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johnny2k's Previous Experiences
Because there is a lot of information on this page, and it could take more than one sitting to read it all!  To make it easier to navigate through this page, or find your previous stopping point, I'm providing a quick menu here:

My First Computer Experience - 1974-1975

My First Personal Computer Experience - 1977-1981

My First Personal Computer - 1982-1992

My First World Wide Web Experience - 1993-1999

My Experience:  How It Will Help You - 2000 and On

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My First Computer Experience - (1974-1975)

I took my first programming classes in BASIC, COBOL, and FORTRAN in 1974-1975 at while earning my B.A. from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. In these classes, once we had the programs written on paper, we typed them in on terminals connected to an HP mainframe, vintage late 60's or early 70's. We used punch tape for saving or archiving our programs. I was terrified of the computer the first time I had to go to the computer lab in the math and science building. Fortunately, there were some computer geeks - and I mean, back then, anyone that even knew what a computer looked like, probably was a geek (just kidding) - and they helped me get started typing in my first basic BASIC program.  I do mean BASIC!

In 1975, I wrote my Senior Paper on "The Computer and Small Business". (Note: If I can find my copy of that paper, I will scan it and upload it to this website! It's great reading for computer history buffs. Don't hold your breath, it may be a while).   I managed to imagine the day when even the small ma and pa business would somehow have a computer in their office, no bigger than a large stereo system, and how they could manage everything from manufacturing to keeping track of inventory. Little did I know back then, it would be a common thing just 20 years later.

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My First Personal Computer Experience - (1977-1981)

In 1977, I enlisted in the U. S. Air Force.  My first two years were spent at Patrick AFB, by Cocoa Beach, Florida, working in Supply as assistant Funds Manager.  We worked with many down-range stations that were working with NASA and the Space Shuttle program.  I did not spend much time with computers at the time, other than training other logistics officials in the use of their funds management reports.  Because of cut-backs in the military budget (during the Jimmy Carter era), the Supply squadron was contracted out to a NASA contractor.  I was transferred to Eglin AFB, near Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

My job in the 3246th Test Wing was managing the Precision Measurement Equipment at one of the labs.  This was a very important job, because even the slightest error due to equipment being out of calibration, could lead to erroneous test results. When I arrived for duty, the logistics office I worked in was still using totally manual records to track the equipment that needed periodic calibration.  Because my supervisor was such a good guy, and the Air Force was treating me right, I took the opportunity to take a class in Assembler Language programming from U. of West Florida (on base campus). Following a pretty successful completion of that course (A), I asked my supervisor if I could track my PME equipment with the help of a base computer, and after he okayed the idea, I proceeded to write the program I needed to use, in Assembler, with the use of those good old IBM punch cards, which gave me a punch card for each item, with the serial number, date scheduled for calibration, and other info.  Finding that the walk to the computer center, punching new cards, and organizing everything was getting overwhelming, so I then set out to use a portable HP (desktop PC?), using a cassette tape for memory.  

THAT was my first desktop PC experience, early 1980.  People at that time were building their own PC's, or buying the Tandy computers at Radio Shack, but that was about it for desktops. They were lacking any kind of disks for data storage, using cassette recorders to put data on read-only random-access memory.  The desktop PC idea, though, just wasn't working out for my purposes, and to keep my PME schedule, I was allowed to write a program on the VAX in the computer room at our lab. That did the trick, and I ran a very successful scheduling program that kept all of our equipment calibrated up to date and repaired.  I could notify each shop manager when each piece of equipment would be needed to be taken to the PMEL for calibration, when equipment was expected back for return, and allowed me to have a list that kept me on top of things for follow up.

I guess that experience followed along with my general success in the Air Force, as I obtained the rank of Staff Sergeant in a little less than four years (I extended my original 4 year term another eight months before deciding to go back to civilian life).

