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South Bay's #1 
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I'm President of Mr. Computer California, Inc.  Ever since I was a kid  in the 60's I've been tinkering with electronics and, whenever the opportunity arose, computers. I used to take summer school classes in Fortran or special weekends with a teletype machine to access some mainframe at a local university. When Commodore 64's came out I had one. My friends had Altairs and the occasional IBM PC XT. It wasn't until the late 1980's that I decided to actually make a living working with computers as a programmer.


I attended a local trade technical school to learn how to program IBM mainframes in COBOL and Assembly language as well as some relational database languages I never did use.  There was also some hands-on with PC's.  When I graduated, I immediately found work as a programmer of mainframe and mini-computers with some lightweight PC involvement and I realized then that I wanted to have my own PC and learn the dominant languages of the time (C and MASM) and program for DOS and the current version of Windows (Windows 286).


That's when I had my first taste of the PC sales and service market.


The salesman at Friendly Computers wasn't so friendly.  I got the general impression that he knew less about the products he was selling than I did.  I read a lot of books and went to a number of stores and I always ended up feeling like I was going to get screwed on the deal.  At last, I finally decided to purchase an ALR 386/16 with a NEC monitor from a place called L.A. Computers, in West Los Angeles.


The system cost $4200 and came with a 65 MB RLL Hard Drive and a whopping 1 MB of RAM and both floppy disk drives.  I felt great.  I ran out and bought the latest version of Microsoft MASM - I figured the best way to learn to program IBM PC's was to get right down into the lowest level of coding. 


I installed the software and started creating and compiling small assembler programs.  That's when the problem started.  I couldn't always save my code in the MASM editor - the system would hang and I'd lose my work.  Other times, I could save the code but I could never compile it - during the process I would get write error messages or the interim files would get corrupted.   So, after confirming with Microsoft that I had indeed configured the PC environment correctly, I took the system in for servicing.


They held my PC for a week.

When I finally got it back they pronounced it 'fixed' and sent me on my way.  After getting it all set up again I discovered that they had reformatted my HD and reinstalled the operating system (DOS 3.1).  My other programs and files were all gone!


I re-installed all my software and started over. Of course, my system still had the same problems. So, I took it back again. I asked the salesman (they didn't let you talk directly to the repair personnel) to ask the technician to actually run the editor or compiler - I had the batch files all set up - so they could observe the problem first-hand. After another week, I got the system back and discovered that once again they had reformatted the hard drive and re-installed DOS.


Once more, I re-loaded my software and discovered the problems had not been corrected.  This time I demanded they return the unit to the manufacturer, Advanced Logic Research (ALR). They complied, and after about two weeks, I got the system back and found that once again the hard disk had been reformatted and the operating system re-installed.  I had been assured that the reason for this was that the HD had been replaced as it had been determined to be the source of the problem.

So, once again I reinstalled my software. And, as you have already surmised, the problem persisted.

Of course, by this time, the warranty period on the system had expired.  I was now the proud owner of a $4200 boat anchor. It was a very painful, expensive lesson.  But from that point forward I vowed I would never again rely on some computer store salesman or technician for my personal computing needs.

I had changed employers by then and was now working in a more PC dominant programming atmosphere. It was a large company, but oddly enough - in spite of the company's size, they had no in-house IT staff.  When something broke (like a keyboard) they called a service company that charged $115 just to show up for the call. And they didn't come the same day or the next day either.  Sometimes it was a week before a 'technician' arrived to confirm the keyboard (or whatever) was indeed broken and then they'd charge top dollar for a replacement part.

After a couple of go-arounds with simple repairs and corporate bureaucracy I decided that I wasn't going to play by company rules. I had managed to find a number of half dead AT's, which I stored in an empty cubicle. I cut a deal with my immediate supervisor to let me expense computer hardware - after all, we had a CompUSA (actually they weren't called CompUSA yet) right across the street. The next time one of my groups PC's died or needed an upgrade I did it myself.


Moving on, back to the future.

I left that job a few years later for another position with a company that I hoped would further challenge my programming skills. When it was discovered that I had no fear of computer hardware, I was immediately made network administrator of the Novell network and the (pre-Microsoft) e-mail system. I spent plenty of (uncompensated) hours working with the in-house IT guy upgrading or repairing the Novell network, in addition to my other responsibilities.  I stayed with that firm for about 3 years before realizing they were never going to let me do the kind of programming I had been hired to do. I left that firm and started my own contract programming business, James B. Wood - Computer Services.

My intent was to provide custom mainframe and microcomputer programming services and some microcomputer tutoring (DOS, Windows, etc.). While I did get some programming positions, I found that I received a number of calls from individuals and companies that required the services of a hardware and software knowledgeable person to set-up, configure or repair their systems.

A quick aside for those of you who have never written code... It cannot be done in 20 minute spurts!

After a year or so of taking these 'service' calls, the interruptions from the telephone and the appointments themselves made spending a solid 2 or 3 hours in front of my PC virtually impossible. The only time I could do any serious coding was after 10 at night. I eventually started turning down programming assignments and focusing my attentions on the service market.

Now, after 5 years of being a one-man computer services company and almost 2 years of client demand that exceeded my availability, I have created this new entity - Mr. Computer - to provide my standards of prompt, knowledgeable service and support to the ever-increasing computer user base in Southern California and maybe, just maybe, the rest of the country as well.

-- James B. Wood
---El Segundo, CA

James B. Wood  a.k.a. Mr. Computer