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Visiting the software coders of Hollywood in the 1980s

As a young Graphic Designer in the mid-1980s, I was fortunate to have a boss who was a computer nerd. I was working for what is called an "In House" department, doing basic Graphic Sesign for the corporate headquarters of Blue Cross of California. His enthusiasm for digital stuff was amazing, and he foresaw a future when drawing boards and drafting tables would go away, and be replaced by computers. He was right.

I'm grateful to have gotten such an early start with computer graphics, which in my industry came to be known as "desktop publishing" (originally said sarcastically - as if the functions of creating something to be published could be created on a desktop!). I was fortunate to be sent to training sessions for software that had just been invented - the company paid my way, and I got to travel. But the most interesting thing I ever saw, and the saddest, was the software coders of Hollywood. I went there one day with my boss.

And I really do mean Hollywood. Hollywood was about twenty miles away from Blue Cross, which was in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley. We had been asked to take a look at a software program was was being designed for Graphic Design and publishing. I have no idea what the program was called, or if it even had a name then, but I remember going there. A lot of software was being invented back then.

It was in a house in the Hollywood Hills. Yes, you can picture a big mansion in the hills, with a swimming pool, and a sweeping views. And inside of that house were young men (younger than me, I was 28) sitting at computers, coding.

To me, I describe it as a sad scene. But I may have looked sad to them. I was a corporate guy, neatly dressed in a shirt and tie. I worked in a building with cubicles, and I showed up to work every day from 8 to 5. They were free to come and go as they pleased, no set hours, and no dress code. And they sat at their computers, looking to me just like the "Revenge of the Nerds" characters, with their cans of Pepsi, and cold slices of pizza. If you haven't seen "Revenge of the Nerds", just picture the guy from Jurassic Park, who could debug a million lines of code, except that these guys were much younger. I'm guessing that they were brilliant, and were probably getting paid a lot more money than I was. They were turning raw lines of code into the kind of computer software that we all use now by pushing buttons. And it all works because of them.

In a long life, I've met a lot of people like this. They love what they do, and get immersed in it. It may take them many hours and sleepless nights to write and debug code, but without them, our computers, including our cell phones, wouldn't work. I'm glad that they do this kinda stuff, but I'm also glad it's not me. I'm not a computer guy, those people are.

Image at the top of this post: with my boss at Blue Cross, Woodland Hills (Los Angeles), California. I'm on the left.

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