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My First Personal Computer  - (1982-1992)

I returned to Cedar Rapids, my home town, when I left the Air Force. In the early part of 1982, a friend of mine had acquired an Apple IIe, and I spent many, many hours at his house learning the workings of the IIe (with a 3" B&W monitor), and AppleSoft Basic programming.  This computer had a 128k disk drive, and it allowed read & write abilities with random access.  My dream at that time was to write an accounting program.  At the time, I was working for a jewelry store chain, and I was doing all of the accounts payable manually.  I felt that an accounting program on a computer would be a great way to do the job.  (It never happened, though, since I think it may have been a little overwhelming for the jewelry store owners to be thinking about buying a computer.)

I gave up on the bookkeeping job, and after a short stint in self-employment (sales), I went to another job, around September of 1984. By this time, my desire to get an Apple Computer of my own was overwhelming.  I obtained a part-time job at an electronics store, which sold Apple Computers, so that I could buy my own computer someday.  I moved a lot of stereo systems, but I soon found that I had the money for an Apple IIc, and I bought one.  I think I got a small discount for being an employee, but the deal still came close to costing over $1,600 by the time I got done.  I accomplished that by early 1985, and I was soon on my way to developing many new skills.  I worked with AppleWorks, a partially integrated word processor, database and spreadsheet program, highly popular in the mid-80's.  I also did some personal-use AppleSoft BASIC programming, mostly for games, such as my little football game I wrote.

The years between 1984 and 1988 were my learning years. Most of my work was personal based, until in 1986,  a good friend with his own new jewelry store in Ankeny, Iowa, wanted help doing his accounting.  The accounting skills I gained came from the previous jewelry store bookkeeping job, plus I took a year of Intermediate Accounting at Kirkwood Community College (1985-86 year).  I accepted this new challenge, in my part time, and began doing his books with the use of AppleWorks databases.  And in 1987, I took on more work, while still maintaining my job, I started accounting for another friend with a new automotive shop, and also took on a database maintenance job for my sister's business, keeping a mailing list up to date (I also helped design the database).

The stress of the fulltime job as a credit manager for a local Co-op with $2 million in average accounts receivables during the farm crisis, and my three clients, plus the imminent gain of another bookkeeping client, I left the Co-op job.  Before I did that, however, I managed to convince them to purchase my Apple IIc, because I was able to set up databases and mail merge word processor documents that allowed me to send out timely past due letters. (This also led to me leaving that job, as other employees constantly claimed I was playing with the computer instead of doing my job, which wasn't true). When I sold the IIc to them, I purchased an Apple IIGS, and finally graduated to BusinessWorks, a great accounting program for the Apple II's at that time.  

I tried self-employment for the next year and a half, but was overwhelmed and underpaid for the hours I was working, and gave that up to go back to the traditional outside-of-the-home workplace. So, though I kept two of my clients, I spent the next three years, working at my regular job and staying up to the wee hours of the night taking care of my two clients. During that time after I bought the IIGS, I joined the local Apple Users Group, and learned some really cool things.  This was the beginning of my "on-line" experience.  I actually joined a very early edition of America Online - an area that was developed for Apple users.  I downloaded utilities software from there, but that was about the extent of the site at that time.  They had chat rooms, too, but I found it to be a waste of valuable time, although people actually chatted online about the subjects that were the purpose of the various rooms. At that time, I was using a 300 baud modem for my IIGS.  (Wow!)  We also had the Bulletin Board Services at that time, mostly set up by individuals with enough computer knowledge to make them dangerous!  The online experience at that time is what really set me up for what would come next.

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My First World Wide Web Experience - (1993-1999)

Toward the end of 1992, I made a couple new moves. I obtained a new job with a local software company as a quality assurance technician, and bought my first IBM-compatible PC.  This PC was a whopping 386 (early in 1993, traded up to a 486SX).  When I was notified that I was being laid off (already) from my quality assurance position, I was able to work in another department in the company, where I processed incoming electronic returns for the tax software the company made.  This was to beginning of the new journey into the REAL online world, just short of the World Wide Web days. We were taking the incoming electronic returns through CompuServe at that time.  I set up many email templates that assisted the software users that were having a problem with transmitting their electronic files. There were many different kinds of problems, so I had a pre-written email that applied to each of the particular problems. Considering that most of the people that transmitted electronic tax files were accountants, and many were not quite to the point of being computer literate, I felt I did pretty good to successfully receive every transmittal except for one by the end of the program.

That position ended on April 16th that year, and I had to go on to something else.  Our economy at that time was not all that good in the area, and I found that finding a new job was stressful, to say the least.  Turning to my "hobby", my computer, once again, I started on a new self-employment opportunity.  I began a video editing and taping business.  My string of successes were few through the summer of 1993, but I did manage to make a living for awhile. I did a couple of wedding video editing jobs, and another video editing job for a local karate club.  I did advertising on CompuServe's want ads area, which ended up not amounting to any new business opportunities.

During that time while on CompuServe in 1993, I was able to observe the birth of the World Wide Web. CompuServe's software was soon upgraded to allow web browsing.  There wasn't much on the web at that time, I don't even remember now what was there, but I knew - I just knew - that the Web would soon be a major force in the business world. At that time, we were able to see the web using the Web Mosaic program I downloaded from CompuServe, and there wasn't much on there.  It definitely wasn't the big corporations that were getting on the web at that time. The internet was still thought of as a place to post scientific research papers.  There wasn't any graphics to see to speak of, most of the pages I saw were text only.

Again, beginning in the summer of '94, I went back to the working world, and found a position at a local car dealership after several temp jobs.  The position I had filled at the dealership, though, took a turn for the worse, and again I was laid off. (That seems to be something I have faced way too many times! It may be one of the reasons that I am going in my current direction, working from home, and helping other people that face various hardships do the same.)  This time, though, I was immediately snatched up by a new opportunity. 

The day I was laid off, I was walking back to my car, and stopped to talk to one of the sales associates (Bob) that was working down on the used car lot. I was telling him it was my last day at the dealership, and mentioned some of my computer skills. Bob, my new friend, had an idea:  Why not put the cars on the used car lot on a web site, so that people could search through and find the car that suited them. This would mean they could "shop cars" from home.

That struck me as a great idea!  We even had further dreams of signing up many other dealerships and used car lots to do the same thing. We got the idea rolling. We contracted a web design company from Iowa City to set up the web site to our specifications with the search by criteria, a database, and a way to upload the graphics of each car, which we obtained with the use of a digital camera, one of the first ones on the market. (You don't even want to know how expensive that digital camera was!). It wasn't long at all, and we were up and running.  This started in late January of 1995, and was going good by the middle of February.  Unfortunately, the owner of the dealership didn't feel it was a good investment - even though we were selling close to 30 cars a month, and Bob was the top sales associate of the dealership! It all crumbled that summer when the dealership refused to assist Bob in compensating me, and I had to find another income source.  Can you imagine, had the dealership believed in us and invested a dime or two, what may have been one of the first online auto locator services? To this day, Bob and I ponder on the extremely enormous opportunity that was lost because people didn't look at what the future of the web was going to be.  We may have helped many, many people become millionaires almost overnight had we been able to continue just another year or two. It just makes me want to scream!

Suck it up, johnny2k...

I did, and my next employment opportunity went the way of being a customer service rep at an outsource teleservices company.  My first position was working in a group where we provided information to individuals and companies looking for networking equipment, like hubs, switches, routers, and network adapter cards (NIC). Though it wasn't really our duty, we actually spent a lot of time on calls assisting customers with technical support and network design. It was a fine line, I guess, between customer service and tech support, so we were willing to do so. In order to do this, we had to become experts on networking equipment. I had mastered the information on the switches, hubs and NICs, but I'll admit, I always did dread the calls regarding the client's routers.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to master that area, because the client pulled out (didn't renew the contract). It had only been six months. I went on to another "customer service position" (again, more like tech support), for a client that sold scanners, mice and joysticks.  We also handled sales, mostly for upgrades. About the time I was topping the group in sales, that job also was lost due to non-renewal of the client's contract. But, by this time my customer service skills had become recognized by the company I was working for, and I got yet another opportunity in a computer-related client program, which I helped start from scratch.

This program began in August of 1997.  Our mission, in this campaign, was to call (supposedly) interested corporate computer purchasers, and communicate to them the facts that our client's computers were this and that (I have to leave any further details of this campaign out, so as not to expose the client).  All we had to do, was to get the computer buyer and the resellers together, so that the sale would be completed.  During the beginning of the campaign, because it started a little slow - we were lacking lists of prospects to call - I developed an Access database where I kept a lot of detail on each of my prospects that I had contacted.  I also had a database of the resellers that I had contacted, knowing which ones were the best at selling our client's computers. 

For the year and two months that I was in that position, I had learned a great deal about the client's desktops, laptops, and servers, mostly on my own by browsing constantly through the client's website.  Oh, by the way. I left that program for my next new job in October of 1998, about a week after the day I came into work to find that my supervisor had my database deleted from my desktop.  I don't know if someone had a jealousy hang up or what... but it was like the time at the co-op, where other employees claimed I was "playing" and not getting any work done. Would you believe, that wasn't the case?  And by the way, the campaign was pulled by our client (wasn't a contract renewal problem, either, I don't believe), a month or two after I left?

God has a mysterious way of working, and it always seems to be in the background of our lives.  Things we DON'T see going on that end up being a big part of our lives.

Remember my Bob, from the auto dealership?  While I was learning the customer service trade, Bob was putting a new idea into motion.  The concept that people need a better environment to live in was truly motivating Bob, and inspiring him, to open outlets where people could find products that could offer them greater living.  Better health, avoiding serious diseases caused by toxins in our air and water, and actually having someone educating people on the hazards that are out there (you HAVE heard of chlorine or MTBE's, right?).

I wasn't aware of all the things that Bob was doing. I was busy, spending time at my previous job, and with my new wife, Connie. (Yes, we were still newly weds, having been married on February 1, 1997). Bob was a busy man, too, and was knocking down all the barriers, one at a time, that would have prevented most other people from starting a business. I hadn't seen much of Bob since he and his family had been our honored guests at our wedding, but suddenly one warm summer evening, as I was probably playing a baseball game on my computer, I get his call.  "John, just wanted to touch base, I have an idea you may be interested in."

Needless to say, I was very interested, for by this time, my interest in the computer SELLING job was waning in a big way. (Having my Access database deleted wasn't the only disgusting thing that happened in that last Customer Service campaign). It wasn't just getting an opportunity to change jobs, though, but what I felt was the time and place that I could be in on a ground floor development of a potentially huge retail chain, (which never happened), with a product concept that I believed in.  The doors to the first store opened in early October of 1998, and I was one of those that walked through the first time as an employee.

I was put in charge of accounting for the store business and the administrative things that needed done.  And, it was said, we would be putting up a web site, and Bob felt I would be able to lend a hand in that effort. And the fun began!

My first assignment: upgrade the existing (and pretty archaic) website that had been done for the parent company. You mean ME?  Okay, I thought, maybe I can. I'll try. Never really did this except for some goofing around I had done with a personal site that didn't get much past a couple unfinished pages. I confess, I was the WRONG person to put this assignment on. Why? Because I LOVED doing it, once I got started.  Learned a few things, transferred the site to a different web host, and got it all going.  It may not be the best ever done, but I was totally excited! This couldn't be, a job I really liked doing!  God does work in mysterious ways.

