In 1977 Brian received a Radio Shack 150 Project electronic set for Christmas. He spent hours methodically connecting short wires to electronic components until each project was complete. From crystal radios to calculators, each new project was completed in the book – beginning to end.
1979 – 1982
Later, during his parents’ rustic living in the woods without electricity days, Brian would hook up car stereos to 12V batteries wiring speakers throughout the house to ensure that all could enjoy non-stop music (his other blossoming passion). This was often better than trying to figure out how to get new AA batteries for his Walkman when re-chargables were unheard of.
Then, tired of manually bringing water into the cabin, Brian engineered a method to bring water from the nearby creek into the home. He connected a series of gardening hoses together long enough to reach from the water source to the home. On one end he attached a funnel made from a 2-liter bottle, stuck it into the creek and weighted it with rocks. The hoses were laced through the trees, down the hill, across the open meadow and to the family’s home where the other end was attached to a faucet on the deck. Not only did this provide running water during the summer months, but it also had the benefit of being very hot water as the water filled hose soaked up the sun and heated the water.
The hot water was an unplanned for side effect and would lead Brian to work on another project . Taking old barn wood, tin roofing material, windows from a camper shell and assorted other recycled items Brian and his father built a solar water heater for the home.
Brian also completely rebuilt a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle engine as part of a weeklong informal apprenticeship. He spent each day during the week working side by side with a mechanic and a copy of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive : A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot. This later became his first car to which he added an auto-reverse cassette deck, equalizer, four speakers and an air horn.
Brian received a Commodore 64 as a gift and quickly learned BASIC to control color and move sprites around on the screen. He bought a small NTSC monitor so that his programming didn’t interrupt his family’s TV time and he bought a tape drive to save his experiments in programming.
Obtained his Radio Operator’s Permit from the FCC and hired part-time at a local talk radio station as an engineer. Here he learned how to run a circa-1960’s radio control board, read and log antennae output, splice audio and create advertising spots.
Brian would continue to work part-time at the station for the next three years – occasionally hosting his own talk show.
Bought a Commodore 128 as the Amiga that he really wanted was out of his price range. He used the 5 year old NTSC monitor he had purchased for the C64 on the new computer, but retired his old cassette drive. Purchasing a Commodore 1541-II Floppy Drive he learned how to program more extensive BASIC and wrote some entry level games using written tutorials (because online wasn’t a thing yet).
Began work as a telecommunications support specialist for Barnett Bank. In this role Brian supported the IT department in two primary ways. First, he programmed switches and individual telephone stations for a county wide telecommunications equipment upgrade. This included providing individualized training at the branch and office level for using the new phone system.
His second role was creating the monthly audit and billing for multiple switches, extensions and hard lines. For this he would use the department’s biggest and best workstation – a Mac SE30 with a whopping big 80MB hard drive. This role had Brian learning MS Excel and programming in Microsoft’s early Macro language (way before vbscript).
The role also exposed him to the division’s video department where an SVP was putting together a new concept called Wait Station Videos. Brian was asked to learn how to operate professional linear video photography and editing equipment to support the department. This included learning MacroMedia’s Macromind Director which enabled computer generated graphics to be overlaid on the video.
In the end he co-produced and edited a half-dozen short video segments advertising new banking products to customers in the branch waiting for assistance from the staff. One of the most unique advertisements was for a brand new concept in banking called the ATM card (now Debit card).
Hired by Harris Corporation in Brevard County, Florida as an administrative temp. Brian immediately contributed to the administrative team by creating network shares for important executive documents, creating an Excel based calendar that allowed administrative support to view & update executive calendars and providing desktop Mac support to anyone that asked.
By the end of the year the official desktop support team had heard of the support he was giving to executive management – Brian was hired away from the Government Aerospace division by the Air Traffic Control division. Prior to his change of divisions Brian had begun to provide configuration management services to the team working on the International Space Station.