Mixsonian Larry


Life Changing Event

I really liked working at CIRCA, hours were pretty much 8 to 5 but they were flexible on that and allowed me to take off time to go to classes without having to make up the time.  Wendy and I remained good friends and would often eat lunch together which we would both bring in paper bags, with mine being most often a sandwich.  I continued to work on various computer graphics software in FORTRAN and PL/1, did data processing of professor’s data using MARK IV and continued dealing with the ever breaking down Remote Batch Terminals which brought Charlie out to fix them.   I found working at the University to be a wonderful experience, interesting people, very relaxed atmosphere, very and casual dress. In May I got a promotion at CIRCA to a Computer System Analyst I position and another raise, I was now making just over $11,000 a year and got an “Outstanding” on my yearly review, I could see myself working there for many years then….

In examining one’s past one may find a single event that changed or shaped the direction of one’s life.  This was one of those instances.

I was sitting at my desk at the end of May when my phone rang and I answered it.  A man introduced himself, Elias.  Elias told me that he knew Charlie, my friend the Harris Corporation service technician, and Charlie had told him about me.  Elias said that he had a small computer programming business and was looking for a computer programmer, specifically one that could program in assembly language, which Charlie told him I could do.  He went on to explain that he lived in the Melbourne area which was the head quarters for the Harris Corporation and that he had a contract with Harris for some programming work in assembly language on a DEC PDP-11 computer and wanted to know if I would be interested in working for him in Melbourne.  

I wasn’t sure what to make of it, some guy I didn’t know, asking me to leave a really good job that I really liked, move to another city, program on a computer I didn’t know?  I wasn’t sure if he was serious.  I explained I had done some assembly language programming but not on the PDP-11 but he said he didn’t think that would be problem, that I would probably learn it quickly since I had done some assembly programming before and it wasn’t all that different.   Well okay, I still wasn’t all that convinced or interested so I told him I was doing well at my current job and just got a thousand dollar a year raise.  So Elias asks me how much I was making and I told him eleven thousand a year, and Elias replies, “I could offer you twice that.”  I wasn’t sure I heard him right, and I say, “Twice what I make now?”  And Elias replies, “Yes, possibly more.”   Ok, now he got my interest and I tell him so and he says perhaps I could drive down to Melbourne on the following weekend and meet him and he could tell me more about the job.   I agreed to do so, and he gave me directions to his office and said he looked forward to meeting me.

I was more than a little dazed about the conversation. What was I thinking, leaving a great job to go work in a city I never been to, working for a man I had never met, programming on a computer I had never programmed on before, was I actually considering it?   Well, I reasoned it wouldn’t hurt to at least go talk to him.   When Wendy came in later that day after her class to work, I told her about it.  When I showed her the address of Elias’s business, not actually being Melbourne, but Indialantic, she got all excited.  She explained that Indialantic was on the ocean across the river from Melbourne, Indialantic was where she grew up and where her parents still lived.   Her mother was even a realtor and could help find me a place to live.  

The following Saturday I drove down to Melbourne, well actually Indialantic.  It was about a three hour drive, down I-75, then the Florida Turnpike past Orlando.  It was spring, I rolled down the window to the smell of orange blossoms strong in the air from the many miles of orange trees in the Orlando area. A few years later there would be a big freeze that killed them all.  In Kissimmee I got off the turnpike onto Highway 192, crossing many miles of marshland and the St. John’s River before arriving at Melbourne where I traveled through downtown Melbourne which looked somewhat run down. I continued though Melbourne to the causeway and bridge over the Indian River to Indialantic.  The crossing of the Indian River was beautiful, the river a mile wide, the bright blue sky reflecting off the water. Crossing the causeway, the road becomes 5th Avenue, the business center of Indialantic, which only after only a few blocks ending at A1A I could see the ocean.  I had arrived a bit early, so I crossed A1A where there was a parking lot with Pete’s Ocean Grill on the right. After parking, I get out of my van and walk to a short boardwalk with a ramp leading down to the beach where I enjoy the view for a few minutes before returning to my van. 

