Korea 1982. I ordered my first computer. A Sinclair ZX-81 with 2K of memory, later expanded with the “RAM Pack” to a whopping 16K. It connected to my 13″ black and white TV and I was off and running. I began with building a database in BASIC then moved to assembly language. I could store programs on my portable cassette deck and load them by hitting CLOAD and then play. In under 30 minutes, I could load the entire program and be ready to go.
Time and technology moved forward and it came time to upgrade. Enter the TI-994a. A super fast 16 bit machine with plug in cartridges for the programs and games. The cassette loaded even faster. But it still wasn’t enough. One night watching the Shopping Channel they had the answer. The Commodore Colt. An IBM Compatible PC-XT that had two 360K floppy drives and turbo mode. Life just kept getting better. I upgraded one of the floppies to a 3 1/2″ 720K drive for only $200 and I was off and running. From there, the ultimate. A 1.44k floppy drive. Who would imagine you could put that much information on one disk.
Time to go online
With that XT and two floppies, I started my first adventures to the online world. A 300 baud modem hooked up and a second phone line for the computer and the Bulletin Board was launched. Using Telegard I got my FidoNet address and could message people from around the world. From there it just expanded exponentially. Eventually, it was time to drop the cash for a 286 with a 10Meg hard drive. The parts were mail ordered and lovingly assembled at my kitchen table. There was no turning back.
From there, I started designing ASCII screens for other bulletin boards. The modems continued to upgrade. 1200, 9600, 1.4, where will it end? Then along came AOL and dial up internet. The world at my fingertips right from home, I already had the high speed modem.
Welcome to the world of Web Design
Sitting at work one day, the chief of IT and communications presented me with a task. We needed a website. The server was in place in the server room and the person that was going to set it up quit. He picked me to build and set up the site. Problem one. It was UNIX. I knew nothing about UNIX, but I can read. Task one was to mount the CD Drive to load the operating system. This was a pre-Google world and we actually used print to find information. The quick start guide gave instructions how to mount the drive. It said the procedures were on the OS CD. Task 2 – figure out how to mount the CD so I can read the instructions on how to mount the CD. Catch 22? The answer was to find another UNIX computer to open the CD and read the instructions.
Now, with the CD mounted, Operating system installed, four trips to Barnes & Noble for books on what I’m doing, and my first website was up and running. I proudly presented it to the boss who said “Thanks, and we hired a new guy to take it over.” Such is life in the technology realm.
I continued to delve into the hardware side of things along with teaching myself photo editing. Finally, I decided to go full time into web design and development in 2002. 20 years after buying that Sinclair.
What I learned along the way is that just like those (now) painfully slow machines. Building something for someone else whether it is hardware, software or online presence, It all comes back to what the individual wants, not what I want. I may think a design is horrible, but it might be exactly what the customer wants. Who am I to say what’s good or bad in their eyes.
That’s where many people in this field fall short. They have their preconceived notion of how something should look and fit and just plug in content. That’s not customer service, that’s just being selfish.
Then, once the site is dropped into their cookie cutter template, all support just kind of goes away. Today, as people seek our help because of problems on their existing website, it is almost always due to neglect. There is no proactive approach to customer service.
I believe each customer deserves the same attention to detail as I put into my own site. Customer service. It’s not just a thing of the past. It’s still alive and well.