school introduced its first computer related course in 1989, I was already a veteran. I was a Senior at the time, and I signed-up for the Sophomore level course in the hopes that I could learn even more. That didn't happen, though. Other than learning a bit more about the history of computers, I already knew everything that was covered in the course, and even ended up teaching the instructor a bunch of stuff.
Fast-forward yet-again to 1991. After a couple of years of changing college majors (don't major in Music, kids), I finally decided to take "Computer Programming" at our local community college because I figured.. "Why not? I'm already good at this stuff."
Side note: Other than the underlying operating systems (mostly VAX), I retained exactly 0% of what I learned in that program. We covered FORTRAN, COBOL, RPG (Report Generator, not games), Pascal, C, and Assembly Language, but I discovered that development was just not for me, and I barely made it through to graduation.
By 1994, after trying other career paths, I finally decided to stick with IT and computers, mostly on the hardware, networking, and OS side. Other than MS-DOS, I started to get really good at Unix and its variants (SCO XENIX, BSDi), and was also consulting jobs getting Netware IPX/SPX networks up for local companies. Then I got a copy of an early-release of Windows 95 while I was setting up a local commercial ISP, and everything changed.
As I mentioned earlier, my focus for the last 20 years has been networking. It's a technology that I enjoy, whether we're talking about Campus/Branch LANs, WANs, or Data Center networking. At the same time, I still really enjoy mucking around with operating systems and services, and I've always had a Unix or Unix-like system kicking around to mess with whenever I get the urge.
The problem is that I'm absolutely terrible at documentation, so when I sit down to give myself a break from networking and play with an OS technology, I frequently have to Google stuff I've done in the past just to refresh my memory. I plan to use this blog to document things as I learn them, for my own reference and hopefully for yours.
How did you get started in this industry? Was it something you planned or did you stumble into it? Comment and discuss below!