As I reported before, many of my younger colleagues are still astonished when I answer that perennial question 'How did you get into computing?'. How can I justify my place in the hierarchy of computing to a neatly suited university graduate, newly armed with a clutch of course exams, when I am the product of a poor East End secondary education and have barely a Grade 4 C.S.E. in Art to my name? The truth is that getting into the wacky world of computing in the '70's was more a case of being in the right place at the right time. Nobody worried about any previous computing experience because, unless you were a member of Babbage's family, there was no experience to be had. All that was required was that your prospective employer liked you - although, as I frequently seemed to discover, this was not always an easy task!

Still facing the prospect of spending the rest of my life in High Street banking following a disastrous interview for a sales marketing position and unsure of what else to do with my life, I decided that I should at least try for a career in one of the larger banks. Perhaps one that wouldn't invest in despotic foreign regimes or companies that actively pollute the environment, I thought. Accordingly, I applied for a position with a just such an institution and, as was always the case in those days pre-CV days, I was granted an interview.

The weekend before that, however, there was an event of even greater significance. The free Pink Floyd concert to be given in Hyde Park during a particularly warm spell of weather had been eagerly anticipated since it's announcement in January. There were reputedly 100,000 people attending that gig and the vibes and ambiance must have been purely transcendental, man, because the main thing I remember was falling asleep during the Third Ear Band's set and waking some hours later to the sound of 'Set the controls for the heart of the Sun' . As I wore no protection from the sun and had rolled onto my side during my sleep I awoke to find that a half of my face was extremely sore and a shade of pink that any self respecting lobster would have been proud of.

In retrospect, I must have looked a sight at the interview in my beige suit with purple matching shirt and tie and half a pink, now peeling, face. The Manager spent a couple of minutes in pleasant preamble but seemed unable to take his eyes off my motley visage. Eventually, perhaps mindful of my frightening his customers with my strange appearance, he leaned across his desk in what I felt was a distinctly unfriendly manner, and asked "What exactly is the matter with your face?". Of course, I told him in that amused way that you do when you feel you've been slightly foolish but that no real harm had been done, but I realised that I'd said the wrong thing as his faced turned thunderous. "Do you think that lying about in fields listening to pop music is a suitable pastime for someone with his sights set on a career in banking?". Well, as Frankie Howard once had it, my flabber had never been so ghasted. Being young and naive, I tried to redeem the situation by saying that I felt I still had something to offer the world of commerce but I was cut short as he launched into a tirade along the lines of how the young had no respect for the ideals of business. Finally, he fixed me with a withering stare and asked me what my ambition in life was. "To be happy", I replied with what I felt was the wit and wisdom of a young Oscar Wilde. Once again, his face clouded; "When I ask a prospective employee that question I expect him to tell me his ambition is to sit where I am now". "Why?", I retorted, "Are you happy?".

The interview concluded with the age old promise of 'we'll been in contact' but I knew that the giddy world of finance was something that I would not be able to tackle. I needed a career more in tune with my maverick life style - not to mention my brown silk kipper ties, stack heeled shoes and preposterous mid-seventies First Division footballers haircut. Of course, it soon became apparent that there was only one such option. A friend of mine was already employed in just such a position. He mentioned to his Manager that I was looking for a job, an interview was arranged and, at last, I landed on my feet. A job where everyone had open necked shirts and wore jeans. A place where you worked unsupervised - where not even your Manager knew the combination to allow him access to your inner sanctum. A job where those who wished to speak to you were forced to hammer on the soundproof glass and mouth obscenities while you pointedly pretended not to see them. Yes, the magical world of the night shift Computer Operator beckoned. And therein lies another tale....

The Bright Side of the Sun

First published in 1995. The continuing tale of how I got into Computing.

In this part, the story of how a part time hippie meets the world of Finance.

Floyd Poster