Daily Archives: May 3, 2018

Long ago and far away

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[Today’s run: 3.5 miles]

I was doing some nostalgia fishing on LinkedIn last night.

I’ve been touching up my profile on LinkedIn and I then got to fishing around for more information about my first full time job, at SOM in Chicago.  This would have been before our kids were born, approximately 30 years ago.

I had graduated in May of 1985 with a B.A. in Architecture, looked for a job, didn’t find one.  So I went back and got a B.S. in Computer Science.  I liked Computer Science better anyway.  In the summer of 1986 we moved to Chicago to follow my wife’s job in a transfer.  I hit the job market and came up with a position at Skidmore Owings and Merrill in downtown Chicago.  I worked for the SOM Computer Group.  I was there about 2 years.  I started getting calls from headhunters, so I told one guy that I’d be interested in another position if it paid at least X.  He found me that, so I left SOM and went to SPSS north of the loop.

While I was at SOM I learned C and Unix and vi and similar things.  It was an interesting job.

So I was remembering some of the people I worked with, or trying to remember.  And I was fishing for them on LinkedIn and Google.  I did end up finding a few.  My problem is that I don’t have a list of names and my own memory for names really stinks.  Then I found that the project we had worked on had a business trajectory from SOM to a couple of other places.  And some of that group are still working together.

I never felt like I fit in at SOM.  First of all I was awed by being in Chicago.  And I was awed by working for an internationally known architecture firm.  But also I had discovered in college that architects were kind of an odd bunch and the big-time ones can be extremely so.  I didn’t understand the business organization of the firm either, probably still don’t.  But I thought the work was interesting and I have no complaints about how I was treated.  My co-workers were interesting and very encouraging as I tried to come up to speed.  They were computer people, so I felt more at home as long as I didn’t stray too far from my desk.

I found online some pictures by J. Mark Andersen at a retrospective event regarding the computer group at SOM which took place in 2012 (or so I gather).  And there are a few faces I recognize.  (I don’t directly remember J. Mark Andersen, but I think he may have been one of the guys who interviewed me for the position I had.)

The man on the left was the “database guy”.  I think the database we used was Ingres.  I do remember that he had a “joke” algorithm regarding the office coffee machine which was posted over his desk.  The man on the right, I seem to remember he took afternoons off on those days that the Cubs played home games.  I don’t remember either of their names, I’m sorry to say.


The guy I worked most closely with was named Nate, and I found him on LinkedIn.  I don’t know if he would remember me.  It was a pretty short association, 30 years ago.  We worked on a feature called ‘hardware zoom’ which was an emulation of a built-in feature of some big Tektronix vector workstations.  This was so that the Tek boxes could be phased out.  They were leased, so getting rid of them was direct savings.  Even though I wasn’t there long, and a lot of my time was learning curve, I think I helped save them some money just by getting that part right.  Nate was the design guy who knew what needed to happen and I did the actual coding.

My boss was a guy named Eric who was pretty intense, a go-getter.  I found him on LinkedIn too and he seems to have had a prosperous career.

Here is a link to a video presentation  from that 2012 gathering about SOM and their graphics work including the period I was there.

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