#eveningthoughts March 07, 2015

Computers and me

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Cray System Illustration Computer History Museum SF USA

My first meeting with computers was at Middle East University in 1974 when my high school in Ankara managed a trip for us to the university. The main idea behind that trip was showing us the kinds of professions. In short from that trip two things still alive in my head. The first one I saw was about a research of waves in a small pool in the lab room, and the second one smashed in my head when a picture of Mona Lisa made out of 0’s and 1’s was giving to me out of line printer in the computer room. Yes, afterwards I began to wonder about computers.

Where did they come from? Did aliens bring them to the world from out of space? Or did they come out from a cemetery with the help of dead men? How they work? What are those buttons doing? How it did print the Mona Lisa? And many other questions in mind I came back to home.

A year later my father decided to change his job so we moved to İstanbul, and I kept studying in a high school in İstanbul. At the last year before graduation our literature teacher gave us a nice homework, that was we should write an essay about any profession we like. While I was thinking about it my dad asked to me what I wanted to study after high school. I replied saying electronic engineering, then second question came after that; why? I told him I was wondering about computers. A week later he took me to his workplace where there was an EDP department. EDP stands for Electronic Data Processing. So I prepared my literature homework over there interviewing all EDP department’s staff.  And the next day after preparing the homework I decided to become a programmer.

-March 9, 2015 İstanbul, Turkey

Since the whole EDP department staff were graduated from Math department of different universities I chosen Math division from all over universities in Turkey to my selection list while taking the exam. After the exam our waiting was ended when the postman brought the result paper. Here! I was going to study Math!

Between 1975 and 1982 we were having hard times here in Turkey. There were lots of killing, especially at universities there was kind of war between left hand siders and right hand siders.. Even my classmate was killed in lavatory too. Therefore time to time schools were closed. In 1978 that war reached the peak point and our university were closed down more than 2 months. As I do not like spend time doing nothing, I decided to apply as an intern to that EDP department of the factory where my dad was working. While learning about computers – mainframe and programming I earned my first money too, it was 1482TL/per month, not bad at all for a student. And the factory; Arçelik which is producing and selling white goods had about 1500 workers then. Later on in 1981 before the graduation I began to work as a programmer at same place.

I first applied to Koç Burroughs though because I was still wondering about computers. I thought that was the place to learn more. I was interviewed by company’s  General Manager Aydın Çubukçu at that time. By the way Arçelik is in the same holding; Koç holding. So he knew that I was related to Arçelik. I guess he saw that I was really interested in IT. However at the end of the interview he decided I should continue at Arçelik as a programmer, me being woman was  the one of the obstacles for Burroughs.

-March 15, 2015 İstanbul, Turkey

So I began working for Arçelik in April 1981.

Now let me draw the picture of our EDP department at that time. We had five rooms; our manager’s, supervisor’s, tape recording room , our room  and mainframe’s room.

At the beginning we were four programmers in the room, so there were four tables and some chairs for us and for visitors. Yes, there were no PCs then and nothing in front of us which is connected to mainframe on our tables, just papers and pencils. We were writing our programs on a special paper so recorders could easily read. In our room we had some drawers too where we had continuous paper folios and manuals saved. There was tea-urn next to one table connected to electric plug. Every morning one of us was making tea there. Arçelik is a factory where white goods such washer and dish washer machines and refrigerators are produced. According  the regulation for about 1500 staff they were offering some pastry in the morning as breakfast, so we were having our breakfast with pastry and tea in the morning. Any way we the four people were serving to whole factory. We were writing programs, compiling and then running and spreading the reports – the printouts. For the spreading part operators were in help too.

Now, just imagine that the warehouse of the factory without any computers needed to know how much of screw they had at that moment. Well they were just keeping some booklets to keep track of stock and they were controlling their booklets with printouts. I will search for how many product a day they were producing then.  It was quite a lot, we were shipping abroad too. I remember Chrysler branded refrigerators packed to be shipped broad.

At the tape recording room there were about 6 people who were recording data and programs on the tapes. In mainframe room we had two operators who were responsible to turn on and off the mainframe.

