No old school tie for me – how about old school cuff links instead?

I’m not a great cuff link wearer, but recently I inadvertently bought a shirt that needs them, and I couldn’t find any at home.

I noticed the school Old Boys association sells them, so (I guess to mark 25 years since I did VCE — gulp) I bought some.

Melbourne High School Old Boys Association cufflink

I don’t mind these… they aren’t too obvious when seen from a normal distance. I’m glad I got the plain pewter design though, not the coloured enamel ones… for an old boy design, I think I prefer it to be subtle rather than SHOUTY.

I don’t wear ties anymore. One commenter on a previous post about shirts noted the idea of collecting differing cuff links instead of ties. I’m not sure I’d go down that path, but I would consider getting a few more of different designs.

PS. Any other MHS ’88 people reading, apparently the 25th anniversary dinner is on 31st of May. Hope to see you there!

First school day

With most kids going back to school this week, Andrew was blogging about the first day of school.

I don’t remember much about my first day either, though I do have a photo that I believe was snapped that morning:


Long-haired hippy. It was the 70s though. And I was obviously in a good mood… or it may have been my usual “I’m being photographed” face — lots of kids have those.

What I do remember is that (possibly on enrolment day rather than the first day of term) I decided that I wasn’t capable of spelling “Daniel”, and went by the name “Danny” instead… that lasted for 9 years, until I switched high schools to Melbourne High and decided I liked “Daniel” better. (My surname changed at the same time.)

I also recall early in that first term of Prep an older kid bullied me about something (possibly race-related, or perhaps about the odd appearance of my right eye), but I can’t remember any of the other details. Hopefully I wasn’t too upset about it. Back then there wasn’t a school buddy programme, which probably would have helped.

But as far as I recall, no other issues in Prep, and most of my primary school years are filled with happy memories.

Personal geek history

My desk at work, circa 1994A piece of personal geek history: yesterday I had heard that a system I worked on when just out of uni in 1993 just finally got decommissioned.

Myself and my mate Brian got out of uni at the end of ’92, and looked for IT jobs. In early 1993 I landed a contract at a Big Company and Brian came on board too, and we wrote the first version of system “X”, using Visual Basic 2 (the application running on Windows 3.1), and a database backend using Netware SQL (virtually unheard-of now).

(It wasn’t really called “X”. It was a slightly-awkward backronym made up by the guy who thought of the whole idea in the shower, and who had managed to get us inexperienced graduates in to make it happen.)

The software was primarily used in a centre in Burwood, by several hundred users, many of whom had never used Windows and a mouse before. Being a small team, we were able to be very responsive to user feedback, and as well as being more productive, hopefully our user base enjoyed using the software, despite our garish screen designs.

It was an awesome sight walking around the centre watching hundreds of people using the screens I’d designed.

I do recall one funny moment one day when the power went out momentarily. Hundreds of PCs all rebooted at once, accompanied by a collective “ooooooh” from everyone in the place.

A less-funny moment was the day when one of the LAN administrators accidentally wiped the shared drive with all our source code… and then we discovered the most recent backup was several weeks old. This incident inspired Losing My Connection (sung to the tune of “Losing My Religion”.)

Later in 1993, or possibly the next year, the team was expanded and system got a re-write, which we unimaginatively called “X2″.

The re-write used Visual Basic 3 (still on Windows 3.1) with an Oracle database backend. We had some fun naming the Oracle server after computers from Red Dwarf — the main server was Holly, the dev server was Kryten, and the test/staging server was Hudzen.

I left the project towards the end of 1994. Brian left a little while afterwards. His experiences inspired an awfully funny superhero sproof called “ContractOr”, which exaggerated the different worlds of contractors and permanent staff for comic value. Alas most of it has been lost in the mists of time.

A permanent believes that…
Contractors are dangerous, mercenary, rogue coders who don’t take orders, make up their own rules and cause havoc for the fun of it. In addition they’ll happily switch to another job, regardless of the consequences, if they get a better offer. Oh, and obviously, they are vastly overpaid.

A contractor believes that…
A permanent employee is a lazy, unimaginative, shiftless, paperwork-following WIMP. They are only concerned with covering their arse and care nothing for improving work practices – only for making sure they don’t get blamed when things fail to happen YET AGAIN.

Brian went on to be one of the first employees of Sausage Software, who released the first major web page designer.

I did ask around about 10 years ago and was surprised that system “X” was still running. It sounded like it had undergone a re-write into Delphi, so I doubt by the end that there was any of our original code left. Perhaps only the name was still remaining from what we worked on. But it was still called “X2″.

Only this week did it apparently get decomissioned.

Given how fast technology moves, I’m still surprised the system lasted 18 years.

Telstra brochure from 1997 explains new-fangled “text messages”

Clearing out some old books, I found this from 1997. It’s a Telstra brochure explaining a new product they’re introducing: the “SMS Text Message Service.”

Front cover:
Telstra brochure explaining text messages: page 1

Middle pages:
Telstra brochure explaining text messages: pages 2-3

Back page:
Telstra brochure explaining text messages: page 4

Everything was new once upon a time, right?

From the brochure (and this matches my recollection), initially messages could not be sent between operators. This didn’t come until April 2000, and predictably resulted in exponential growth in messages sent.

