James P. O'Brien

Professional Biography


In April of 1974, I went to work for Watson Manufacturing, a manufacturer of metal casework.  I had come to Watson as a result of previous experience as a bill collector and was hired as the assistant credit manager.  When I started work, I found out that Watson was the proud possessor of an NCR Century 101 computer system.  What interested me the most was when introduced to the  MIS staff, I discovered that they made the best coffee in the company.  I quickly developed the habit of stopping by and having coffee with the MIS manager.

During these coffee brakes, we would talk about work (of course).  I found the activities in the computer department to be somewhat interesting and after I had settled in, decided to enroll in a computer survey course at the local community college.  This course was very basic, on the order of this is a computer, this is a printer, etc.

Some programming was included in the course work.  Basically, we were to write the same program (copy cards to the printer) in three different languages, Cobol, RPG and Basic.  About halfway through this course, I was visited in my office by the President of Watson Manufacturing.  He began the conversation by asking me 'Guess who's running payroll on Monday?'.  Pointing to myself, 'Me??' I answered with what I'm sure was a substantial quake in my voice.

He explained that eleven o'clock that morning, the MIS manager and the company's one and only programmer / operator had handed in their notice and walked out. Iin this manner, I got my start in computing.
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