 All rooms were located at ground floor. Our room was just below the General Manager’s room. When I was working as intern I worked with supervisor and learn a lot about computers. While working I learned about programming, so I learned and tried. I wrote programs about mostly stock control first, then I had a project about quality control. First was the designing process for me. I mostly begin from end – reverse engineering:)- So I first designed the reports heading. To do that I talked to quality control department workers. After deciding what was in need, I designed the reports. Then instead of pcs I designed some forms to collect that information on papers. Then -hmmm.. at that time we did not have databases but files- so designed the file structure too. At the end I ended up to write a bunch of programs..Two for collecting information and writing down on files three for reports and one for maintaining the file. The main purpose was collecting quality control data and then write letters to companies or to our departments from where we get the raw or semi-raw materials and giving information about our quality control result and of course if there were some problems those were in mention too. And as I remember we were going to use envelopes with window on them. So after calculating best place for address part hehe:) I managed to write letters to our producer partners about our quality control results..

May be I should add some more detail. I wrote all programs on paper and gave those papers to recording people. Then I prepared the compiling cards for each at punch machine. When the tapes ready operators placed them on tape unit and called me so I could compile programs with the punched cards. While working with Burroughs 3500 there were no screen at all. It was like an oven 🙂 tapes could be placed like pots on the oven and it had a bunch of buttons on side. There was a card reader connected too. So after putting tapes on the oven to be cooked and punched cards to add some favor pressing some buttons programs were stored on its disk. I don’t remember having the chance to see its disk unit. I worked on it for a small while because we also had the new version of the machine Burroughs 6800.. Well this one was covering the whole room.. And it had two SPO unit. I did not remember what SPO stands for now. ı made a search at Google and find out about it.. Supervisory Printer Output (https://archive.org/stream/bitsavers_burroughsBRefJul77_22831933/5001290_B6800_sysRef_Jul77_djvu.txt )

While working on B6800 operators were placing tapes on the wall tape unit and then after preparing punched cards for compiling and this time using SPO and attached card reader and some buttons I was transferring my programs to be run. I saw its disk unit though..

Here how it was in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNBtjEBYFPk&t=633 It is like 8-10 plates on top of each other but there is some space between them so the disk head can move between..

 -March 23, 2015 Istanbul, Turkey

After working on stock and quality control programs, I also worked on accounting and payroll systems.

I worked on moving project too; I tried to move programs from B3500 to B6800. While compiling programs on new machine – B6800 I faced with many errors. Correcting all -finding the reason and then solution to fix all errors, believe me was not an easy job- I learned a lot more about programming. Then I helped to write programs about the new note – or voucher system. We were using note-voucher instead of banks’ check at that time. And with these bunch of programs I learned about index sequential files and DBII too.

You see I learned pretty much about programming. Oh! I did not say anything about the programming language I was using at that time.. It was Cobol! And it was awesome to see that my programs were working and serving.

After two years of working for Arçelik, I married and moved to New York. I visited Social Security with my bon service in hand. A woman who was looking at that paper said I must better learn good English first. So I began to search the ways of learning the language. I visited Berlitz Language school. they were too expensive for me. After struggling a month or so the high school in our street organized ESL course free for Spanish and Koreans. I attended its classes, but it was not enough for me.

Why not having a master degree in Computer Science? asked to my self! Then I talked to City College of New York’s Computer Science department’s head. I was again lucky that I studied Math & Physics at University of İstanbul. They accepted my grades on all the matching lectures, but still there were bunch of Computer Science lectures left for me to take it to begin study on the master degree. At that point I decided to have the second degree and department head agreed too and I began to study Computer Science at New York City College taking ESL lectures and along major lectures.

As I remember I had a speech homework.It was hard to choose topic first and then it was hard to fill two minutes to talk about that topic in English. My topic was cooking a cake, I gave its receipt and explained how I mixed the ingredients and how I cooked the cake, the whole process of cooking the cake. I was glad to fill that two minutes.

June17, 2015  California, U.S.

I took computer science classes while taking ESL classes to save time and to apply what I learned right away. I still can do mistakes, to correct them I read again after a while. I don’t scare of making mistakes. I believe without a mistake there is no learning. So yes, I am still in learning process both in English and programming languages. I opened ‘My new words‘ section here to share what I am learning.