The view out the front window

When I was a kid, I liked to kneel on the front seat of the (W-class) tram, looking out the front, and watching the driver, trying to figure out how it all worked.

I reckon the front still gives you the best views.

View out the front of a W-class tram; Latrobe Street

Back in the day I recall a control to apply the power, another to brake, with a big wheel as the backup brake (akin to a handbrake I suppose — I was once on a tram whose main brake had failed, and we rolled slowly up Carlisle Street, with the wheel being used to bring us to a halt at every stop).

Many trams didn’t have doors, but those that did had an extra lever to open and close them. These days there are various other newer controls in the cab.

W-class tram controls

Retro Gamer edition 100

Yes, it’s true: I paid extra money to get a magazine about old video games sooner. I truly am a sucker for nostalgia.

Retro Gamer edition 100

But hey, it’s the 100th issue, with a reprint of edition one as a bonus!!!

PS. 8pm Saturday: Spotted today at my brother-in-law’s birthday barbecue, this tattoo of Rik’s:
Rik's Space Invaders tattoo

My usual stations (part 5)

Murrumbeena/Carnegie, 2003-2005

The move to Carnegie in 2003 gave me two local stations, because the house was almost equidistant between them. It was slightly closer to Murrumbeena, so I usually used that. But Carnegie had better access to shops, so that got used sometimes too.

I’ve mentioned Murrumbeena already. Carnegie hasn’t changed much recently, but the surrounding area has, with the new library being built — and opening just after we’d moved away. D’oh. On the corner of Dandenong Road, a multi-level shopping centre rose from the (figurative) ashes of the old Betta Electrical/Billy Guyatts that was once there.

I still sometimes go back to Carnegie. There’s a great pizza shop (“Herbs”) on the corner of Neerim and Koornang Roads.

Bentleigh, 2005-

Bentleigh station
Bentleigh station

My final regular is Bentleigh.

Since I moved here, it’s had upgrades to the level crossing (but not actual grade separation), and parts of the local Smartbus 703 route have been added into zone 1, which I think has added to the number of people using it. It’d be nice if this was all done in the name of removing zone anomalies, but in fact it appears the motivation was the Myki system, which needs stop zoning to be consistent between all the routes using an individual stop — so parts of the 703 had to be added to zone 1 to fit in with other routes around Brighton and East Bentleigh. No matter, at least it got done.

Shame the 703 still doesn’t meet the Smartbus service standard.

In the station itself, which isn’t exactly beautiful no matter how clean it is, there’s an ongoing battle of wills between Metro and local vandals, with the gents’ toilet door receiving many coats of paint in the past 12 months or so. Given the graffiti that decorates the ex-State Bank/Telstra store down the street, it’s fair to say there’s a local graffiti problem.

My usual stations (part 4)

Hawthorn, 1993-95

Hawthorn station
Hawthorn station

When I finally moved out of home, it was to Hawthorn. Initially I was still working in Burwood East, and the commute was an easy tram ride, but the flat we had was planned to be midway between there and the city, which became useful once work moved into town. Cutting through the back streets, it was about a 6-7 minute walk to the station (ditto at the other end to work in Collins Street).

If there was a big gap in the trains (as there often was just after 6pm when coming home) the 70 tram was almost as quick as the train.

The commute got a tad more complex when I changed jobs to St Kilda Road, and met the perils of the peak hour St Kilda Road tram crush — yes, even back then.

To the untrained eye, Hawthorn has changed very little since then. You see it in television adverts every now and again, and I’m not surprised to see it’s heritage listed.

Glenhuntly, 1995-2009

Glenhuntly station

Moving into a flat in Booran Road, Glen Huntly, and living without a car meant it was a mix of tram and train travel. The usual work trip became either a tram ride on the 67 into St Kilda Road, or a train to South Yarra then a walk along Toorak Road (which was often faster than the cars) and across Fawkner Park, which was nice at least on a sunny day.

Later jobs changed that, and for a while I was catching the train to Richmond, changing onto a train to Box Hill, then a bus to Doncaster… which is what finally prompted the purchase of a car. After that was a job in Brighton, which sometimes involved driving, and other times involved a tram to Elsternwick then a train to North Brighton.

Most of my jobs since then have been in the CBD, so I’ve been a daily Frankston line commuter since about 2001.

Glenhuntly station (which unlike the official suburb name, does not have a space in it) hasn’t changed much over that time (though I recall earlier visits in the 80s when it still had railway gates instead of booms, pre third track).

Initially there was a booking office lady who could sell tickets very fast when a train was approaching — but at times there was nobody present, and no way to buy a ticket. For a short time she wore a bright jacket and was showing people how to use Metcard, and then she was gone, leaving only the machines.

A coffee shop installed itself into the booking office at one stage, but then disappeared again. Nowadays there are station hosts present during morning peak only.

I’ve written before about how the services through the station changed very little in the time I used it, while the operators changed from The Met/PTC to Bayside Trains to M>Train to Connex, then to Metro. It’s only in the past year or so that the timetables had a thorough re-write.

Even though I moved out of Glen Huntly in 2003, I continued to use the station until 2009, because the kids went to school nearby, and it was generally the easiest station to use as part of the school run. As a result, even though the car park is full by about 8am, I got to know the best all-day street parking spots nearby. It’s not really that hard as long as you’re prepared for a five minute walk.