It’s relatively early in the morning, and my sleep-addled brain is just starting to absorb the caffeine from the large Royal Blend. I was thinking as I rode up the elevator, about various things, and for some reason my mind wandered onto how much has changed in 20 years… What was I doing, what was I about, where was I going on 18 March 1989?
Well, on 18 March 1989 I was a 23-year-old Lieutenant in the Canadian Forces, and had been so for a year. I was in the air force communications branch, posted just over a year before here to Ottawa where I worked on the Base Automatic Data Processing project as the officer in charge of system software (which is a fancy way of saying I was effectively head system administrator for the project), having just been elevated to that position when the previous officer in charge of that little bit of the project was posted out. I was also life cycle manager for the Base Commanders Microcomputer System, which meant I had a budget of about $5 million to look after each year.
Yes, you read that correctly. 23 years old, five million 1989 dollars to look after. My military friends won’t consider that weird, but if you’ve only been civilian, you may find that surprising. That gave me a certain amount of power that could be amusing at times. I certainly had vendor sales people at my beck and call.
I didn’t have any staff yet, and wouldn’t for a short while. However, I was, from time to time, sent to work with a Warrant Officer whose name escapes me now (sorry). He was about as old as my mother (which, oddly enough is the same age I am now) so to my 23-year-old eyes, seemed to be pretty much ancient and wisened. He was very good at herding Lieutenants and making sure we were on the straight and narrow, so I always appreciated working with him, even though technically, he worked for me. The military would send me on a tour of Alberta and Saskatchewan (woohoo! multiple links there) in late March 1989, and in March I’d be prepping for an upcoming trip to Borden (double woohoo!) for the ADP Security Advisor course. It would be the first time in my career (6 years at that point) that I had visited Borden. That 6 years of no Borden was considered by many to be quite an achievement.
I had not yet met the current official and permanent Squidette. In fact, the one regular female visitor to our house, referred to us as the three bears (even if my room mates called me Squid). If you’d asked me then, I would have said that I never expected to get married.
I shared a house with two other Lieutenants in the east end near what is now Gloucester Town Centre. Ours was the local party spot, and we often had social gatherings – sometimes subdued, sometimes noisy. Financially, I made less money than a Corporal – which is why I shared a house. Collectively, the three of us lived pretty well.
In early 1989, I didn’t own a car, and dutifully took the bus to work every day. Of course, I lived along a major bus route and could reliably take the bus every day, unlike now. I never felt lacking for not having a car back then… that’s strange to think about as I would feel kind of hobbled or naked without one now.
There were no wars in Iraq, and only the background noise in the middle-East. Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister, although people were getting a decent hate-on for the guy. He was talking about bringing in a Goods and Services Tax to help balance the budget and reduce debt. This was a move I wholeheartedly supported and still do.
Cooking food was always an adventure. Stu pretty much had breakfasts covered with a dish he referred to as “dead babies”. It was some kind of egg-cake… like baked French toast batter. It was pretty good, although I’m sure it wasn’t really called dead babies. Stu was also our master of desserts. Ray had us covered for homemade baked beans. He was from eastern Ontario and could easily call up and ask his mother for some recipes and advice. Actually, we all used to call his mother occasionally for advice. Me, I covered lasagna and chili. We all used to BBQ a lot, even in the winter (out in the garage with both doors open.
The woman who lived next door used to babysit a number of kids, so the smile each day (even in March) was to come home and walk out back. There, one of the little girls would come to the fence and ask “Monsieur, as-tu vu le petit lapin la?” They also raised rabbits next door. The combination of the little girl and the bunnies was syrupy-sweet enough to kill diabetics at 50 yards. They also had a big white goose next door. One of the more rambunctious little boys used to chase the goose around, and generally play roughly with it. About this time in 1989 the goose had had enough. One day, Stu and I were watching from the upstairs window, having a smoke as I recall… the kid could see us but that never stopped him. He was chasing the goose around. The goose stopped and turned and you could see the light come on in it’s little evolved-dinosaur brain. “Yes,” it thought, “I am bigger than this kid, I don’t have to take this shit.” and started chasing the kid around the yard nipping at his butt. There are few times I have ever wished I had a video camera, but that was one.
In early 1989 I would successfully crash an AT&T 3B2 multi-level secure UNIX machine, that the miltitary had brought in for evaluation, using nefarious means. Little did I realize at the time, but this act would pretty much cement my career in IT security.
I ran a Fidonet BBS in net 163. In retrospect, this was not as fun as it seemed to be at the time. This was before widespread internet access (I wouldn’t have internet access outside of work for another couple years, and even at work it wasn’t like it is now because there wasn’t really an “internet” in 1989). With Fidonet, I could send emails around the world, though, and it gave the ability to tap into the global intellect… such as it was on Fidonet. I was running on a 2400 baud modem for which I had paid nearly $500. Wow. I still have that modem in my living room, I think (maybe the one I have is its replacement). It’s solid aluminum case could probably stop bullets and it’s about half the size of a patio stone.
The top song for 18 March 1989 was Debbie Gibson’s “Lost in your eyes”. Yeah, I remember that one (cough). Although in the next two weeks, the Bangles would top the charts with “Eternal Flame” and Roxette with “The Look” – two of my favourite songs, and I still like to hear them.
In a spare moment, think about where you were 20 years ago… What were you doing? Where did you think you were going? Did you get there? How are things different now? It will be a bit of a distraction from this dreary, damp day.