I remember looking for LEDs, resistances and some circuits and printed circuit board; breadboard to make two digit calculator. Using white breadboard as circuit board I was able managed addition and multiplication. At last I was really getting to understand how 0 – 1s are taking place. The physic I studied at Istanbul was in help at point too.

Meantime I had one personal computer! Texas Instruments.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Instruments_Compact_Computer_40  I found similar photo of it on this link. It has ports to connect to a TV and a tape recorder. We were using tapes and tape recorder as disk. I developed basic accounting software with Basic language. I must remember what was the main frame I used at school. All workstations were connected to main frame in lab. On blank screen green letters again! Like SPO’s of Burroughs. I learned Pascal language and developed some software on that black screen.

July 17, 2015 California, U.S.

I wanted to learn Assembler language, but I had to take some other courses previously.  Another great memory for me to remember was  when I had my first  teaching  experience in English. I did teach  math in Turkish before. I gave some special lessons to some children around especially to our concierge ‘s children.. But in  English?  That  could be only a dream 🙂  that dream came true too!

Our teacher – who was teaching Finite Automata- asked if we want to  explain and teach class  about the topics he would cover.  Some of us raised hands. I did too!  I chose Turing machines.  and that was the point where I learned more about computers.  And of course teaching  and English.  That was really challenging for me. I love to take challenges 🙂  Challenges are changing the life  and your view towards life!  I wish my teachers at University of Istanbul did the same! So May be I had the chance to learn about Babbage Machine then 🙂 Which later on, just yesterday when I visited Computer History Museum at Mountain View I saw Babbage Machine demo in live. Here are the videos I took;

https://goo.gl/photos/V4hkhNT882hZgdQEA https://goo.gl/photos/rnjTG64tG6jAhhvm8 https://goo.gl/photos/ec2n5aEkDFQsbnKV6 https://goo.gl/photos/omt38XdgzLQvMz3M8 https://goo.gl/photos/BmYBGV9wfDMBVMBd6

While studying I also worked at college’s IT room and Ampex Casting company. Ampex had one pc then, I managed to make it work and developed some accounting software on it with basic.

So Turing machine has a mile stone affect on my life too 🙂 everything was going perfect at school.. But not in my.ife.

And the miracle happened! I was pregnant. I think it was at the third month of my pregnancy I caught flu. It was so terrible my doctor did not let me attend my classes. I took a year of absence from school willing to continue later on.

Sweet, cute miracle was born 🙂 hehe:) he is 1,98mt bearded man now. Anyway, things were getting worse everyday in home then, so I did not see any future for myself and for my child and taking my child I moved back to Turkey next to my family. Because I could not see how I can raise my child alone in NYC and next to my family I had chance to get help.

October 23, 2015 California, US

After a few months we moved back to Istanbul I began working. That time I was working as EDP chief at ABB Esaş transformer factory(1989-1991). Factory can be considered as small business with about 400 workers in total. However, the products produced and manufactured were and still are serving the country. I started to work for them just at the time when ABB signed the contract. There were again Burroughs main frame which I worked on it, and my department was small again, with one secretary and one operator.

I mostly developed software for the accounting department in Cobol again. I saw that the Burroughs machine had some package called ODESY Online data entry system. I had been asked to develop accounting software package with it. I learned by myself reading some of manuals. It was great experience for me manage to develop, and surely I had some help from my old friends too. I was reporting to Controlling department as like the accounting chief too. Controlling department after getting numbers/data from accounting had to prepare a detailed loss/profit table to ABB headquarters. So, I designed the software package considering that loss/profit table. Then on Symphony (a ready worksheet software before Microsoft’s Excel) I prepared that report in detail as much as possible containing company’s all profit centers.

Well, here it was internet!! We connected to a bank to keep track of company’s bank records. Bank brought us one of their computer and connected to internet. Yes, my curiosity with internet began at that time. I learned that one Professor from Bogazici University was delivering a course about it. Of course I took it, I learned about ARPA then.

