Category Archives: HP

AM San Francisco

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

I was presented with an opportunity to work for Hewlett-Packard in the San Francisco Bay area in the Summer of 1987. This was sort of a dream come true, but I also had to weigh it against living in such a beautiful place as Steamboat Springs, CO. But as was the norm for me I let the Adventure Continue, so California here I come. This first post is only about the first few weeks in California culminating with an appearance on the TV Show “AM San Francisco”. But first I had to get orientated with HP and figure out how to bring my family out. I went to the Bay Area first to start work and find a place for us to live. I was hired as a Systems Engineer for the Analytical Division of HP headquartered in Palo Alto but my home office would be the Santa Clara HP Sales Office. This division of HP was responsible for all of the instrumentation and computer applications associated with running a scientific laboratory. My Initial focus would be on the HP1000 LABSAM and LAS applications that basically provided automation and management for a laboratory. Our customers were typically using our HP GCs, LCs and Mass Spectrometers to process a large volume of samples.

It just so happened that I had joined this division just a few days before the entire workforce was to gather at a resort in the San Juan Islands for a big corporate retreat. I mean I started work on Monday and was given a travel itinerary for that Thursday. I was so green, I had no idea where the San Juan Islands were, sounded to me like a place in Central America. But my flight took me to Seattle and the land transit arrangements which included a ferry took me to Orcas Island of the San Juan Islands of the state of Washington. This was fairly cool for a young computer guy who had just come out of the mountains of Colorado. And topping it off, HP issued each of us an HP 110 laptop with a printer and floppy disk drive. The retreat was then mostly focused on teaching us how we would utilize this equipment.

HP110 Computer W/Printer & Disk
HP110 Computer W/Printer & Disk

What I really think was happening was that HP had a warehouse full of these computers and peripherals that they needed to unload since nobody was buying them. But it was still a really cool surprise and this resort on Orcas Island was very nice.

The following week back in the Bay Area I went through the HP Orientation. I remember during the wine tasting training I felt my first earthquake which would prove to be a significant aspect for living in California. I found a house to rent in Fremont and I headed back to Steamboat to move my family to California. I guess our many moves had prepared us for the chaos that surrounds a move across the country. But this was our first where the company took care of all the expenses. We just had to drive to San Fran in our VW Vanagon.

Sometime during all of this Connie came across an opportunity to enter a contest for a Clairol Makeover that would take place on the AM San Francisco TV Show the week that we would arrive. I think our real motivation for entering was for the new clothing that we would get to keep. Well of course we were selected because of my graying hair which was exactly what was going to sell Clairol’s new hair color product for men. So the schedule called for us to go into San Francisco the day before the show to receive the clothing and the hair makeover.

Prepping Hair for the Show

We would then come back the next morning to be on the show. What we did not know until the evening before the show was that our daughter Sidney had been exposed to Hepatitis at his daycare just before we left Steamboat and we were not alerted because we had just left town. Well sure enough we were not feeling very good but we were kind of committed to pull off this TV appearance. So we sucked it up and participated even though we were coming down with Hepatitis. Keep that in mind as you watch the video of the Show.

TV Clip of the Clairol Makeover on AM San Francisco

In the 1970s and 1980s, KGO-TV produced weekday talk/variety shows in the 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. timeslot following Good Morning AmericaA.M. San Francisco ran from 1975 to 1987/1988


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Start a Family in Steamboat Springs

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

While in Palisade, CO, working for Union Oil, we bought our first house and also decided to start a family. Unfortunately we went through a couple of very painful miscarriages, but life was good. We loved our little house on the Colorado river. Palisade was an adorable little town, but up popped an opportunity to return to our beloved Steamboat. According to a Yampa Indian legend, you will return to the Yampa Valley three times, so it was meant to be. We did hold on to our house in Palisade for many years thinking that we might someday return.

I moved back to Steamboat Springs in early 1984 taking a job as an IT Tech for ACZ, Inc. I was on my own for a while living in John Skubitz’s rental off the back of his house. Connie stayed back in Palisade for while to wrap things up and graduate from Mesa College, now known as Colorado Mesa University. After a few weeks at the new job, my boss the IT Director was laid off, and I inherited the job as the IT Director. I never really wanted to find out about the politics behind that. ACZ was located in a 3 story building in the center of downtown Steamboat where we occupied the second and third floors with our water lab in the basement. The company was prospering with some lucrative mine engineering consulting projects, life was good.

