adam j. sontag

slightly more like a website than before

we are going to toss out the old systems

Who says this?!

I can’t wait til we open the new computers we have gotten: we are going to toss out the old systems.

Computers got to the house where I grew up long before I ever did. My dad began programming on time-sharing systems in the 1970s, and in 1987, he started a home-based financial-services software company, Ajay Financial Services, named after his newborn baby boy (me). In the late 80’s, “working from home on the computer” was not something one did curled up on the couch; my parents added a second floor onto our home to accomodate the business.

Upstairs lay a wonderland of circuitry that enchanted me from my earliest days, a buzzing office (with real partitions!) teeming with HP 3000 minicomputers, dot-matrix printers, eminently rideable chairs, and even a gigantic 9-track tape drive on wheels. If you’re having trouble picturing all this, here’s a Very Old Data Center:

Years before I ever got to elementary school, I was learning reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic from Charlie, a 286 running DOS. “Charlie,” mind you, was not a sweet nickname invented for a friend, it was the computer’s actual name on our LAN. For the most part, I was even able to launch Reader Rabbit from the command line myself, though I’d occasionally pester my dad with questions like “Where is the B?” and “Where did the W go?”

the gleep


Eventually, I’d become master of the keyboard – and other peripherals. One day in kindergarten, my dad came in to tell the class about his job, and brought in a computer to do a demonstration. At one point, frustated watching a classmate struggling to use the mouse, I jumped in and angrily yanked it away from her. I simply couldn’t grasp that she had never even seen one before.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that if, four paragraphs ago, you were wondering how a six-year-old boy ends up sounding like a grizzled sysadmin, you probably aren’t anymore.