Eta Carina Logo About Me The Thinker

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About Me Sections

The History Section The System Overview The Hardware Section The Astronomy Connection
My Resume

Eta Carina Ltd History Section

I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia USA in a Naval Hospital on the 10th of February 1953. (Surly thats a misprint?) I lived there a short while before my daddy was shipped to Sasebo, Japan where I lived until I was five, I think. Later on my mother married another navy man and we moved to Jacksonville, Florida, then to Charleston, South Carolina, then finally to South Bend, Indiana where I graduated from Washington High School and went into the Navy in June of 1972. After Basic training I was sent to several Naval Schools to train as a Hull Maintenance Technician before I was sent to my first ship the USS Oklahoma City CLG-5 in 1973. Guess what? The shipís home port was Yokosuka, Japan! I served aboard the Oklahoma City until June of 1976 when I got out of the Navy and went home to South Bend. In February of 1977 I went back in the Navy and was stationed in San Diego, California aboard the USS Elliot DD-967. I once served temporarily aboard the USS Badger FF-1071. During the last few years of my navy career I was stationed aboard the two submarine repair ships USS Sperry AS-12 and USS Dixon AS-37.

This part of 'About Me' is more about how my network system came to be more than about me personally. I was in the United States Navy living in San Diego, California when I first visited New Zealand in 1979 while serving aboard the USS Elliot DD-967. I met a Kiwi girl then and later returned to Auckland to married her in 1980. After I got out of the Navy I came to New Zealand to live in 1983. My first job in New Zealand was as a fitter/welder for the New Zealand Post Office. I was an avid model railroader at the time and had read an article in the Model Railroader magazine about building a computerize railway layout. I decided that this is what I needed to modernize my small nine foot by nine foot railway I was building out in the utility room at the end of our carport. So I went out and bought my first computer in 1985, it was a Commodore 64 with a tape drive for data storage. It had an amazingly fast 8502 processor running at 1.02 MHz.(Whew!)

After about a year of playing around with that I upgraded the system to include a Thompson 14" green screen monitor (my wife complained of my hogging the TV all the time), a Riteman C+ printer and a 1541 (170k) 5.25" floppy drive (no hard drives made for the Commodore 64 at that time).
C128 Photo
Commodore 128
I moved from my small unit into a larger unit but alas had no place to rebuild my model railway but by then I had caught the computer bug and had no time to work on a new layout anyway (I never did build the computer interface although I did buy some of the electronic parts for it). A company called Datel started making cartridges which plugged into the expansion port. These cartridges enable you to load programs faster and also halt program execution and make backups (pirating). These cartridges also had an assembler built in so you could examine and manipulate the code in memory (cheating). I had an Action Replay MK II cartridge and a HesMon cartridge which dumped the program out in machine code. It was this feature of the cartridges that whet my appetite for doing more with the computer than just play games.

I began to buy books on programming the Commodore 64 in the Basic 2.0 and machine code languages but didnít really have any fully successful programs built. Around the middle of 1986 I had traded my 64 in for a Commodore 128 and bought a second floppy drive.This time I purchased a faster 1571 (340k) 5.25" floppy drive. I also bought a second hand Commodore 1901 color screen. I bought the book C128 Machine Language for Beginners by Richard Mansfield which had the source code for a machine code assembler that you had to enter by typing the hexadecimal code into a basic program which poked the bytes into memory. The assembler which was called the Label Assembly Development System (LADS) was a clever program which allowed labels to be used instead of having to calculate branches up and down the program code. LADS also supported the use of two monitors One used to display the code the other to display the output of the code, which is why you see two monitors in the photo Commodore 128. This book was the turning point of my interest in programming. With the information provided in the book I built fully operational disk editors, a couple of games and my very own machine code assembler (based on LADS). I decided to pursue programming as a career. I enrolled at Auckland Technical Institution in 1986 taking several courses on Using Business Microcomputers, Basic 1,2,3,4 and COBOL 1 and 2. My first project was a credit and debit program for a fictitious company which was the prototype of sorts for my network setup now. At least it gave me the bones to build my existing network system. Unfortunately, I didnít have any luck in finding a job and eventually gave up trying after a couple of years.

