Who is Bob Rankin?

Category: Personal

Every so often, people ask about my background, and how I got started with computers and the Internet. I've published bits and pieces of my bio before, but never a detailed account of my professional life. So here it is, with a few interesting personal asides...

About Bob Rankin

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 owner/operator of Flowers Fast, the popular online florist, and creator of the Lowfat Linux tutorial. See my profile on Google+.
Bob Rankin - Bio

This website 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

TI-58 Calculator - My first computer
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!

So I guess it was only natural from that point that I would pursue computer programming as a career. I studied Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) at the tail end of the punch card era, passed my Turing Test, and after two summer internships at IBM (Poughkeepsie NY) I was hired in May 1984. My group provided programming support for the engineers that designed mechanical, thermal and power components of the IBM mainframes. I wrote programs that interfaced with the the CADAM, GDP, and CATIA 2D/3D graphical design systems. I also wrote software for an expert system called CADAR that helped engineers design and route electrical cables through the 3080 and 3090 mainframes. Some of the languages I used include JCL, CLIST, CLIC, FORTRAN, PL/I, PLS, C++, EXEC2, REXX and Unix shell scripts.

At the end of my career at IBM, I was coding DB2/SQL database programs to enable the company to consolidate graphical design data from all IBM sites worldwide, in a single "mega-center" across the pond in Germany. The project, which was estimated to save the company over $20 million, hit a snag because the transfer of large files across the globe was not going fast enough. I spent an afternoon reworking the code, and as El Exigente used to say in the Folger's commercial, "The crop is saved!" But sadly, management did not seem to value my contributions, despite glowing peer reviews.

"Sucked Out By the Internet..."

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.

Flowers Fast began in 1998 as an adjunct to a retail flower shop that I owned with my ex-wife. I schooled myself in e-commerce, learning about website design, search engine optimization, merchant accounts, fraud prevention, online advertising, email marketing, and other needed skills. Flowers Fast is still going strong, just in case you need to send flowers to someone special.

Lowfat Linux started as "The No B.S. Guide to Linux," a book that was published in 1997. After the rights reverted to me from the publisher, I put the entire contents online as a free Linux tutorial. I'm a big fan of Linux and open source software, so if you're looking for help understanding Linux, especially the command-line interface, check it out.

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! Feel free to post your comment or question below...

 
How Else Can I Help You?   (Enter your question in the box above.)
 

Sign up now for AskBob Updates!

Boost your Internet IQ, keep up with the latest online trends... get your FREE subscription now!


Email:


Posted by on 10 Aug 2011


For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.
Need More Help? Try the AskBobRankin Updates Newsletter. It's Free!

Prev Article:
Gmail Spam Filter Settings

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
All External Hard Drives are Not Created Equal

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:


Most recent comments on "Who is Bob Rankin?"

(See all 34 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Pick
11 Aug 2011

Thank you Bob for contributing to the Internet. All your websites are great.


Posted by:

Harish Dobhal
11 Aug 2011

Hi Mr Rankin,

Your bio is interesting and inspiring. I would like to speak in your style - 'Reading this increased my respect for you by 146%' :-)

There is one good coincidence that I want to tell you, I was born the year you got your first computer!

My best wishes for your 'long term view'...


Posted by:

MMcQuown
11 Aug 2011

Good for you! I push your site to anyone who has a computer.


Posted by:

iNnOv8 I.T.
11 Aug 2011

Dear Bob,

Fascinating story and well worth the read. For a moment I thought your life was mine in parallel up until the point at which you graduated and became successful. Alas, I am still looking to bring my ship to shore, but praise your site and all you share and I endeavor to do the same. BRAVO and keep up the good "body of works."


Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
12 Aug 2011

Thank you, Bob, for this little view into the man who has earned my respect by sending me high-quality tech articles that anticipate and address exactly what I want to know. Your ability to take a complex topic that boggles my mind and organize it in a few logical steps in plain English is nothing short of miraculous.

It was due to your articles explaining such simple things as high-speed internet and bandwidth that I finally knew exactly where I stood with my old PC from the year 2000. I couldn't yet afford a new computer (while on Disability), but I got off AOL dial-up and onto Cablevision high-speed internet. (I had been unsure of whether to go with DSL or satellite or cable, not knowing which was better and why. I was too immersed in the rest of my life to devote even a little time to research this.) Upgrading my RAM, for only $30, from 512 MB to 1 GB (the max for this computer) helped a lot.

I even found a computer shop that upgraded me from Windows 98 2nd Edition to Windows XP (again, as far as I can take this PC).

I have been able to improve my computer life and therefore my personal life (faster health research online, etc.), all because one day you committed yourself to sharing your brilliant mental gifts on the internet.

Thanks again, Bob.


