Just happened to check in on my blog to discover that two years ago today was the day I signed up at WordPress. Haven’t thought of much to write about in the last few weeks… March has had some rough memories the last couple of years and my inspiration is in a bit of a valley these days. But I was talking to a friend today and something reminded me of a memorable day from my computer programming days 🙂
Now this was back in the 80’s, well before PCs, when graphics workstations were a marvel to the tune of $100k each! My buddy Dan and I were mainframe operating systems analysts and we drew the task of traveling to Minneapolis to test some operating system software our crew had written in the Denver office. The software was extremely important to our company and a number of defense contractors in the Denver area so it was quite an honor to be the ones called upon to head up the last leg of that multi million dollar contract.
Now in those days there were no independent computers, just terminals connected to the mainframe and everyone used the same mainframe. So if you wanted to do any significant operating system testing you had to have the mainframe to yourself, which meant working from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. So that’s what we were doing, 12 hour shifts, then off to breakfast and back to the office for the 9:00 status meetings, seven days a week for several months. No status meetings on the weekends of course but needless to say we were exhausted… all the time.
OK, so that is the background for this blog post. We were staying at a place in Arden Hills called the Shorewood… I think now it is a Holiday Inn. Well anyway, the Shorewood had an awesome happy hour… free tacos, all you can eat. For mainframe software engineers, free is a price too good to pass up, so we pretty much went there every day before our night shift. Computer rooms were cold in those days… Mainframes generated a lot of heat and required massive cooling systems, cold air blowing through raised floors and liquid cooling systems for the mainframes themselves. So it’s summer in the twin cities, temps in the 90’s with humidity to match. But we had to dress for the frigid computer room, which meant layers of clothing, whatever we had, t-shirts, football shirts, flannel shirts, thermal shirts and of course the obligatory blue jeans and tennis shoes.
The Shorewood was a fairly upscale place and the hotel bar attracted a pretty good crowd of suit wearing professionals for happy hour, but Dan and I were in no mood for anyone’s preconceived idea of proper attire, we just put on our layers and went for our free food and cheap beer regardless of what anyone might think. So one evening we showed up as usual, with our layers of hodge podge clothing in the 90 degree Minneapolis summer heat, tired and bleary eyed from weeks of sleeplessness, basically having beer and free tacos for breakfast 🙂
So this beautiful young woman comes into the bar with a clipboard and tape recorder and we are just sort of stupefied watching her get ready for some obviously extremely important engagement. After a while she appears to finally be ready for the important executive who is sure to appear any minute. Much to our surprise she saunters over to our table and introduces herself, a reporter from a local news agency. Of course we are so stunned that we can barely speak coherently, but it turns out she is there to interview out of town computer professionals and when she discovered that we were software engineers from Denver she was intrigued and began peppering us with a million questions that we were really in no mood to be answering… Not to mention the fact that we were there working for the only major computer firm in the city, and we were drinking our breakfast just prior to going to work!
However, she was pretty and we were young males, and somewhat impressed that she was interested in our activity there so we were polite in trying to explain what we were doing there in the best layman’s terms we could think of, which wasn’t that easy back in the mainframe days when nobody had any idea what programming a computer was like! Well after awhile more people started filing into the bar… men with suits and briefcases. Soon our new friend was looking around and getting a bit fidgety, and after about 10 more minutes of this she just turned to us and said, “Do you guys mind if I go talk to these other guys…. ?”. We of course were totally relieved to get off the hot seat and go back to our beer and tacos in peace 🙂
But to this day the whole episode is one of my favorite memories, our big but reluctant day in the sun and subsequent rejection for the fancy guys in the suits who’s jobs were probably not half as important as ours in the overall scheme of things. And to this day we laugh at the stress on her face as she worried that we would be insulted by her ditching us for the suits when we were actually so happy to be just left alone for a few minutes before our long night began 🙂