This is a story of how to get a free trip worth thousands of dollars. It involves initial straight out pain and agony that transmutes eventually to… free travel to the USA.
When I was in my 20’s I was living with a man and together we had few limits — I will call him Luke.
Anyway Luke and I were always interested in pushing the boundaries of what was possible.
This is what I wrote about how I felt at the time.
To live with my partner is to live with my best friend, not only my friend but also my lover and teacher. He is the clown in my life, the brainteaser.
He stretches my limits and holds me close when the limits seem too daunting.
I am able to do what ever takes my attention when he is around, be it pulling faces in the mirror, singing at the piano, trading the share market or having a bath in the goldfish pond. We impose few limits.
When we find a limit, after a little insecurity, a few tears and laughs, we gently remind each other that limits are the death of our fun time together, so we push the limits until they go.
Being with him is so much fun that it seems impossible to imagine life with out such a loving companion.
We are each other’s teacher, lover, muso, Macintosh freak, sexual dynamo, or what ever. Label a label and we can be it together, then, change the label and try that!
One thing that I have learned, the more I let him be, the more freedom I have to be me.
When we are apart we have the practice and confidence to be ourselves around others, because we have already been bathed in each other’s acceptance.
Learning this together has been frightening, fun and always exciting.
How could I ever get bored with him when he is always changing? Just when I think I know him, he finds another skill, another way of doing something, another view of planet earth. My inspiration is no longer stifled and I also find new and better ways to surprise myself — and of course — him.
This mutual acceptance inspires us both to look at the world differently and constantly search for new and better ways of behaving and having fun.
This story is about our lack of limits regarding creating a new career in the computer business and thus getting the free trip.
We both decided that we would like a new challenge so after a great deal of discussion, many glasses of wine and some laughter we decided to start a computer software company that specialized in computer security.
I think we registered it as DATACOMP SECURITY SERVICES at least from my recall. This was a serious business that suited Luke’s intellect but not necessarily our sense of fun.
We purchased an expensive IBM clone computer and decided to learn DOS. We set it up in our spare bedroom on a table and we would go into that room and learn how to use it. It was big, bulky and serious. A large hard disc and a screen and a clunky keyboard.
For all the people who don’t remember DOS it is a computer language where every single thing that you type has to be absolutely correct. Not a full stop or a space wrong or the whole thing wouldn’t work.
For example to open the word processing program we would have to type;
Then press ENTER.
…and don’t forget the :\> in the whole shebang!
Another easy example:
When you want to print on a Laser Printer 2 on your network.
C:\>net use lpt2 \\pserver\laser1 /persistent:yes,
and then press ENTER.
We both started to learn DOS and it was excruciating. We would get so frustrated that we would actually cry real tears.
I remember the conversation when we decided to leave a box of tissues by the computer. It was a practical conversation about what was required if we were to succeed and still be able to see the manuals and screen while we were learning.
We didn’t give our frustration much attention we would simply sit there and cry, dab our eyes with the tissues and blow our noses.
We had no formal training in computers and no help from teachers let alone Google. Google was not to be invented for at least fifteen years later.
It was such a stretch — the pain of it was like purposely using a pair of pliers to slowly… and with great conviction….pull out our own finger-nails, one by one…
It felt like an excruciating type of self-torture that was not to be ceased until the goal was reached.
You people who have never lived without Google simply can’t understand that at that time you had to get in your car and during opening hours — which was mainly work hours — go into to the library or a bookshop to get the books. To make it even harder back then shops and libaries didn’t open after hours very much.
Sometimes I would go to a library or bookshop and have to order the book and it would take a couple of weeks or a month or two to arrive. This is the way it was then.
Many of the computer tomes at the time were written by geeks not educators so they were really difficult to decipher and almost impossible to understand. All at once we were learning geek language, DOS and then finally the actual language we were going to program in such as “C” or “C++” etc.
I never did get to the programming.
The library had old computer information therefore we finally found out that we had to go to universities and buy the very latest text books.
We actually went to every university bookshop in Perth at the time that had computer studies. We bought all of the books for the courses we needed to know. I remember having three text books on System Analysis and Design. By the time I had read them all I knew what to do.
It was expensive and then we had to actually allocate the time and brain space to read them with some sort of understanding.
We read and discussed them ad infinitum. In the bath, when drinking beer on a late Sunday afternoon, at the beach and we read and read until they started to make sense and slowly our brains became computer savvy.
Digger ever wanting to join in. He would study and then demonstrate different DOS commands.
Luke focused on the programming side and I focused on the design side. I read huge books about systems analysis and design while he did the nit picking work of programming.
The whole time we were learning we were also each others teacher and student. We were relentless and used a kind type of “tough love” to gently and lovingly “bully” each other to keep going.
Neither of us had the time to attend the university courses. It is amazing how quickly you can learn when you don’t have lectures, assignments and exams to hold you up.
It was slow and agonizing pain as our neurons had to grow dendrites and our minds had to reshape so that we could be that perfect that we could type every single letter, space and symbol in the correct order. Conversely when we had a mishap we could calmly and easily correct our mistakes.
After some time we got better at it and things started to move along…
Then we both realized that my Physiotherapy business would benefit from having a computer with the right software. That would require specialist software and there was nothing around that was suitable.
We then changed our minds and decided to develop software for Physiotherapists.
Luke researched this scenario and we decided that we needed a graphical interface so that I could write an exercise manual with graphics. The idea was to create a program that would print out individualized exercise programs for clients. Luke would write the program. Then write the user manual and I created the extensive exercise manual of over 400 exercises and write and publish that manual.
We designed a simple accounting program for Physiotherapists to go with it.
In the end Macintosh computers were the way to go. The IBM’s at the time had extremely limited graphics of the pac-man variety while Apple had beautiful crisp graphics of a high quality.
An absolute no brainer so we switched to the Macintosh + computer, and replaced the clunker with a beautiful being. I wrote this about it at the time.
Macintosh Adoration — Wendy Schox 1988
When I switched on the Macintosh, the lights in my little old house flickered perceptibly, and the Macintosh made humming and tringing sounds as the disc searched to find itself, ready for the next sessions of musings.
Finally the disc ceased the noise and sat shining brightly waiting for me to sit at the keyboard and tap.
Reaching for the mouse I “double clicked” the word processing application and began.
Luke was ironing and as the thermostat of the iron caused the iron to repeatedly switch off and on I began to wonder why I was living in such a place.
My Macintosh had to suffer all sorts of electrical indignities because of the old wiring and dust in this house. Often when I worked at home the electrical chaos caused strange behavior from my computer, so much so, that I often had corrupted files.
This resulted in my Monday mornings being times to repair the computer before I could begin work.
I was addicted and I knew it, home was not the place to bring this small grey friend of mine.
Mac through all this just glowed and hummed, checked errors, gently reminded me with beeps, wizzes and trills when it was saving my thoughts on to the disk.
A gentle but powerful companion.
How could I leave Mac on its own in the office all weekend?
After the IBM DOS clunker — how much easier was a Macintosh ? It was like distress and pain versus ease and joy.
We called our new company Schox Corporation – this was a mixture of our two surnames. Then we named our Physiotherapy program “Physi-soft™” and we were open for programming design and coding.
Together Luke and I worked mindfully and the programs were completed and tested at my clinic.
We had contacted Apple Computer Australia and they made us into “Certified Developers”. This meant that we could ring them for support, plus they would send us the latest information of what was happening in “Apple world”. Additionally we could attend conferences and get hardware at a discount etc. It was an absolute buzz to be included with all the geeks!
I felt that we were just impostors who had worked our guts out trying to understand the industry.
The next step was to write the manuals. Luke researched and we decided to take our inspiration from the beautiful Apple Manuals.
Apple had a saying that went something like this;
Imagine that the screen is a quiet room
and everything you put on it is a noise.
To this day I still refer to this phrase as it applies to many things in life. Steve Jobs may or may not have been a fun guy to know — however — he certainly understood beauty and quality and we were hooked.
We copied the Apple Manuals. This meant 12-point Garamond text with 14-point bold Tahoma headings, two returns between paragraphs, fine lines (0.5 point) to separate subjects and wide columns. We learned about kerning and leading and included that in our manuals.
We then researched paper — I had no idea that the choice of paper was so extensive and Luke finally chose mat gloss 90gsm. Then binding, packaging, floppy disc covers and the list went on and on.
Every detail had to be correctly researched and then implemented. All of those tears and tissues started to pay off, we were able to do detail to the ‘nth degree.
I decided that the graphics for the exercises needed to have no gender, age or race.
I developed a character that we called Zee. We hired a Graphic Artist—Steven to draw them. I spent ages physically showing Steven exactly how I wanted the exercise graphic to appear and what to emphasize.
I wanted the graphics to be so clear that a child could understand them without reading the description.
The exercise manual had hundreds of pictures that we had to scan, and then save at 300 dpi— any higher then we would run out of disc room — then we had to “box” each graphic in a clear box (yes this was a detail not to be missed) so that they would each sit on the page correctly, with the right amount of space around them.
I remember scanning saving and “boxing” for days.
There were two manuals the “user” manual and then the “exercise” manual.
We bought a laser printer. At the time they were $6,000 each at the Certified Developer discount price! This created some financial stress as getting software coded, was also a huge expense in both time and money. We printed the manuals and had them professionally bound.
Hundreds of hours of work, yet Luke and I enjoyed the challenge, as nothing could be as hard as the initial stages of this project.
Finally we finished and sent a copy off to Apple Computer Australia so that they could assess if the quality was OK.
There was a conference scheduled at Leura in the Blue Mountains out of Sydney. We went along but really wanted to stand out from the crowd because only two companies in Australia were going to be given a free trip to the USA by Apple Computer Australia.
We gave this some discussion and I decided that I would have my head shaved and have a lightening bolt shaved into the side of my “Grace Jones” inspired crew cut.
I had very long blue black shiny thick hair that was probably my signature feature at the time. I had it all shaved off and the lightening bolts shaved in the side.
To drive our point home Luke and I decided to change our surnames to Schox. We paid the $79.00 filled in the forms and officially by deed pole became Luke and Wendy Schox of Schox Corporation
Off to the conference we went and we were noticed!
Yes, we got the trip – how could they resist us?
Me in Washington DC six months later – my hair is long here.
Now how did that happen so quickly? I will write about that later…
Andrew Mason was one of my nerdy windsurfing computer friends at the time. He was the other Apple certified developer who won the other trip at the time so it was a win for Western Australia that year as only two companies got to go.
Andrew wrote the following comment on my Facebook link when I posted this story.
“It’s all true. I still remember being at the Apple developer conference in Leura in the Blue Mountains, and Apple giving out CD ROMS of developer documentation. Unfortunately CD drives for the Mac were not yet available, and you sarcastically asked if we were supposed to hold the disks up to the light and read the zeroes and ones ourselves. Later when I asked you about changing your name to Schox by deed poll I remember you replied “it’s amazing what you can do with $20 and a sense of humour”. And Garamond is still my favourite font.”