About Me



I'm not sure who's interested, but you're the one that clicked the button... so here goes.

I'm a 69-yr old (as of 2008) retired programmer with a fondness for all of the topics that appear in this site.   We live on  a few acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia.  

I developed a love for mathematics and science largely because of Mr. Paul Bader and Mr. Robert Wellever, two great teachers from my high school days in Fenton, Michigan.  I regret that I never got back in touch with them to tell them so.   Without them, I probably wouldn't have enrolled in that first programming class at Michigan State University, on "Miliac", a vacuum tube behemoth that we programmed (in Fortran)  by punching programs onto paper tapes.  Paper tapes were carried to Miliac and returned the next day along with output paper tapes  - which we carried to the printer so we could print results, find our errors, and try again.  Most programmers today probably have never heard the term "desk checking".  With 24 hour turnaround, one becomes very proficient at it! 

Time passes - I graduated from MSU andI worked a few years for Rocketdyne in California, writing Fortran programs doing spectral analysis - trying to figure why our F2 rocket engines kept blowing up.  (We did - the F2 powered the first Saturn rockets into space a few years later).  I then worked for IBM for a few years developing BPS Card Fortran that ran on  early System 360 computers.  We weren't lucky enough to  get to work on the "big" systems that had tape drives and 32kb or 64kb of memory (kb=kilobytes=1024 bytes)  - our compiler had to run on a 16kb system!  The compiler  read in a deck of 80 column punched cards and punched out compiled code on another deck.  As I recall,  the compiler deck was made up of 13 smaller decks - each a phase of the compiler - and made a stack of cards about a foot high.  The Fortran source code deck had to go into this deck between phases 1 and 2.  Woe be to the person who dropped the deck!  The compiler phases had to come and go while the program stayed in memory.   Disk drives hadn't been invented yet.   Gosh, just writing this is making me feel a lot older,

The years that followed included stints in Germany, Falls Church and Richmond, Virginia  and finally 10 years with Aramco in Saudi Arabia ending at the time of the Gulf War.  I learned and used Fortran, Assembler, RPG, Cobol, C,  Pascal, and SAS programming languages during this time.    

While in Saudi, I learned Turbo Pascal, Delphi's predecessor, while writing a paper for my Master's degree.  An engineer buddy and I collaborated on TurboExpert - an expert system shell that diagnosed rotating equipment  problems.  Later converted to Delphi, TurboExpert earned me a degree and Jim and I a royalty contract with a company that marketed the product for 12 years.  The income from the 6 months spent developing TurboExpert enabled early retirement for us both.  So is it any wonder that Delphi has a spot reserved  on my hearth?  

Over the years, I had written many puzzle and game programs "just for fun".  With 8 grandchildren now, I decided it would be nice to preserve some of them in case they were ever motivated to use programming to develop critical thinking (aka problem solving) skills.   Programming is surely one of the best ways to build these skills (persistence and "divide and conquer"  being the two biggies in my opinion).

So, now  you can understand some of the motivation for this site.  I'm disturbed by, but understand, the current Advanced Placement emphasis  on C++ with a switch to Java on the horizon.  Their job is to reflect what most colleges teach so that kids can get credit for some college classes.  I haven't heard anyone try to defend C++  as the best first programming language.   Or the advantage of taking college classes from teachers who are generally not as qualified as those employed by colleges and universities.  

And sometimes it really does pay to take the road less traveled.    

Gary Darby