About My Digital LifeA Brief Look At My Life With Computer Technology
About My Digital LifeA Brief Look At My Life With Computer Technology
A False Start In The Late 70s
I vaguely recall taking a course in Fortran back in 1973 or 1974 when I was in 11th or 12th grade at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua NY. Greeley was well known for turning out well known even famous alumni (I wasn’t one of them) and many of them were big names in technology too (I wasn’t one of the either).
I find it somewhat ironic today that all those years ago in the Fortran class taught by Mr. (Larry) Christensen and there was this one segment of class where we were learning about “Do Loops” and how to write them. I was totally clueless at the time and thought “why the heck would I ever need to know this stuff?” In the spring of 2023 I find myself using ChatGPT to help me “lean out” some of the code in my 360 Difference software I wrote in the late 1990s and the 2009s. Over the course of the last 13 years or so I have from time to time made the “Do Loops” and other code I had written leanerwith better structure, variables and conditional statements but I find AI can now help with what used to be a daylong task in just a few hours.
At any rate I look back at my younger days thinking:and hearing the tune
I wish that I knew what I know now
when I was younger
A MacUser Is Born
I’m a long time MacUser going back to Wednesday December 11th 1991 @ 10:18pm. Yeah, I know the date and time because I saved the very first document I ever created and still have it today. (Just a note, the ‘Pete’ in that little pict refers to my brother Peter who I left the document for as a ‘Read Me Now’ on the desktop)
Later that winter in February of 1992 I had what seemed like a mild blow out crash while ski racing except when I landed on my shoulder this time I couldn’t get it to go back in and the doctors in the hospital later that evening had a struggle to get it back in so I was given the word that this time I needed to have surgery to fix the shoulder and stop the repeated dislocations. Unable to use my right arm as a carpenter that winter and spring I decided I would really set out to learn the computer.
I had bought a construction and remodeling estimating, accounting and scheduling software program for MacUsers called MacNail by Turtle Creek Software. It was a collection of Excel spreadsheets.
I ventured into using MacNail in place of my old pencil and forms based system but I didn’t really like the data in MacNail and not wanting to have to rewrite all of it estimating line items it used I continued on estimating as I had for years now. Plus there was something else I couldn’t easily do in MacNail and that was “free form” estimating from scratch for the theatrical projects we built. I came from the theatre where I designed and built and provided lighting for theatre dance and video production and none of the items I needed to estimate could be found in MacNail, the HomeTech Estimator, or any other construction estimating data sources such as R.S. Means either
Another problem with it was it used a different pricing methodology that the one I wanted to use so I had to make some changes to how it worked so I hacked it to makes changes to it and learned Excel and VBA. Because Turtle Creek Software also had a HyperCard product I also started learning how to program in HyperCard and suddenly I had an interest in this thing called programming
It wasn’t too long before I became a “Power user” with Excel and my own HyperCard creations were pretty neat too.
And a FileMaker User Is Born
I don’t recall the name of the program anymore but I bought a Macintosh application for making forms and used it to makes some forms I used in the business at the time. More importantly that program became discontinued and when it did they offered an upgrade to a program called FileMaker Pro 2 and I began to explore using it (and another Macintosh database program I bought, ProVUE’s Panorama). These database programs were great for building lists of stuff. I love lists. Still do. And they were great for searching through the data they contained and sorting and organizing it. Yeah,… I could do that in Excel but not with the speed and ease of a database program.
Then in December of 1995 FileMaker upgraded thier program from FileMaker Pro 2 to FileMaker Pro 3 and introduced what for me was a earthshaking change. The program now worked with a relational database structure. What that meant was when I was working in my file called Estimates I could enter “Client #33” into the Client field in the program and it would then automatically populate the Client Name, Client Address, Client Phone, etc. fields in the Estimate with information from my Client Contacts file. I could enter the ID# for a particular building Material in my Materials database and it would automatically enter the Material Description, Material Cost, Prefered Material Supplier, Sale Tax for that Material into my Estimate. Likewise I could do the same with Labor. I could enter “Carpenter A” into a field and it would enter what it Cost to have a “Carpenter A” perform that task. And I also then kept a database of Tasks with how much time those Tasks too per Unit and I could look and use that data too. This was all very similar to Excel’s LOOKUP function but a whole lot faster and easier to use and perhaps even more importantly, easier to setup and maintain programatically.
I was off to the races with FileMaker Pro as my horse.
Also in ’05 Windows released their new operating system and since so many of my friends and cohorts were Windows user I kept hearing that if you were really going to get serious with computer programming I had to learn Window and this other MS OS call NT so every chance I got on a Windows computer I poked around explored. But my heart was still in the Apple Macintosh world.
1999 and FileMaker 5…
In September of 1999 FileMaker released FileMaker 5 and I purchased the Developer Edition which had a Script Debugger which allowed me to run scripts one step at a time and see what was happening in slow motion and identify problems and mistakes in my programing. The Developer Edition also had another feature that allowed me to build standalone verisions of the program that had a built-in FileMaker engine. I then gave away copies of a version of the program I created called The Simple Estimate Worksheet to my subcontractors. That way many of them who still were “Legal Pad Estimating” with a pencil and a calculator could start to learn computerized estimating and perhaps more importantly, at least to me, they could provide me with thier quotes for projects I could easily import into my “Master System” to use in our project estimates within a few minutes of getting the data rather than having to transcribe thier data from a fax. It was right around that time that I unplugged my fax modem and started to tell everyone “Our fax machine is down. Can you email me your quote?”
The other big plus we got out of our subs using The Simple Estimate Worksheet it brought them into the Unit Cost Estimating world. Most, a super majority of our subs were in the EyeBall Guesstimate camp and a few were doing Stick Estimates. I thought if you brought a sub into a job through a door on the north side of the house he would give you one estimate and if you brought him in a day later through a door on the south side of the house he would give you another quote for the same project but it would be $5,o00 different. Getting them to use the software put them on the road to consistent pricing we could count on.
The Simple Estimate Worksheet
This is a sample graphic from the Getting Started and Help file I built for The Simple Estimate Worksheet that illustrates what it looked like and you can see it has a “spreadsheet” look to it but it’s really a database.
2004 The Capacity Based Markup Workbook Is Created
The Capacity Based Markup Workbook is an Excel Workbook that can be used by contractors or any business person for that matter that needs to figure out accurate hourly billing rates for themselves and their personal. While the workbook is designed and distributed for SMBs (Small & Mid-sized Businesses) with only 7 employees it is unlocked and can be easily modified for companies with more employees by anyone with basic Excel skills (and if you need help with that you can always contact me too).
2005 The 360 Difference ERP
Then in 2005 I realeased 360Difference the Enterprize Resource & Planning filemaker toolset and it has continued it evolution and development.