Salvage Data

My first formal job out of college presented some REALLY unique challenges. I graduated in 1984 with a Computer Science degree and an Architecture degree. I was hired by a magazine publisher; a very unique magazine publisher. My first task was to fix and/or replace an antiquated computer system containing their entire customer and subscriber list. It was truly ‘antiquated’ as the company went out of business. To compound the problem all their data was stored on 8″ floppy disks in a proprietary format. All I had access to was the menu interface of the native program. As one could imagine this was prior to readily available ‘networking’. And being proprietary it was way above my pay grade to hack the OS it used. Especially, since the company was disbanded with no contact for advice. I came up with a hair-brained idea of ‘faking’ that system into thinking another system was a printer. So, I sprung for an 80286 IBM AT. At the time it WAS the best PC out there. I tweaked a printer cord to send signals when a file was open as a printer ready to be printed to. To my utter amazement, it worked. All the data streamed over to the new file. After several days of massaging the data (eg removing unnecessary carriage returns, replace certain strings, format accordingly) using my fav of all time (ie XyWrite) and importing the flat file into DbaseII (I know. A high flyer) we now had our data saved. And off to the dungeon for that “Cado” computer. Oh, by the way, that Cado computer died, literally, the next day. Talk about cutting it close. But that wasn’t the end, because now I had to create a whole new app for the staff to maintain that data. Easy peezy by comparison.

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