It was a Saturday, twenty years ago today that my life changed forever.
I'd been working since 1984 for the British Government as an IT manager, and at the time I was inc charge of a small network of SCO Unix boxes, supporting a userbase of about three hundred people. Various admin chores needed to be done when everyone was logged out, things like making tweaks to the password file or tuning the tcp/ip settings. Because I worked in Kensington and lived twelve miles away in Surrey it mean't a journey of about an hour and a half each way. I didn't mind getting the overtime but the commute on a Saturday really used frustrate me because I hate wasted time.
I was aware that being tcp/ip based, I could log in remotely to my network. This was pre-web my network wasn't connected to the internet. Being a government department, security was of absolute importance and I didn't think I'd ever get permission to dial up and log on.
The a device fell into my lap that changed everything. It was dial-back MODEM. If you youngsters don't know what a MODEM is then it is a device for connecting computers together over the phone by modulating and de-modulating the streams of bits.
Anyway the important thing here is dial-back. This particular brand (sorry can't remember for sure - think it may have been US Robotics) had a feature that allowed you to program in a phone number so that when you dialed in from outside, the modem would call back on the number specified. Incoming calls were otherwise blocked. Access to the network could be set to be only via the call back.
I felt a deal coming on. I thought it through for a day or two and presented my sales pitch to my boss at the time. Here's roughly how it went:
"Listen I've had an idea." I'm fed up with the Saturday commute, especially when the train fills up with Millwall fans, so why don't I use this here callback modem to make a connection to my PC at home so that I can work remotely? It's completely secure because it can't accept any incoming connections, and it logs the times of the calls. That means you have an accurate record of the time I'm actually working and another plus is you don't have to pay me travel time!"
He bought it! I couldn't believe it. The following Saturday was 26 June 1993 - I connected, the modem called me back, and I sat working at home in my pyjamas. It was so cool! It felt like it was the future. It was.
After about a year of doing this, I was happy, my boss was happy and everything was good. Then there was some sort of top down security review and I was banned from doing it, but by that time I'd already set a path to accept voluntary redundancy and go into the private sector.
On and off now I've been working at home for many of those intervening years, but nothing has matched the buzz I got on that first special Saturday.