I became interested in astronomy during the first part of 1991 which is where I got the name Eta Carina. In the middle of 1991 I was made redundant from the New Zealand Post Office which had been sold to an American company and the branch I worked in was renamed Telecom. With my redundancy money I bought my first IBM-compatible PC, a 286-16Mhz with 2Mb ram, a Maxtor 40Mb hard drive , 1.2k 5.25" floppy drive and a color VGA monitor from Total Peripherals. I also bought a three inch refractor telescope and joined the Auckland Astronomical Society. With the money I had left over I took a Business Computing course with a company called Dynamic Computer Consultants, which was a complete waste of time, to learn more about using spreadsheets and databases. I bought Microsoftís QuickBasic and began programming business packages. I soon ran out of hard drive space and bought a Western Digital 80Mb drive. In January of 1993 I upgraded to a 386 DX-40 with a co-processor and a whopping 4Mb of memory, Maxtor 170Mb hard drive, 1.44k 3.5" floppy drive and SVGA color monitor. My wife was looking into starting a Secretary Service Business and although nothing came of it I got a Epson EPL-5200 Laser Printer out of it. I also bought Access and Excel and Visual Basic to build a business system for my wife. When she decided not to go ahead with the business I still worked on the system and changed the company name of Rens Secretarial Services (my wifeís business) to Eta Carina Ltd. It was under that name that I did odd jobs on computers for people. My interest in pursuing a career in computers was rekindled so I enrolled at Massey University for a correspondence course towards a degree in Computer Science (which I never got). I successfully sat two papers but soon ran out of money to enable me to continue my studies. I know what you are thinking, a man with seven home computers is bound to be running out of money all the time, and you would be right too! It was around this time I became interested in the technical side of the computer and began doing upgrades for my friends and their friends for a small token fee which went towards buying more gear for Eta Carina Ltd.
Eta Carina Photo
First three machines
That year, I landed my first job in the computer field working at Advantage PC as a Technical Sales Coordinator but the job was short lived as the company folded in the beginning of 1994. In 1994 I upgraded again to a 486 DX2-66 and added 8MB of Ram to the new board.

It wasnít until the end of 1995 that I finally got another break and went to work for Teco New Zealand as a Computer Technician. It was while working there that I began to collect second hand parts and upgraded to a 486DX4-100 with 16Mb of Ram, two Maxtor 540Mb hard drives and a Teco 15" color SVGA monitor. By this time I had a box full of second hand parts but no cases to put them in. I rummaged through the rubbish bin to rescue two damaged cases and assembled another 486DX4-100 machine with the 40Mb, 80Mb and 170Mb hard drives. While at Teco I became interested in head to head multiplayer games and bought two network cards and built my first network to play Doom on. I used standard Dos netware drivers. In 1996 I went to work for a computer warranty service company called Australasian Warranty Services as a Computer Technician/Help Desk. I was in charge of ordering parts for repairing computers and had access to tons of second hand hardware. I decided to build another 486DX4-100 machine and upgraded my main computer to a Pentium 100.
Eta Carina Photo
Eta Carina Photo
Canis Major
I now had three computers on my network. The picture First three machines shows the workbench I built for my system. You can see three cases (there is one on the floor which you can just make out in the bottom left hand corner) but only two monitors and two keyboards. Two of the machines share a monitor, mouse and keyboard via a data switch.I bought the professional version of Microsoft Office and reworked the business system I built for my wife back in 1993. Networking caught my interest and I began to study Microsoft NT Networking through a self pace course with material bought from Inforplex. I bought a second hand copy of Windows NT and built another machine when I upgraded my main machine to a Pentium 120 and soon after to a Pentium 133. The course material kept changing for Windows NT and I could no longer keep up with buying new books or updating my software or my hardware. I now had upgraded two machines and built three more from the leftovers. Eta Carina Ltd. was now a small network of two 486DX4-100, one Pentium 100, One Pentium 120 and a Pentium 133. In 1997 I lost my job at AWS and went to visit my family in the states for a month. When I returned I went to work for a computer service company called Hard Drive Computers. I upgraded my main machine to a Pentium 200 MMX and upgraded my server to a Pentium 120. I traded my old hard drives (40Mb and 80Mb) for a Pentium motherboard and built the seventh machine, another Pentium 100. Every time I upgraded my main machine I shifted the hardware down the line to the workstation Aquarius, then to the primary server Leo and so on. I finally landed a job with Desktop Technology Services Limited. The company contracts computer services to compaines like Unisys and Dell. I am the sole service technician for the entire northland area of New Zealand. I had to buy a new car and with the money left over from a loan I upgraded my system yet again. I popped a new board into Canis Major to accommodate a 233 MHz MMX Intel processor and 64 Mb S-DRAM memory module. I added two 3.2 EIDE Quantum hard drives and whipped in a Diamond Stealth DS2000 3D video card and a Sound Blaster 64 AWE. I toyed with the idea of going to a Pentium II machine but opt to go this route this time. Thats where Eta Carina Ltd is today, Perhaps it should be Eta Carina Unlimited!

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This page was last updated on 25 July 1998