Another one of the DBA bloggers games of tag is occurring. I’ve been asked by Tom LaRock to answer Paul Randal’s question; What three events brought you here. Well, mom was a cheerleader and dad was a football player, so… Oh, wait. I guess I misunderstood the question. He means what three events lead me to becoming a data geek. Well, that’s completely different. Luckily, no (further) cheerleaders will be harmed in making this (part of the) story.
When I was 16 years old and Jimmy Carter was President, Radio Shack was still considered to be the place for aspiring geek wannabe’s. It just so happened that I hit $500 in my bank account about the same time they started pushing this radical thing called a “personal computer.” I bought the base model TRS-80 with a whopping 4k of memory, an OS, a keyboard and a monitor. I supplied the cassette tape player (I’m providing links to some of the more arcane bits of technology since you young punks won’t know what I’m talking about) for storage. I also got one game, Space Warp. I started learning basic. I wrote up a random encounter generator for the Traveler role playing game that used all 4k of memory. I was hooked.
But, instead of going to MIT & pursuing computers, as I should have, and unlike Paul Randal, I joined the Navy. While there I became great friends with a guy that was sold on getting out & going to film school. That sounded like great fun. So I did that. I went to film school and I started doing indie work in NYC. But, unfortunately for my film career and fortunately for my database career, NYC was not the place to be for indie film or to really break into the film business in the late 80’s. I should have been in LA or maybe up in Canada or down in the Carolina’s, but NYC was largely over as place to get started (very strong community, but few opportunities for up & comers). I supplemented my film jobs with temp work, mainly typing letters & doing data entry. One day I was asked what I knew about databases. The correct answer was nothing, but what I said was, “What do you need?” They needed a Paradox database that could store names for a mailing list. “I can do that.” I ran out & bought a Paradox book and stayed about two chapters ahead of what they needed until I had a fully (mostly) functional system up & running. I shudder to think what the thing must have looked like now, but at the time I was a hero. I got a lot more work from these guys and stopped worrying about my film career, because, I still loved computers.
I had been working in IT full time for about 10 years. I’d spent most of that time doing development, first in Paradox, later in VB. I was working for my first dot com. Our DBA had quit, but we’d just kept going, but after a while, we were really feeling the pain of not having someone spend all day, every day, looking at the database. Finally, I went into the bosses office and went on a total rant. “We need backups. We need consistency checks. We need someone to vet the design and validate the code.” Blah, blah, blah. He waited until I ran out of steam and then said, “OK, what are you going to start with first?” A DBA was born.
That’s about it. You could pick any number of events, but these are the ones that kind of stand out for me.