I guess my first interaction with computers was about age 9. It was 1977 and I was still at primary school in my hometown of Morecambe, Lancashire. One of the teachers noted I was fascinated by science and maths, and took me up to a local college on the weekend to see their computer lab, which was filled with Commodore PETs. I sat down, started typing in a game I’d found in a magazine, pressed RUN, and was absolutely hooked. At that time, the personal computer revolution hadn’t taken off, so I was limited to my couple of hours a week, but yearned for more. I also had in interest in microelectronics, bought Practical Electronics and Everyday Electronics magazines every month with my allowance, and taught myself the basics of logic gates and integrated circuits. I even managed to get a design published in Everyday Electronics in 1981, for which I was paid the princely sum of £12.
All through high school, I was frustrated as there was no computer science subject available, but everything was about to change with the advent of Sir Clive Sinclair personal computer revolution and the ZX81. I got one for christmas, complete with the wobbly 16k RAM pack and spent all my evenings typing in programs, learning the specifics of the BASIC language and Z80 machine code. Further years would see me upgrade to a Commodore VIC20, and a C64, expanding my knowledge to the 6502 instruction set. I finished high school in 1984 with 8 O-Levels and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I decided to go on and study A-Levels in the 6th form, and as the school had *finally* implemented a computer science subject, enrolled for that also. I remember distinctly the first lesson, where the teacher drew a rudimentary XOR and AND gate circuit on the board and was asking if anyone knew what it was. As I was the only one with my hand up, I responded “sir, it’s a half-adder”, to which he replied “you shouldn’t be here, you’re wasting your time”. He was right of course – there was nothing he could teach me.
So I bailed on the 6th form, got a job stacking shelves in Tescos, which started as a couple of nights a week and ended up with me working every night and all day Saturdays for more money than I’d ever seen. It allowed me to sleep all morning (a habit I never really kicked, I *hate* waking up), play all afternoon on my computer – now a Sinclair QL – and then work in the evening. It was a sad thing that although I could pick up anything that anyone threw at me, I had no formal qualifications in computer science, so getting a job in that field was impossible. I went to the careers office to try and find something more appealing than stacking shelves, and after a couple of failed interviews at a bank and an insurance company, ended up working in a materials testing facility who supplied testing services to the construction industry. The boss had invested in an Apricot, and as I showed an interest, tasked me with coding a system to manage all the test results we were generating. I then went on to write a gamut of programs to perform various calculations, integrate with micro-controllers and generate reports and even monthly invoicing for the company.
Fast forward 9 years to 1994 and the business was struggling – the boss needed to offload staff, but rather than just firing me he found me a better position working as a laboratory manager on a civils project building a bridge joining the Isle of Skye to the mainland of Scotland – a joint venture between a Scots construction company and a German design team. I was in the process of taking a correspondence course in COBOL, but had to abandon it due to the move to Scotland and the 84-hour work week the job demanded. It also didn’t help that the daily routine was 12 hours on site, 6 hours in the pub, and 6 hours sleeping in my car in the pub car park as I was too drunk to drive back to the accomodation. Of course, as I was the resident computer geek, just about every department had me banging out programs for them to manage all aspects of the bridge construction – thermal monitoring, stress analysis, test result management – I spent more time working with the projects technical director than I did doing my own job. However, this paid off when the contract ended and the German half of the consortium invited me out to another project they had in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
I spent about 18 months in the arse end of Abu Dhabi close to the border with Saudi, and every weekend would drive 200km down to Abu Dhabi city for some downtime and a beer – it was here I met my future wife Imelda who was working as a nurse in the city. We started dated, she fell pregnant and in early 1997 we flew to her home town of Marikina, Philippines to get married. The Abu Dhabi contracted ended, but there was another similar job available in Oman so I relocated there and spent another 18 months on that contract – six of which on married status with Mel and our new baby daughter Rhianna and her elder sibling Raziel. After that, the construction work kind of dried up, I was offered another contract in Saudi, but the thought of being away for 18 months straight in a dry country wasn’t appealing. So we returned to the Philippines, and spend the next year or so just living life and basically doing fuck all. Of course, that couldn’t last and the savings from my job were rapidly dwindling. It was the end of 2000, and the dot-com boom was happening – I realised that I’d been neglecting one of my major talents and should probably make a go of programming on a professional level.
I got a chance to do a couple of small projects in 2001, formally registered MarikinaCGI as a business entity, and then met Stefano Galastri CEO of worldby.com, a rapidly expanding online travel company based in Italy. After an initial project to write an email management system for them, he invited me out to work in Italy and I spent 4 years onsite developing their travel platform and a further 4 years back in the Philippines working remotely. In 2008, the company was sold to Venere, the largest Italian travel company, who were then subsequently bought out by Expedia – I stayed on until the end of 2009 doing some API integration but mostly damn all while still getting paid.
All this time, we’d been living with Imeldas parents to save money, we’d bought a plot of land back in 2005, and in 2010 decided to build our own place. Rather than waste a ton of money on architects and contractors (which basically doubles the price), I decided to do the whole thing myself. Planned out the house in AutoCAD to the last detail, electrical, plumbing, structural, decorative using all the skills I’d gained during my contruction years – and then formed a crew of 12 and acted as foreman while we built the house from the ground up. To supplement my income, I started doing miscellaneous jobs on ELance (later to become Upwork), and despite one bad experience (which you can read about here), formed some long-term partnerships which led to years of continued work.
Yeah, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m now 48 and not as fast as I used to be – but I can still give coders half my age a run for their money in terms of knowledge and skills. I’ve always been a great believer in the tenet that “you should never stop learning” – so I never stopped. I can code anything you need, in whatever language or platform you desire. If I don’t have experience, give me a couple of days to acquaint myself with the syntax and organization and I’ll hit the ground running. Hell, you only have to look at my portfolio to see I can apply myself to just about anything and everything. And with over 35 years of hobbyist and 15 years of professional experience, I look at every job from all aspects – user, manager, business owner etc etc.
So that’s my history. Now give me a try, be it a tiny fix, reverse engineering, custom software, web front / back end, database optimization, anything you need I’m willing to take a look at and give a realistic quote for a professional outcome! I’m working through Upwork right now – you can find links to my profile below containing glowing reviews from all my clients, together with contact info and rates etc.
Telephone: +63 2 6461429
Computer Languages: Assembler (Z80,6502,x86), BASIC, PASCAL, FORTRAN, COBOL, C, C++, C#, TCL, VisualBASIC, JAVA
Scripting Languages: Perl, PHP, Ruby
Server Admin / DBA: Server Installation, LAMP Stacks, sendmail, cron, Berkely DB, SQLLite, MSSQL, MySQL, Maria DB
CMS: WordPress, Joomla, Magento
Spoken / Written Languages: English (fluent), Filipino (fluent), German (functional), Italian (functional)
Others Skills: Materials / Civil / Electrical / Electronic Engineering, Architecture