(now ExxonMobile)
225 W Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, California 91360
1984 to 1986 (2 years)
Junior Programmer

No, I didn’t pump gas! I landed this job by answering a cattle call in the local newspaper. I wound up beating out around 80 candidates by scoring the highest in some kind of IQ test. That seems odd now, since it was basically a data entry job with some exposure to what was considered high technology at the time. I learned to process raw oil field seismic data manually from tape, and later by scripts that I wrote on my terminal. That little bit of initiative got a lot of attention. I gained a reputation for being relatively mistake-free, and I soon graduated to a role where I digitized and generated maps directly for our staff geologists. Exxon later flew me to Houston where I learned more about rocks and geology.

The Backstory

I had just traded my crappy Suzuki Samurai in on a red 1984 Pontiac Fiero, so I thought I was hot stuff. No one else had a plastic car.

I was also really into composing MIDI music at the time, using Electronic Arts’ awesome Deluxe Music Construction Set. I met Gary Tobin while working at Exxon. He was a draftsman who also played guitar and wrote music, so we would hang out regularly and play with our synthesizers and samplers. I wish I could still hear our creations, but the cassette tapes were lost to time.

I was also active in a local Macintosh User Group, and soon found occasional work as a consultant for shadowy firms like Titan Corporation and BrainPower, the publisher of ChipWits.

One day a human tornado named Bill Gibbs approached me after a demo of my animation engine and MacQuarium app. He asked me if I could write some data conversion software for his CAD business, and so I did. I gave him a choice of Amiga or Mac, and he wisely chose Mac. He offered me a job the next week so I gladly left the oil industry for good. And that’s how my passion for controlling machines went from a hobby to a career.