Done, dusted, finished, over, complete, etc. So, looking back, was it worth it?
The first part was very worth it as it taught me how to program just at the right time and cemented a new career for me at my 40th birthday. I enjoyed my twenty years as a trader in the City and thought that the stress would drop away when I left. How wrong I was. I spent the next 32 years making most of my money from being able to program and being able to manage projects. My banking speciality made it easy and kept me apart from the mainstream of developers. It took me to 29 countries around the world, including Hawaii on two occasions! I never travelled below the equator so I missed out on Australia, New Zealand and South Africa but, apart from that, I have seen the world, at least the business centres of the world.
The stress in trading is when things start to go wrong. It is very easy, as in gaming, to chase one's losses and to get into trouble. So long as you are sensible, you can have a great time and make some good money. I was fortunate in that the good times there and from developing came when I had four children so we all benefitted. However, building a complex banking system and selling it to banks in the Middle East is a recipe for stress and anguish. Those phone calls when the system wouldn't start in Bahrain (3 hours ahead of us) left me, quite often in the early days, laying in bed with my eyes shut working out how to instruct them what to do. I remember one occasion where the only thing to say was - I will be on the first plane! Two weeks later, I got back! I well remember the 80-90 hour weeks - signing into one bank in the City at 9pm, into the next at 11pm and getting a phone call from a friend at the last bank asking if I really did sign in at 1am! Well, I did. That was what was required to keep "mission critical" systems going - at least until we had sufficiently trained staff to do the work instead of me.
The system we had was written in UCSD Pascal on a Pascal engine from a company in the US called Stride Micro (previously Sage). They built a Motorola 68000 based multiuser box that ran the UCSD stuff. On the front of this we had some nice colour HP monitors. These, even in 1985, had touch screen capability so our systems were installed minus keyboards. Very innovative but with one little flaw. You can only touch what you can see so you could never use a buffer to run ahead. Eventually, we converted to using an HP graphics tablet which proved to be much quicker with the advantage of that input buffer. Eventually, we moved to HP-UX using networks of HP unix boxes.
Finally, we ran out of steam and I ended up working for one of the big banking systems houses as their project manager for front office systems and worked there for a few years until they didn't appear to want to stay in that market. I was then made redundant and went my own way. During these years I had built-up a personal skill in writing Smalltalk and I have been a consultant in that field ever since.
OK, back to the OU. I have differing views of my time with the OU give the big gap in the middle. I found the first years interesting, stretching and worth while. There were regular tutorials in Cambridge (I was living in Billericay and then Gidea Park, Essex). A group of us would travel up and have a great day. Then there were the summer schools. It was the M101 summer school where I realised that I could write programs and had worthwhile ideas. These involved lots of new friends, lots of alcohol and lots of learning.
The second stint was all "first run" courses - TM351 and TM351. These were very poorly managed, to my mind, and were delivered in a "just in time" manner which left us poor students worried and feeling unloved. The interaction from the team on TM351 was terrible. The forum moderators on TM352 made up for some of the problems - thanks Richard!). The EMAs were poorly defined and supported and it is a wonder that anyone passed either of these courses. TM470 was better but there was little for the course team (is there actually one?) to do. My tutor was very good but the structure of Learning Outcomes didn't suit my project at all. Writing a system for my personal model railway made meeting LEs for literature citation, LSEPI and peer-review difficult to achieve. It was my inability to fulfil these that dropped my mark. I was getting 16-17 for each LE in TMA01 and 02 but then these topics began to impinge.
I wouldn't like to go back to the days of preprinted study books and no internet. However, I didn't like the online tutorials. Mind you, I didn't like the "real" tutorial that I went to in Cambridge as only three of us turned up and, after a round trip of 4 hours, it was a bit of a waste of time.
So, I am pleased and very glad that I bothered to come back. I have a student loan but my plan is to live to 102 and get it wiped out - grin. As I will never get a pension that is big enough to cause a repayment, that's the only way forward. I have gone back to my retirement hobbies - taking lots of photos, making plastic scale models and, of course, my US outline model railroad. I again have time to play my concertina and to pick up on my autobiography and my novel. As retired people often say, when did I ever find the time to go to work?
Well, that's it. I hope that you have enjoyed this blog. I think that both the Wordpress and the OU versions should stay up "forever". Don't forget to check out my other blogs: