#Throwback tales: How I got started in software development

I grew up in the 1970s in Vendelsömalm located south of Stockholm, by car 30 minutes to Stockholm. I lived on Götabergsvägen in a large house in a quiet middle-class neighbourhood, our neighbours were small business owners, the school principal, and people with jobs generally classified as middle class. Almost every home had 2 or more kids, in similar ages, it was a great place to grow up in.

Life was fantastic as a teenager; in the winters, we played street hockey, played ice hockey on a pond or cross-country skiing in Tyresta national park, which was just in the backyard of our neighbourhood or played ice hockey on one of the ponds or lakes in the National Park. We played a lot of floor hockey in the school gym. In the summer we were boating and water skiing, we did something that today is known as wakeboarding.

Our primary mode of transportation was cycling tills we got old enough to get a driving license. On our bikes we often went out on the trails in Tyresta National Park and just had fun, nowadays they call this Mountain Biking, we just had regular street bikes, and it worked fine to bike on the hiking trails.

It seems all the fun stuff we came up with doing has now become their own industries, and for us, it was just playing around, and we had no vision as to the future of what we were doing. Floor Hockey was the only exception, we formed a team joined a league, and played in tournaments, we actually won some of the games we were in. Today floor hockey is huge in Sweden.

Life was great, and I and my friends had nothing to complain about, the parenting in the 1970s was very relaxed as we are very pretty much free to roam as we wanted. We were responsible in all we worked on our summer breaks some of us also worked part-time during high school (gymnasium), I worked for the construction firm Kullenberg which my father also worked for, doing all kinds of construction-related work.

In different summers, I worked at the Ice Hockey Arena in Södertälje, an office building in Södertälje for Saab Scania, an apartment building in Stockholm, and a paper factory in Laxå. I picked up various skills the one I am most proud of was surveying and measuring the points to create the foundation of a building or measuring the deviation in a floor where machines would be mounted.

Because we had it so good we did not worry too much about how to maintain this level of freedom or economic status our parents provide for us to live, so many of us did not worry or plan for the future are thoughts as it would work out. We were already tired of school and did not think about university at this time in time towards the late part of 1970. Military service was compulsory, the thought pattern was to wait for further studies tills after you were done your military service.

After High School, I worked in construction for a while tills I got a job with the Swedish Postal Service as a Postman, I got to work at the central hub located next to Central Station in Stockholm. Part of the job was to pass on or collect mailbags from trains that stopped at the Central Station. I was there for about a year before I was called into military service.

I spent one month at a military boot camp in Karlskrona before I was placed at the Berga Military Base south of Stockholm. I could not get it better; the Berga Military Base was just 16 km from my parent’s house, which allowed me to go home every day. It was more like a job from 9 to 5, except once a month I had to stay for a week when I was on call.

At the Berga Military Base, I was at first placed in the Berga Military Base Headquarters, where I was basically the mail boy to the officers, it did not last long as I refused to do this task, after some punishment I was given another task to full fill. I became part of the team that sat at the main gate, checking people going in and out. I was not being trained to be a military man, I was just a headcount to make the base run smoothly.

The military base was not that far from my home, In the summer I cycled back and forth daily, If I was not at the gate checking people I was doing things like cutting grass or washing clothes. I often sneaked out, as the base is at the water my friends use to come and pick me up in a speed boat, and then we just hang out and they dropped me back in the evening before I went home.

For me, the military was a waste of time, poorly paid as we did get a daily allowance. The positive part was that I did get to see a computer for the first time. It was something new, and it was even further for the military. The laptop was kept in a very secret room on the base, with few people having access to it, the reason I got to see it was that they needed help to move some boxes that were located in this room.

For me, it was a very interesting thing to see, a large computer with lots of flashing lights, I did not get supper excited or thought this was for me, I just thought it was cool, and after that, I did not know much more about, tills after the military service.

After military service, I took a job with Martin Olsson as a delivery truck driver, Martin Olsson’s business model was as a distributor to deliver food products, coffee, and fresh produce from their storage facility to restaurants, school kitchens, any kitchens that cooked for a large number of people, they also manage a few retails stores for people that run business and required a special card to get access to.

At Martin Olsson I saw a computer for the second time, actually every day I used an order list of customers’ purchase orders that was printed out by a computer in the Martin Olsson office, there were just a few people at the time working at the IT department. There was order takes that took orders by phone and punched them into a computer with punch cards, and then the orders were printed out for the drivers to take with them to customer.

The customer would sign the purchase order forms, and if there were any last-minute changes to an order before the driver was heading out to deliver, it was handwritten onto the purchase order directly. I worked there for a year tills I felt that I could not be a driver for the rest of my life there is more to this.

I was 21 at this time, and I started looking for what to do next and to get back to school; my dilemma at this time was that I had not taken my high school years that seriously, and my grades were not the best. In Swedish high school at the time, you could choose between 2,3,4 years of high school, I had chosen the 2 years Economic course whit a focus on business administration. It also gave me the ability to apply to a college or university. One of the subjects in the Economic system was typewriting; looking back, what a coincidence. I had no clue at the time, that this would be useful to me for the rest of my career.

As I was gotten used to earning money by myself, I was not so intrigued about going to university for 4 years; after all, I had already moved from home and was living with a girlfriend. My dad offered to sponsor my university studies, I opted to go for a 1-year college course in what was then known as Administrative Data Behandling (ADB) – Administrative Data processing in English. This ADB course resembled, at the time to some extent, what some universities in the USA and Europe taught in Information Systems courses. Source: History of Nordic Computing

It was a fast pace course that was aimed to make us programmers as quickly as possible and to give us the foundation of managing projects. When I started to write my first line of code, I knew I had found what I wanted to do, and it came very naturally to me the logic of writing code and the end of the course, actually about a month before the end of the period, an announcement was posted on the noticed board, with a list of companies in the IT sector that was looking for people, and it said to reach out to your teacher with a list of your top three companies.

We all did that, and we all had worked before we graduated from the course. In the school I took the course at, in my class there were 30 people, and there were 3 more classes taking the same course. The distribution of men vs women was probably 60% men to 40% women, the equality and integration were high, there was a student not only from Sweden they were from different east Europe countries and Africa.

And I contribute the equality to the softer tone in attracting people to this course by calling it ADB and not computer science, which could have scared women off in the 1980s.

That is how I got started in tech, the cliche is I never looked back, and I am still working in tech.





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