Posted by:

Jackie Gann
12 Aug 2011

HI Dr. Bob..I bought your cd 'Everything you need to know about Windows', and it's very good, and I have used it in my adventures with pc repair myself. I am not A+certified, nor Network+certified, but I enjoy working with computers, and enjoy the challenge of the 'hard' ones.
I am a 1 man operation, and work out of my home on a 'bench' with my tools. I am on facebook with a group called PC Tech. I use your material in my group, and of course I give credit where credit is due. I am always looking to improve and increase the ole database, my brain to help others in this ever changing technical world we live in. I appreciate your work. Come and visit the pc tech group sometime,we would love to see a post sometime. Thanks. JGann


Posted by:

Charlie
12 Aug 2011

Bob, When you were doing the Internet Tourbus, you had a coauthor, Pat Crispen. What happened to Pat and the Internet Tourbus?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Internet Tourbus is still rolling. Patrick hopped off about 3 years ago, but he still posts occasionally online in various places.


Posted by:

Gerry
15 Aug 2011

Dear Bob. I don't know how much or whether to thank or blame you for turning me into an addict. Every night, when in bed, i find myself, having grabbed my mobile phone, and into your website for my daily dose of enlightenment. From the day I got to know of this site, i just can't keep off. Fortunately, its transforming me into a 'geek' which is a good thing I guess. Am humbled by your bio. Just knowing that you were already into computer world ages before I was born is tremendously interesting. Indeed you are a guru by any standards. Thank you for the good work you are doing particularly to me and my likes who savour every article with the appetite it deserves. Kudos.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks for the kind words!


Posted by:

Ryan
19 Oct 2011

Bob,

I just wanted to say thanks for all the interesting and genuinely helpful content you share. Your email update is litterally the only non-work/non-personal email I actually care to open and read!

Keep it coming!

Sincerely,
Ryan


Posted by:

Nancy
20 Oct 2011

Many thanks for all the times you have saved my computer, for all the interesting reading, and for increasing my general knowledge. I appreciate you being willing to share your experience and expertise.


Posted by:

Ben
21 Oct 2011

Grew up watching a great man and legend on television. He is something I consider a hero. His name is Mr. Rogers. :-) Discovered computers around 1994-96 or so. Found another Mr. Rogers in my humble opinion, his name is Bob Rankin. You are both great men and inspirations. Thank you both for your contributions to the world.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I am stunned and humbled. Wow! :-)


Posted by:

dizzeedudlee
21 Oct 2011

Bob,
I enjoy getting your helpful e-mail updates,from "AskBob",as I did,getting them from the"Internet Tourbus".I would however,prefer to get them,on a weekly basis,instead of daily.I do realize,that many of your readers & e-mail recipients,like getting them daily.It would be nice,if you would offer an option,for people to have them come daily,weekly,or maybe even monthly.I hope you will consider this.Thank you,for your time.


Posted by:

Dorothea Gillwald
31 Oct 2011

Hi Bob, I love your new "ask bob rankin" articles very much, especially the one where you warn us about scams.

I really appreciate the depths you go into and the simple English a German born grandmother like me can understand.


Posted by:

Daniel Matsumura
05 Nov 2011

Hi Bob.

It is really nice to know more about you and your life.
I know something about you but I didn't know that you have an online flower shop.

Your life remembers mine too, and I also have an online shop, but for products of silver and located in Japan but for internal market only (we don't ship outside).

You have been doing a good work with your Ask Bob Rankin and I am very glad that you keep posting and helping people with your knowledge.

I just want to thank you for share your articles with us.

Daniel - Aichi, Japan.


Posted by:

RichF
08 Feb 2012

Bob, thanks for the many insightful articles that help to keep me current. I just recently became aware of your Flowers Fast connection and wondered why you don't have an ad on your website for them. It seems to me that it would be ideal, people surfing the web and realizing they need to send something to a friend or relative for some occasion and voila there's your ad.


Posted by:

Roy Vyskocil
07 Jul 2012

Problem with Windows 7 64bt. Runs fine in safe mode, normal mode task host starts and uses all the memory. Sure miss squirrel.


Posted by:

henry
16 Nov 2012

Sir: I got STUNG by the FBI ransomware virus
and still can't get out of it. I have a Lenovo IBM Thinkpad and re-installed XP Professional. Still locked out. Then I became desperate and returned the Lenovo to original factory settings. Still
locked out! Now I've lost valuable photos.
How stupid are the people working for the FBI that a second and third version of this malware continues to freely circulate? I am poor! Can't afford to have this taken to a shop. I've researched this thing to death. Any suggestions?


Posted by:

Melanie Goddard
12 Mar 2013

HI Bob - Thank you for such timely and inforative topics. Here's one that I'd love to see you tackle (although it may take a few separate emails to cover). "With such a variety of computing options, how do you know what you need? Desktop, all-in-one, laptop, tablet, smartphone..." What does each do best, and what combination of them makes sense? What can't you do on a tablet that you can do on a laptop, for example? I'd love to see a chart with features that compares each device!" Keep the great advise coming...I look forward to it.


Posted by:

Doug
22 Aug 2013

Thank you.


Posted by:

Bob F.
31 Jan 2014

Been reading your tips for several years, thanks for all the good info. Just sent u a cup java, enjoy


There's more reader feedback... See all 34 comments for this article.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! And please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are previewed, and may be edited before posting.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.


Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
RSS   Add to My Yahoo!   Feedburner Feed
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy -- See my profile on Google.


Article information: AskBobRankin -- Who is Bob Rankin? (Posted: 10 Aug 2011)
Source: http://askbobrankin.com/who_is_bob_rankin.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved