You know how it is; you've bought the new Oasis CD and your new linen suit has been featured in the latest edition of that GQ magazine and, like James Brown, 'you feel good!' when suddenly it happens. "How did you get into Computing?" some surly oik asks...

Well, nowadays, of course, it's all about educational background and qualifications. Have you got a CNE or a DSO and bar? What are you man management skills? Give me a ballpark and let's run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes; toss it off the pier and see if it floats, get your people to talk to my people and we'll discuss it off-line, eh? Back then though, when a striped tank top was a valid fashion statement, it was all about interview technique. Or, to be more blunt, were you able to sit in front of someone for an hour without appearing to be a complete plank.

Me? Well, believing my future to lay in high finance, I got my first ever job because the manager of one of the then smaller banks to which I'd applied (who still like to YES?) was as a fanatical West Ham supporter as I was. By the time the interview had finished we had discussed the vagaries of Harry Redknapp's wing play, the positional brilliance of Bobby Moore and, just briefly, the benefits of the staff pension fund. I started the following Monday and my Grade 5 CSE in Accounts was never mentioned.

Following three years of lunacy and tedium, some fascinating stories - including one about ex-Eastender's actor Billy Murray that will cost you at least a pint - and a historical conversion to decimal coinage, I was ready to move up the career ladder. Deciding my future did not lay as a Branch Manager, I scanned the local papers until I spotted an interesting advertisement. 'EARN £££'s' it said. Of course, now I would chuckle quietly to myself and carry on through to the back page but back then, being naive and weighed down by the expectation of getting my shoulder length hair cut to attend an Assistant Manager's course, I rung the number.

An interview was arranged at a motel in Essex, so I polished my Mark 1 Cortina and dressed smartly for the occasion, selecting a brown patterned tank top to match my brown silk kipper tie and two-tone tonic strides. I paused only to check the cut of my dogtooth flecked jacket and adjust the high waist of my flared loons and set off.

What I hadn't realised then was that the whole scenario of interview meet and greet had been carefully prepared for each prospective interviewee. I passed the first stage of the test, I assume, as I knew enough to park the car, and, not knowing where to go in the motel, inquired at the reception desk for my contact. I discovered later that someone in the lobby was on hand to see how I purported myself while waiting and if I revealed any irritating habits or a preponderancy to pick my nose. After about 20 minutes, the receptionist called me over and asked me to go to Room 312. I then successfully completed what I assume was the next part of the 'test' by finding the room without recourse to a Sherpa or a Michelin road map. Unfortunately, that was my last successful move of the afternoon though for, rather like the aforementioned Harry Redknapp following an amazing foray through the Leeds defence, I was about to end up in an untidy heap in the North Bank after being tackled by Norman Hunter.

I arrived at the door to the room and knocked. There was no answer. I knocked again and then tried the handle. It was stuck, I waggled the door handle and pushed harder. I put my shoulder to it. I stepped back and shoulder barged it - just as an irate man opened the door allowing me to topple into the room, trip over my 18" flares and fall stack heeled shoes over long greasy hair, arms flailing like a windmill, over the threshold of the door and onto my knees.

"It was locked," the man informed me, rather tersely, I thought. "Yea" I retorted wittily. "Don't you ever knock and wait until you're told to come into a room?" asked the man again. I explained that I didn't (I still don't actually - a little too servile for me, I'm afraid) and that, as I knocked before turning the handle, did not think I had done anything untoward. My prospective employer then explained the whole motel interview technique was actually a test and that I had already been observed since walking into the lobby and, apparently, my habit of slouching and shoving my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket had already been observed. While telling me this, the man looked me up and down in the manner of someone at the Ivy who had found something unpleasant in his hors-d'euvres and appeared to notice that my top button was undone underneath my tie. "Your tie is undone," he pointed out helpfully. "Yea" I again replied wittily.

The man asked me to sit at a strategically placed table and then proceeded to produce an expensive fountain pen from his pocket, he then reached down into the bin and pulled out a piece of balled and scrunched discarded A4 which he the wrapped around the pen before flinging it across the desk at me. "What do you think of that?" he asked. Feeling rather foolish, I unwrapped the pen and pronounced it to be a very nice fountain pen. "Yes I *******" know that," he said, thumping the table and using language that I wouldn't want any young children to copy. "Of course, it's a ******** fountain pen but wouldn't it be better if that pen was put in a lovely silk lined box and presented in a beautifully packaged wrapping and sealed with a ribbon rather than being just tossed across in something I've pulled from the bin?"

Of course, I may have been listening to rather too many Led Zeppelin LP's but I wasn't that brain dead that I couldn't see where this was going. Rather too quickly I opined that it didn't really matter how it was packaged but rather it was only relevant if the pen worked well or not, adding, rather darkly, that "because it looked good did not necessarily mean that it was good". What followed can only be described as a farce as both of us sat for a quarter of an hour, trading insults and discussing manners, appearance and the art of interview techniques. I'm normally fairly placid and certainly, despite some liberal views, have been taught manners; respect and Christian values and I felt nothing but anger at this character assassination that masqueraded as an interview. After a while I realised how ridiculous the scenario had become so, declaring that this was 'getting us nowhere', I rose and staggered onto my stack heel shoes, turned as elegantly as the QE2 in Southampton Docks and left the room. Outside, anger gave way to relief and mirth and, as a final flourish, I returned to Room 312, waited patiently for it to be opened and then enquired politely By the way, did I get the job?"

For the sake of this story and the symmetry of life, I'd love to be able to tell you that the Interviewer is now my new team leader or can be seen on TV running some Government quango. Unfortunately though, that would be a lie, as I have no idea of his whereabouts nor what happened to him, although I have a vaguely unsettling feeling that he may well have become extremely rich running a Merchant Bank in the Thatcher years. For myself, I staggered - not literally this time - through another interview with a leading banana importer in London's West End where I was subjected by a terrifying grilling by two Manchester United and Chelsea fans.

Fortunately, the main brunt of the interview was about if Norman Hunter should replace the incomparable Moore at the heart of the England defence and, having decided he shouldn't, I was able to start a few weeks later as a Data Controller on a large IBM mainframe and the rest, as the insist on saying, is history.

So that, kids, is how I started in computing. I knew nothing about Charles Babbage, a DLBL or a TLBL (ask your computing Granddad!) but I knew a bit about football and let me tell you something, that Bobby Moore was some player!

Ballpark Incident

Published in 1995 the story of an interview that still gives me nightmares!

The incomparable Sir Robert of Moore