That was the time for pcs then. We had a small pc network – Novell network – at controlling department.  I had been asked to move some of cost accounting software from mainframe to that pc network 🙂 Yes, the department head had no knowledge about computers and coding. It was DBIII times, I took some courses and began developing, but first analyzing old software and talking to users. I arranged some meetings to learn how they were using all and if they were happy and if there were changes in regulations. The old software were developed in 1978 and we were at the end of 80’s. After all, I figured out that there were many changes on users needs. Since DBVI was just released, I began developing on DBVI. However, department head asked to stop that analyzing process and develop same software for pcs. He thought this way we could save time to reach the deadline which was giving by headquarters to himself. While in the process I became sick and had giving three days off by company doctor, pressure was higher. I needed to go to hospital to prove that I was sick, and the hospital’s doctor gave one week off to rest after examining me. Meantime I had another job offer. After getting well and returning back to work I reconsidered that new job and decided to move to new.

There was only one pc at that company I was newly working. On Symphony they were keeping sales records. The company name was Bonder Kimya and it was the branch of Chemetal in Turkey. This time I was working as IT responsible of whole IT department and was directly reporting to our German general manager. In a year, I was able to build token-ring network with 5 pcs, implementing one local software package for accounting, stock and for sales. All users had training accordingly. I was able to replace that big accounting notebooks with the new computer system..

 March 8, 2016 California, US

The project of setting up computer systems and implementing local software was done as scheduled. By that time I had a job offer from newly founded company among Beymen Holding(1992). Again there were only one pc in the company called Ascott Konfeksiyon Sanayi A.S (July 01, 1992). By the September 1992 company IT infrastructure and all user training had to be finished, since first franchised shop was going to open by 4 of September, 1992.

There were also handheld project to be finish by the same time. I was responsible of both projects. Company decided to work with Siemens, since we were in the same building. We bought pcs and a server from Siemens and also 20 Intermec handhelds.

I am glad that I was able to manage finish both project on time. You can see the progress on IT infrastructure from this pdf file; http://oyasanli.com/Ascott_progress.pdf We installed Novell Server in IT room.

I had no idea about coding the handhelds, but working closely with Porcan A.S I learned some. And I saw that if you are aware of the programming logic programming language has not so much affect on learning the new.

This handheld project was the first one which used while selling products and sent sales data over its modem via phone line to headquarters around 1992 in Turkey. Some Turkish IT magazines made news about the project. Here is one of them; http://oyasanli.com/images/ascottotvt.jpg 

I always like to learn new, especially if it is going to be useful for people and companies.

Oh! I did not mention what Ascott Konfeksiyon was doing. By the way here is an example of the box they were using to carry out their goods; Cotton Bar box. Yes, the brand name and shops name were Cotton Bar. Cotton Bar shops were selling man shirts; socks, ties, boxers, t-shirts, belts and so on. But not suits nor pants. Here is some example of their products; Cotton Bar tie. Ascott Konfeksiyon was outsourcing the production of the products. So we were working with many companies that was able to sew shirts and ties. Ascott Konfeksiyon was providing the fabrics and sewing material to them. So our purchasing department was buying the fabric for ties and shirts. While implementing local software one of our goal was keep track of our materials at outsourced companies. Even though local software was not capable of doing that I managed it using many unused parameters. So by the September 1992 we were approximately – not 100%- able to keep track all of our fabrics and goods.

Ascott Konfeksiyon had an open office, so everyone of us knew what was going on in the company. I worked such an environment first time, and I found it useful for workers and the company.

At the end of the four years even at some point we reached 50 shops, Ascott Konfeksiyon had total of 35 franchised shops all over Turkey. I was able to collect all sales data by the end of the day via phone lines. We were able to do many analysis with that data. However most of the time I was having difficulties to do such analysis since the local software did not built for.. Around 1993 in Turkey we met Windows 1.1 operating system. I installed my machine to test. To remind you all; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_1.0  Later on Microsoft Access was on sale in Turkey. We bought one copy to try it. Hehe:) I was able to do all analysis then! I was transferring sales data to Access DB and I was able to do what we needed then.

One day, I heard marketing department talking about buying new fabric for shirts. They were talking to buy most in white color. After hearing that I wondered if men are really wearing white shirts more? Having all data in hand and Access and since the design of the barcode on shirts were included color code I was able to find my answer. Men in Turkey prefer Blue first, then yellow and then white.. I was surprised by the result. When I showed the result to marketing manager their buying scenario totally changed. That season we had lots of types of blues..

With that experience I have learned that our instincts or biases are not always true.

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