First Rental Apartment

We soon found a great rental opportunity between the golf course and the ski mountain. Our landlord lived in the front and we had a fairly unique apartment off the back. At this time we had no way of knowing that on March 19th our son, Dylan, was born in Korea. Connie happened upon a meeting about foreign adoptions which led us down the path for adoption working with an agency out of Denver known as Friends of Children of Various Nations, FCVN. We made a number of trips to Denver for preparatory training sessions which culminated with a home visit in Steamboat from our case worker.

At the end of the home visit our case worker showed us a photo of our new son. That photo was all that we had for the 3-4 months that we waited for word that he would be arriving in the US. We had about 24 hours notice that our son would be arriving at Stapleton International Airport in Denver on November 2nd. I don’t think you can be more nervous, you are about to become instant parents by picking up your son at the airport.

Birth at Stapleton International Airport – GOTCHA Day
Stopping for McDonalds on the way back to Steamboat

We have this memory of eating a meal at the McDonalds in Frisco, CO on the way down to Denver. On the way back we ate at the same McDonalds with our 7 month old son. Needless to say, Life changed.

Coco & Rusty were excited to have Dylan in our family.

ACZ gave me the opportunity to build my own IT Department supporting the engineering side of the company as well as the lab side. We had a significant amount of Hewlett-Packard computers and lab instrumentation as the micro-computer was just entering the commercial scene. This IT shop soon became the Smith Brothers as Tim Smith (not related) became a full time IT Tech. ACZ was ready to expand so they jumped on an opportunity to be the anchor tenant at a new office complex on Pine Grove Road. With this location we were able to expand our lab into a regional water and soils testing facility along with expanding our engineering operation. ACZ was also a big family led by founder Alan Czarnowsky and Eldon Strid, a family of mining and lab professionals living in paradise.

ACZ did have a unique marketing strategy which involved an annual costume party for the purpose of producing a photo of all employees that would be used for their Christmas Card. The employee only party started around noon on a friday in autumn. After changing into costumes the spirits began to flow with the goal of taking the company photo. The party progressed to dinner and continued into the night until all had dropped.

Those were the best of times. Dylan was such a joyful child to raise and hangout with so it wasn’t long before we were talking about trying the pregnancy route again to add to our family. We also moved to another great log home high on a hillside between the ski mountain and town. We traded in our VW Jetta for the new water cooled VW Vanagon which opened up better options for exploring the west with Dylan.

Steamboat Springs is a great ski town but it is an even better summer town, or at least it was 30+ years ago. Situated in the Yampa Valley surrounded by various National Forests, it was truly an adventurers paradise.

4th of July Parade

My wilderness adventures were impacted by family but I did learn to fish and telemark ski. I even put together a few telemark backpacking ski trips.

One of the best trips was with my friend John Fooks over to the Chinese Wall just down from the Devil’s Causeway.

ACZ was always getting involved in recreation opportunities. I still remember how magical it was to look up at the ski mountain when playing softball, realizing how fortunate I was to work and play in such a beautiful place.

We were cautiously optimistic when Connie got pregnant with a Summer of 86 due date. All progressed as expected so no worries about the pregnancy probably because we were happily overwhelmed with raising Dylan.

Steamboat Baby

Pregnancy did go well and Steamboat’s beautiful summer helped with Connie’s comfort.

However, I was the basket case trying to make sure all would be ready for a new baby. The hospital had the Grand Kids Child Care Center attached to it so we were able to leave Dylan there while Connie went through the birth of our daughter, Sidney.

Dylan was able to meet his new sister that afternoon.

I had settled into a my IT career helping ACZ earn a lot of money with our computer capabilities. We provided various types of Environmental Impact Reports for permitting and reclamation but the most interesting were the actual multi-year mine plans. We relied on the HP-1000 mini computer for the money making engineering work, and I had become fairly competent on that computer. This gave me a strong relationship with our HP rep, Allan Grimes, who posed the following question to me in the Spring of 1987. “Greg, have you ever considered coming into the HP fold?“. Well, no I had not, but what a great opportunity in the history of computing to have such an opportunity. The Adventure Continued.

This is a point in time that was significant for understanding my passion. My post about Why I Backpack sheds more light on this.


Next Post: AM San Francisco

Scientific Frontiers

Historical Posts representing Adventure Continues: Second Quarter

I was young and adventurous, which translates to “Anything is Possible”. I was 26, I had sped through a couple of real jobs, so I had life figured out. The microcomputer revolution was beginning and I was going to be a part of it.

The Gateway to Steamboat – Rabbit Ears Pass

The rationale of doing this from Steamboat Springs was a bit skewed economically, but in line with my passion.