By early 1999, the next task was to get a page or two up about the Store. It wasn't to be a big deal, but something to cover us until I finished the parent company's site.  Got that done, went back and forth between the sites, until in the summer of '99, it was time to GET SERIOUS about all of this website business. We decided that we needed to actually sell something on the web site.  Of course, to get that accomplished, what needs to be done? If you knew this, you may be smart - Web marketing. (Hey, don't get upset if I try to be funny, okay?).

So, now, we were really rolling.  Web site this, web site that, John needs to go home for the afternoon, and work on the web site. Next thing you know, John got disgusted with accounting (boring), and concentrated every bit of energy on the web sites, which brings us to September of 1999.

Oh, you want to know why this may be encouraging to some people that work at home, now, don't you. Well, here's the other side of the story, in the background of our personal lives at this time. My wife, Connie, had developed serious medical problems. There was THAT reason alone, to really explain why I really wanted to work on the web sites from home. I would come home from work, and she would be laying on the floor unconscious, and the vacuum cleaner would still be running.  Probably all related to after-affects from a severe concussion suffered in late '97, Connie was not doing so well with her health.  Memory loss, constant pain, fainting spells and other medical problems. All of this meant many appointments with the doctors, and of course the bills that go with it.  Had my friend and boss, Bob, not been flexible and let me work in the mornings at the store and afternoons at home with the web sites, all of this wouldn't have been possible now.

In late December of 1999, it came to the point when I could no longer feel comfortable about Connie being left alone when the fainting spells happened, especially when finding her with bumps and bruises from falling on the floor, and a near tragedy when she passed out and slid down the stairs to the basement like a human surfboard.  I considered many options, which I evaluated, and came to the conclusion that working from home was the best option. After thinking long and hard about what to do, and came up with the most preferable alternative... I hope.

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My Experience: How It Will Help You - 2000 and On

If there is the silver lining in this, my friends, it is that I had the opportunity to learn web publishing skills thanks to Bob's generosity and tender heart (which I'm sure his wife Marilyn had a big part in tenderizing). Because I have these skills, and found how enjoyable it was to me, I BELIEVE that Connie and I have a chance to survive through all of this, though it will still be a struggle. Don't worry, I believe that Connie and I have shown how resilient we are.  (You'll learn more about that when you read our book, which is still in the works).

So, how will (this long story of) my previous experience be for your benefit? Let's take a summarized look:

  • You may have learned something from reading about my previous mistakes.

  • You may be the client that will gain from one of my future achievements. I've had them, too, you know.

  • You know that I'm resilient. I wouldn't give up on your project even if the challenges were great.

  • You know that I have a very rounded knowledge. And I am always learning new things. I want to apply these new skills to help you:  It gives me more practice! (Attorneys practice law, doctors practice medicine, so isn't it okay for me to practice web design?)

  • You know that I am very motivated. There are all those medical bills I would like to pay.  And the utilities. And food... Well, put it this way: I'll be successful if I help enough clients be successful!  With this philosophy, I believe the money needs will be taken care of.

  • You know that I am not afraid to mention Jesus Christ when I am communicating to a very large and diverse world wide web community.  And you'll notice that I will always give God the credit for helping me gain my skills and knowledge.  There is a good chance that people that won't request my services because I voiced my belief in God, are probably not clients that I would want to have.  (I do have policies regarding working on web sites that contain information regarding services or products that are immoral, unethical, or illegal:  I won't touch those types of projects.)

  • You know that I love what I am doing.  This is important to you, because you don't want somebody to do a job for you that they despise doing.  That never ends with very satisfactory results, does it? If you DON'T believe that, go on pretending that you care about your business or employees.

And this IS my final answer!

There wouldn't be a resume in the world that would be written the way I gone with this documentation of my previous experience. Nor would anyone find me telling a prospective employer this much in an interview.  But there was a purpose to all of this. It's my way of humanizing a profession that works on computers, day in, day out.  I don't know about you, but people like me need the human emotions and spiritual life to prevail over the digital world from time to time.

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