James Simmons has programmed professionally since 1978. Back then computer programs were made using a special machine that punched holes into cards, reels of tape were the most common data storage medium, and hard disks were so expensive and exotic that the hard disk inventory of a Fortune 500 company would today be considered barely large enough to hold a nice picture of Jessica Alba.
The industry has come a long way since then, and to a lesser extent so has James.
James learned to program at Oakton Community College in Morton Grove, Illinois and Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. Times were hard back then and a young man's best chance of being employed after graduation was to become an Accountant or a Computer Programmer. It was while he attended OCC that James saw a Monty Python sketch about an Accountant who wished to become a Lion Tamer. This convinced James that he should become a Computer Programmer.
James' studies at WIU got off to a rough start when he signed up for Basic Assembly Language as his first real computer class, erroneously thinking that the word "Basic" meant "for beginners". From the computer's point of view it was basic, but for students not so much. He barely passed the course with a "D" but in the process learned that he enjoyed programming computers. He decided to continue his computer studies and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Information Science.
James was born in 1956, the year before Sputnik went up. He was a nerdy kid. At various times he fooled around with Erector sets, chemistry sets, microscopes, dissecting kits, model cars, model planes, model rockets, amateur radio, film making, and writing science fiction stories. He achieved no real success with any of these activities.
James participated in the first Give One Get One promotion of the One Laptop Per Child project and started developing Activities for the Sugar platform soon after. He has written the Activities Read Etexts, View Slides, Sugar Commander and Get Internet Archive Books.