Daily Update: My technological life Part 3
Upon leaving QPE I was thrust into the start of the World Wide Web. It wasn’t anything like we know it today. It was mostly static pages and every once in a while you’d find a guestbook on a page. That would lead to conversation and Web chatting become popular. You could find chat room on any topic. There were also web forums and the same thing, a forum for every topic.
The I started to learn UNIX programming. I wrote little scripts that did things to make my data entry job easier. Then I discovered that I could put programs into the ‘switches’ I was working on. I could automate file transfers. I wrote a unix script that would take a formatted file, clean up the file and strip out the extreanous information and give me just lines that I needed and formatted exactly how I needed them. My script then sent the file to the switch and I had a program set up that would look once an hour for this file and run it doing all my data entry for me.
I had automated my job. Beyond that, I made my script a corrective script. If it found something wrong it would fix what it found. I would up going through what was called teh cur car that listed every NPA NXX (like 619 NPA (Area Code) and 426 (first three digits of your phone number) ) and I ran everything that was supposed to be in my switch and cleaned it up.
Now the job I was originally hired to do at PacBell was not what I would up doing, but I got involved with a team that was supposed to run reports on how ‘correct’ a switch was performing. I had the person in charge of this effort run a check on my switches and my program had cleaned up 90% of the errors in my first switch. I executed the program in my other two switches and presto, I had three clean switches.
I then took the time I should have been typing all this out manually and cleared the rest of the ‘errors’ on my reports until they were 99% clean. That’s when my boss took my switches away because I had time on my hands and gave me three other switches because the person couldn’t handle the work. I wound up with two dual-NPA switches and one triple NPA switch. This was during a time of major area code splits and having more than one area code in your switch was painfully difficult.
So I put my programs to work. Basically it was like going from having three switches to having 7 because of the multiple area codes in each switch. I spent a month doing the same exercise and got the switches to be some of the cleanest in Southern California. I then had free time on my hands again and what do you think I did?
Well, other than put the same code on other people’s switches and doing their work because they were either too lazy or too incompetent to do it, I started building out tools and a web site for our team. This was during a time when there was no money to do anything like this. So all the pages were internal to our team and I had a directory for the switches that was dynamically built with a UNIX script, lookup tools for the cur car (you’d be amazed how much paper was wasted printing this thing out on a monthly basis) and several other tools. My boss, unknown to me, put me in for an award that I won and got to have a nice luncheon with a VP and several other award winners.
Then I saw the writing on the wall. My programs were being looked at. How had I done this? Someone wrote a job that basically automated the work that we were doing. I did what only two other people on my team did. I self-nominated for management. Not to be a supervisor, but to be an individual contributor. I got the nod after much testing and I got picked up for a team that needed a web developer.
I didn’t start out with developing web applications though. Instead I was thrust into the world of Visual Basic. Yes, another programming language I needed to learn. I also had to do some PERL work and learn everything there was to know about ORACLE databases. Oh yeah, I was worried. It was a lot to take on all at once, but I was open to he challenge.
The first thing I did was take on a ticket that was said to be impossible by the two senior developers. Pfft. It took me a while to figure it out ,but I was given time to learn and spread my wings. In a couple weeks I had completed a request that made a lot of people very happy. Relative Dates. Rather than put in an actual, correctly formatted date, the user could put in ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’,’yesterday’,’last month’,etc. I had to account for leap years as I wrote this in the year 2000. But I was off and running with this new code.
Then I eventually came to a project that at first looked to be awesome and fell apart completely a few years later. The product we used was called Vantive. Vantive sold out to PeopleSoft. PeopleSoft sold out to ORACLE. Our product was no longer supported and running on an unsupported platform. So we started building a web front end during all these issues. I built several tools to look up information, make updates, enforce the myraid of business rules. We even completed moving a couple groups off the FAT client and onto the web client. They loved what we’d done, but already another system came into play.
PacBell had been bought by SBC. This was when I moved to the Vantive team. SBC bought AT&T (not the other way around) and SBC wanted to use AT&T’s ticketing system. Again I saw the writing on the wall. I raised my hand, and again I moved away from a team shortly before it was devastated.
More to come tomorrow!