Office BuildingBuilding where Elias had his office

Elias had told me his office was in an office building about a mile north of Indialantic on AIA.  It was a beautiful drive, mostly sand dunes with a few palm trees on the ocean side with glimpses of the beach and ocean.  Ten years later it would all be built up with condos such that you could no longer see the beach. I arrived at the office building which was right on AIA and park in the parking lot, get out and enter the building.  It was a two story building with several business suites on the first and second floor and Elias’s office was on the second floor.  I go up the stairs, find his office and enter the door to find a small, rather bare lobby with a desk with a chair.  There were doors to two rooms off the lobby and Elias, having heard me enter, came out of one of the rooms to greet me.  I say “Hi, I’m Larry” and introduces himself.  He was a short man, with black hair, glasses, casually dressed and had a pleasant smile.  I immediate felt comfortable with him as he said the room to the right would be my office if I came to work for him and then we enter his office. Elias’s office, like the lobby, was rather bare, no decorations or even curtains on the window.  He had good sized desk that was which had piles of computer printouts on it, and then there was a table with more printouts stacked on it.  His office had a window that looked out over A1A and you could see the ocean. 

Elias sat behind his desk and I across from him in the only other chair in the office and told me about his business and what the job would entail.  He had a small programming business named, appropriately, Custom Programming Service and I would be the second employee after himself for he had a part time secretary that came in a few days a week.  He explained that he had a contract with the Harris Composition Division, one of seven divisions of Harris in Melbourne. Harris Composition manufactured lithographic printing presses that were used to print newspapers and were creating the latest generation of “electronic typesetting”, and he had a contract to develop portions of the software and needed another programmer to work with him.  The electronic typesetting software was run on a PDP-11 computer and thus the software was being written in PDP-11 assembly code.  I found it quite interesting.

On the business side, Elias said he pay me by the hour at a rate that was a little more than twice the hourly rate I made at the University. I had arrived late morning so after our conversation, Elias suggested we go eat lunch and he then drove us down to Pete’s Ocean Grill that I had seen earlier, and we had got a table at the windows overlooking the beach and ocean.  I ordered the Gyro sandwich with fries and Elias got the beef tips and we talked some more.  After lunch we went back to his office and he asked what I thought, did I want the job?  I said yes, I would do it and just like that I had a new job.  I told him I needed a couple weeks to give my notice at the University, find a place to live and move so we agreed on a start date the week after the July 4th holiday.

On my drive back to Gainesville that afternoon I was like totally freaking out, what did I do, quitting my very secure job at the University to go work for some guy I had only just met, was I crazy?  But the three hour drive also gave me time think about the job and moving.  One of the hardest decisions about was about taking modern dance classes. I was really enjoying it, taking two sometimes three classes a week.    

I got back home from Melbourne late that afternoon and the next day I went over to Mom and Dad’s and told them about the job and moving to Melbourne.  Dad was his usual self and didn’t say much.  Mom was more concerned, asking more than once if I was sure I wanted to take the job and move “so far away.”, but she soon realized that my mind was made up and I was going to do it.

College was a minor issue because at the end of the Spring Quarter of 1976 George Haynam, the director of CISE along with two other professors in the department resigned to go work in private industry.  I had taken a course with Dr. Hayman and  I didn’t really like him, I thought him arrogant and to full of himself.  There were only four or five professors in the department, so with three of them leaving, there were few left to teach all the courses the coming summer quarter so I didn’t register for the summer quarter which turned out to be a good thing.  I had finished spring quarter in mid-June making a C in CIS-406, Data Processing Languages, it would be the last course I took at the University of Florida.  My overall grade point average for the six years I went to the UF was 2.32, just barely above average.

I got back home from Melbourne late that afternoon and the next day I went over to Mom and Dad’s and told them about the job and moving to Melbourne.  Dad was his usual self and didn’t say much.  Mom was more concerned, asking more than once if I was sure I wanted to take the job and move “so far away.”, but she soon realized that my mind was made up and I was going to do it.

The following Monday when I got into work I went to my boss and told him I had accepted a job in Melbourne and would be resigning. I told him about the job and that I was a little uncertain about it and he was nice enough to say that if CIRCA had not filled my position in a month or two that I could come back to work.  Later that day Wendy came into to work she immediately came to me and asked me how the interview went. I told her all about my meeting with Elias and accepting the job.  She was very excited for me and said she would call her mother and talk to her about finding a place for me to rent.    

The next person I needed to tell was Elizabeth.  I hadn’t seen her after I got back from Melbourne and having no idea of her schedule and I wasn’t sure when I would see her next.  A couple days later she was home and I told her I took a job in Melbourne and would be moving in July.  I told her she could still live in the old house and I would continue to pay the rent until the lease was over which was like six or seven months so she would have plenty of time to find another place to live.   She seem quite and sullen. The next day set about making plans to move to Melbourne. 

In mid-June the IMSAI 8080 computer kit I ordered arrived. I opened the box and examined all the parts and realized there was no way I could put it together before I moved to Melbourne, so I boxed it back up.  Much to my disappointment, it would have to wait until after I moved.

Updated: 02-08-2023