Thursday, July 11, 2013

My Start in Computers and Software Business

My start in computers began with taking a community education class on BASIC programming on the Apple II computer.  This sparked some interest for me and my father showed me some advertising for the Texas Instruments TI99/4a computer for around $300 so I ordered it.  I taught myself the TI BASIC fairly well and started coding some game programs for this computer.  At some point I tried to make some money selling the programs so I put ads in a magazine for the TI99/4 computer.

TI-99/4A Computer

Sales started out pretty slow but started to increase to the point that it was just paying the cost of the advertising.  I received a business proposition from a Stephen Shaw in the UK, to have the rights to copy my programs and send me royalty payments for each sale.  This was a good deal and Stephen would send an interesting letter along with the payment, he later published a book on the TI99/4a and sent me a copy.  Later I had a similar deal in Canada; this was great but the payments never did amount to very much money.

Just found this link to Stephen Shaw:

Ad for Game

Then the bottom dropped out of the TI99/4a market and this computer was being sold for really cheap almost everywhere and then it was discontinued.  About that time I found out that a relative of mine was marketing programs for the Radio Shack Color computer so I started writing programs for that computer.  Twice I went with him to trade shows, once in Chicago and once in Fort Worth.  That fizzled also but led to a custom program assignment of writing a billing program for a building contractor. I learned the importance of having backups at multiple locations as someone broke into the office and stole the computer with the program disks.

After this I realized to get a real computer programming job I needed a 4 year degree from a university so I went back to school to get a 4 year degree in computer science.  The experience I had before returning to school really did help in my course work and I was offered programming job where I was doing my internship.  I still work with computers but my job is mainly in a support capacity.

My advice to students is get all the experience you can along with the education,  as the experience will set you apart from those with only the course work.

Bill Kuhl