More About the Author
Hi, I'm Bob Rankin. I'm a geek, a computer programmer, a writer, a publisher, and an online entrepreneur who enjoys exploring the Internet and explaining technology in plain English. My degree in Computer Science (RPI 1984) got me a job at IBM, but after spending 15 years there, the Internet literally sucked me out. I've been called a "Translator for the Technology Impaired" and I think that fits pretty well.
Over the years, my work has appeared in Yahoo! Internet Life, Boardwatch Magazine, ComputerWorld, NetGuide, NY Newsday and other publications. In 1995, I began publishing The Internet TOURBUS, which was one of the first sponsored email newsletters. I have written several computer books, including "Doctor Bob's Painless Guide to the Internet", "JUNO: Free Email and More", and "The No B.S. Guide To Linux". I am also creator of the Lowfat Linux tutorial.
My work has a very diverse audience, with people from all over the world, and every level of computer knowledge. I try to present Internet tools and technology in a way that appeals to both gurus and grandmas. My goal is to help you solve your computer problems by yourself.
Everyone Has a "First Computer" Story
Ahh, my first computer... it was actually a TI-58 programmable calculator, which I taught to bark, sit, and play yahtzee, circa 1977. I also found that by making it flash "8888888888" near my old stereo console, it would interfere with the audio signal and generate a buzzing sound. So I programmed it to act as an alarm clock. My high school had a Model 33 Teletype, which was the first computer terminal I used. It was connected to a nearby university mainframe computer with a 110-baud modem (about 50,000 times slower than broadband today) and could save and load programs with paper punch tapes. There was an "OP" command to communicate with the system operator, but none of my messages ever got a reply. However, one day I logged in to find that my programs had been deleted. I sent a string of profanties to the operator, certain that nobody would ever read it. But the next morning, sitting in the assistant principal's office with my father, I learned that someone did. Oops.
Later, I had access to a Radio Shack TRS-80 with 16KB of RAM, a monochrome monitor, and a cassette deck for storage. More than 30 years later, I can still remember my teletype login (HEL-N703,MTH), coding the Fibonacci sequence generator in Fortran, and writing my own games in BASIC, or machine language on the TI-58. "Decrement and Skip on Zero..." that was hardcore!
"Sucked Out By the Internet..."
After college, I spent 15 years at IBM as a computer programmer. An ever-growing sense that the Internet held the key to my future, coupled with an entrepreneurial streak, motivated me to walk away from my IBM career in February 1997. It also helped me understand that I was pretty good at explaining technology to non-technical people. For three years prior, I had been doing freelance writing for newspapers and computer magazines. I became more and more fascinated with the Internet, both as an information resource and as a means of conducting business.
In 1994 I wrote the "Accessing The Internet By E-Mail" guide which explained how to access almost anything on the Net using simple e-mail commands, and gave it away for free. I took a little heat for having Delrina as a commercial sponsor in my FAQ, but it was hugely popular, eventually being translated into 30 languages. I then sold $5 guides explaining Internet tools for personal and business users. In 1995, I began publishing the Internet Tourbus newsletter, and got my first book published in 1996. I was confident that things would work, so I made the leap to being "gainfully unemployed" and have never regretted it.
In July 2005, I began publishing Ask Bob Rankin, a free tech support blog where I answer your burning questions about computers, the Internet, gadgets and technology in general. I operate on the premise that in order to succeed online, you need to offer a high-quality resource for free, build a reputation as a contributor to the Internet community, and be committed to a long-term view.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! -- Bob