Lester Smith at Trappers Lake

My father helped me move back to Colorado which offered us a bonding opportunity. Taking him backpacking to Trappers Lake in the White River National Forest was a highlight for us. Now settled in Steamboat I had to figure out how you do start your own business. There was no roadmap for starting up a computer store in 1980. There were a few ComputerLands that worked in large metropolitan areas and there were Radio Shacks for the hobbyists, but how was I going to make this happen? I had written a software program on my Apple that calculated and tried to manage Coal Testing Data. However, the managing part was a challenge without a random access storage device. Floppy Disks or even hard disks had not come to the Apple II yet. So I fell back on my original entry into computers and chose the HP 85 desktop computer with a somewhat random accessible high speed tape drive. This was the best option at the time and I totally immersed myself into programming as winter set in. My college buddy Jeff (as referenced in previous post) moved in with us and we set out to launch our computer store. This part of the adventure would hopefully generate revenue to live on but probably more important it connected us to the microcomputer revolution that was just taking off. We came up with the name “Scientific Frontiers” for our company and my sister helped us incorporate. We found space to rent for a store in Steamboat Square above the popular Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant. We bought the cheapest best looking chairs and tables we could find, made some signs and started learning how to acquire inventory. Hewlett Packard was extremely helpful and we focused on Commodore Computers for our core offering and more affordable Atari computers to tap into the entertainment appeal of these new computers. The local newspaper reporter, Ross Dolan, wrote up a nice article to help us launch Scientific Frontier’s Grand Opening on January 30, 1981.

Surprisingly we did survive for a while by selling HP devices to the various engineers in the area. We sold Atari computers to the affluent Steamboaters wanting to play a better version of Space Invaders and the Commodore PET to the new aspiring programmers. However, our real money maker was the Commodore 8032 computer that we sold to most every small business in town. The Commodore offered a dual floppy disk drive that allowed for the software to reside on one side and data on the other. BPI Business Software was our flagship solution along with VisiCalc on the Commodore.

Jeff was our Business Software Expert

I provided the hardware support which was mostly about winging it to keep these early devices working.

It was a fascinating time to be immersed into the birth of microcomputers while living the good life in Steamboat Springs. This is what your 20’s should be all about. Just follow your dreams because there is no failure at this time of your life. Connie also got to follow her passion by getting the opportunity to run the Steamboat Repertory Theatre. So talk about about a strange group of Steamboat friends: Thespians and Geeks.

Snow Day

We would typically have some of the actors stay with us at our Logan Street rental. This is also when I learned to Cross Country Ski since I rarely had enough money to downhill. Although, if we did get a major dump of snow, Scientific Frontiers would be closed so Jeff and I could go skiing. Summers were the best since it was mostly just the locals enjoying their mountain paradise. We did have ballon rodeos and some strange promotions such as a professional boxing matches and vintage car races to help promote Steamboat, but for the most part it was our town. The Yampa River Raft Race was about floating down the river consuming mass quantities of beer, unfortunately this race was cancelled a few years later due to excessive trash. The Winter Carnival was and still is a major event to get the locals through the toughest part of winter. Nothing better than watching the lighted man ski down Howelsen Hill. This was also when I started dabbling with backpacking. I think I had a frame pack and equipment capable of surviving in the summer temps, but I did discover the awesomeness of the wilderness around Steamboat.

Scientific Frontiers was always a financial struggle but it lasted into 1983. The Steamboat Pilot (newspaper) Office Supply Store decided to get into the microcomputer game and they had far more clout than we did, so they got the Apple franchise and later the IBM PC so the writing was on the wall for our demise. But what a great run it was. Our HP rep alerted me to a job opportunity at Union’s Oil Shale operation in Parachute Creek which turned out to be my next Adventure.


The next Post: Union Oil Parachute Creek Colorado

First Encounters with Internet Technology

The following post is my essay I submitted for peer review for my Coursera course, Internet History, Technology, and Security by Charles Severance. The question to be answered: Write an essay about how you first encountered the Internet or an earlier networking technology. Describe the technologies you were using, some of the activities you did “on line”, and tell us how having a new form of communication changed the way you think about the world.

The first two weeks of the course have been an enjoyable stroll down technology memory lane. If you are interested I believe you can still get in the course. Here is my essay:

I was a young chemist sparked by the discovery of computer programming at the end of my college career and then ignited with the purchase of an Apple II computer in 1979. My obsession with this new computational freedom motivated me to open my own computer store with a college buddy in 1980.

