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In the Navy


Growing up, I was into communications, and back in the day the internet was a new thing so I was hoping the Navy would get me into a career dealing with computers and technology.1.

I had a neighbor who was a HAM operator and he had such high-powered equipment that his broadcasting would interfere with our TV and even our (cordless) phone! Our neighbor was quite friendly, and when we got more and more annoyed with his disruptions we would go a few doors down and ask him to knock it off and he would change frequencies. One time he let me in to see his radio equipment and I was hooked from then on.


I was very interested in chatting with new people, and it is probably the first hobby I ever collected. I suspect it's also the thing that got me into electronics. As an early teen, I saved up to purchase an amateur radio from Radio Shack and my neighbor even gave me an antenna.8 to start out my journey. Eventually, I chatted with truck drivers and other amateur radio operators around the world.


Around 1987, home computers were just taking off and my best friend's father brought home a PC4. for his job. I had never seen a computer, but as soon as I saw it in action I knew this would be my new obsession.3 Thanks to a huge influx of cash[^4] I was able to purchase my own computer, a Commodore 128[^4]. As I played more games and even got some exposure to programming. Luckily my friend's dad was into computers more than just for his job, so he showed us how they really worked.7

[TODO]: Make this whole HAM/computer section it's own page. All these footnotes should have their own place.

I didn't take the traditional high school, then college route. By the time I graduated high school (with a C average), I decided I didn’t want to go back to school for another four years. Also, I come from a history of Navy men in my family, so it seemed almost natural that would be the next step. Before I even finished high school, I joined the Delayed Entry Program and left for boot camp about a month after I graduated high school at the age of 17. I was ready to go see the world and see what big adventures awaited me.

Not only did I need my parents to co-sign for me because I wasn’t 18, I almost wasn’t allowed to join the Navy for two other reasons. The first time came before I even left my hometown. I joined while I was still a senior in high school and then shortly after went on my senior trip with my high school… to Russia. As it turns out, visiting a Communist country while the US government is trying to do a background check for a top secret clearance isn’t wise. I had to provide a day-by-day description of where I was, who I was with, and everything I did for the entire trip and then had to break off communications with anyone I met.

The second time I almost wasn’t able to join, I was at MEPS, the place where you get a physical before you are allowed to join. It would seem that I inherited the flat feet of my clan because when I went to be processed I was told I had severe flat feet and it could cause knee problems later down the road. The doctor that examined me sent me to another part of the station to be further examined and get a second opinion. Nobody ever came and after a while, I decided I had waited long enough and left to join the rest of my group in the next step. So far, my back is worse than my knees, although my feet are still very flat.

In the Navy

In typical recruiter fashion, I was bamboozled by my recruiter and ended up in a branch of the Navy that wasn’t allowed to travel outside of my home port for more than 90 days at a time without explicit permission from TPTB (I don’t remember who exactly needed to approve, probably some Admiral somewhere). Even though I joined the Navy to see the world, I really didn’t leave the West Coast of the US except for a few visits to Hawaii.

Coming from the East Coast, California was a big change and while I was initially disappointed about not being able to travel overseas, it turned out to work in my favor when I was getting serious with my girlfriend (who later became my wife). I had also seen other people in the Navy miss their children growing up while they were on a six-month deployment and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

After boot camp and A school2, and after specifically requesting a duty station on the East Coast, I got a bus ticket to my first duty station, the USS Bolster (ARS-38) in Long Beach, California. It had a crew of about one hundred and was a very small, tight-knit family. It definitely spoiled me because I had no idea what I was in for when my next duty station was the USS Lewis B Puller (FFG-23). It is almost twice as long and had twice as many crew. I learned I definitely like the smaller ships, I couldn’t imagine being on a HUGE ship like a carrier.

I ended up serving aboard two ships and two shore commands. The end of my second enlistment was at the height of the dot com boom. I realized I could reenlist and continue to make enough to qualify for food stamps, or I could transition to a computer gig in the private sector and make about 5x that much.

I was willing to reenlist a third time, but only if I was awarded a new computer school or shore duty overseas. Despite wanting to stay in, I was offered another ship in San Diego, a ship in Corpus Christi, TX or a small communications station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. So I chose to get out of the Navy, and the rest is history.

Maybe I’ll write a little more about what I remember of each duty station. I’ll add it to the list of things to do.

  1. It did. 

  2. “A school” is the school that teaches your specialized trade. 

  3. Where is the line between obsession and hobby? [TODO] [^4]; Thanks to my Bar Mitzvah I had enough to get the upgrade. No crappy old 64 for me, I got the fancy 1285

  4. I wonder what kind of computer it was? Probably a 386? [TODO] 

  5. 128 wasn't a model, it was the amount of memory it came with. In this case, a whopping 128kb.6 

  6. To put that in perspective, 1 normal length [TODO] 

  7. I also vaguely remember a computer class around this time where I got a taste of programming in BASIC. 

  8. The antenna was so large I had to stick it out of my window to use it.