Scientific Frontiers Grand Opening 1981

Computer Store Looks to Future

I was programing on an HP 85 and we sold mostly CP/M based computers. Commodore emerged as our main microcomputer product line. A product that we tried to sell which I totally believed in was the “The Source”, it may have been the first online consumer service. Readers Digest believed in this enough to pay 6 million for the service in 1980. It was touted as a self-help service with a Google type dream search of that time. Access to the UPI newswire and conceptually encyclopedia type information had me believing it would change the world. However, technology was based on 300 or maybe 1200 baud acoustic modems with very few local call options. The cost per line of knowledge never built an acceptable ROI, but I do believe we saw the future. I still have one of the coffee mugs that we gave away for promotion.Source Mug

During the same period of time when I owned the computer store I travelled to Las Vegas to attend “Comdex”, pretty sure it was the fall of 1981. I was mostly interested in the battle lines that were forming between Apple and this new IBM PC. But at that show I remember checking out the Xerox Star workstation, famous for presenting the concept of the Graphical User Interface. I was impressed but did not get it. I remember scoffing at the idea of linking your hand via a mouse to activity on the computer screen. Oh well, I was not as imaginative as the Steve Jobs who did see the potential.

After the computer store and a fling with the Oil Shale boom and bust, my career moved to Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Valley, in 1987. I was in heaven, driving through the bay area at that time was like perusing a live PC Magazine. By then I believed in Windows and actually did a lot with HP’s New Wave interface. The Bay area was exciting up until the earthquake in 1989. That combined with the effect of California’s Proposition 13 on public school funding caused me to request that HP move my young family to Cincinnati in 1990. I was a systems engineer supporting the LIMS and LAS market segment, that is Laboratory Information and Instrumentation Management which matched well with my chemistry background. My early viewpoint of the “Internet” was shaped by how great the open access to DOS and Windows apps via the BBS services had become. Do you remember the “Wildcat BBS” software that was the engine for most of those services?

Access to the BBS services in the early 90’s was exploding into viable business opportunities. I used to maintain a “Best of the BBS Apps” floppy disk where I would store the coolest PC tools and screen savers of the day. I would always be asked by my customers for the latest copy of that diskette. The Hayes Smartmodem was reliable, affordable and fast enough to open the door for the geeks of the day to explore the potential of this new world of information. This reminds me of the second technology opportunity that “I did not get”. It was probably late 1992 when a co-worker of mine in Cincinnati was involved with a BBS out of Dayton, OH. He asked me one day if I would be interested in an opportunity to link his BBS to ARPANET a connection he had via a friend at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There was some cost involved and as I remember access was limited to a small number of users, but my question was more about what value ARPANET would provide. I could envision the potential of public access to what the academic community was playing with and open source collaboration seemed to be alive and well. I didn’t see how a path through ARPANET was going to help. But it wasn’t about ARPANET it was about seeing the potential of what soon became the World Wide Web, WWW. We were actually talking about developments taking place in this arena since we were playing with the early concept of HTML and the MOSAIC project in our X-Terminal environment.

It is fun to look back and second guess. There were lots of winners and losers. Remember Ashton-Tate’s dBASE or VisiCalc? I never thought Microsoft would amount to anything and with respect to the Internet they really didn’t. I remember how brilliant I thought Bill Gates approach was to the Internet in wanting to carve out a cost per transaction. Trouble is he never could gain control of the connection. Oh well, it was fun writing this assignment for my Coursera course “Internet History, Technology, and Security” and I am definitely interested in how this peer review grading is going to work.

Hewlett-Packard Could Still be Great

I was skeptical about HP trying to break into the mobile computing game last summer with WebOS and the TouchPad but I was also pulling for them. They had a chance to be great and they sold out. Now they procrastinate about what should be their next step with WebOS and their PC business. So how close were they? With a real leader they would have been real close. I do believe they were on to something with a line of products that blended the traditional PC which they manufacture with a serious mobile OS strategy. Sure they needed to work out the kinks but the idea was solid. They needed to invest in an app distribution Cloud strategy which would have been challenging but the roadmap was right there in front of them.

Will Hewlett-Packard find the will to be great again or will they just fade away as one of the once great technology companies. This can be asked about a few other the once great technology companies; Microsoft, IBM or Dell who still have a chance, unlike the many others who no longer exist. But it is the leadership component that answers this question and leaders aren’t hired they emerge. Come on HP, you are not dead yet, you can do it, let someone lead you to greatness again.

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