IT Core Spotlight: Jim Young

Meet Jim Young, who joined us this year on a part-time basis as a way to stay involved in software development after retirement.

Spotlight Date: September 22, 2015


  • Hometown: Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN
  • Favorite Dev Tool: gdb
  • Fun Fact: I make my own maple syrup! I just tap 2-3 trees/year, one in my back yard and a couple others near where I live.

What brought you to your current professional field and eventually to the MPC?

I took a high school computer programming class in 1966. We had one computer for the class to share. It had a paper tape reader for input, an electric typewriter for output, no disk drives of any kind, it’s dimensions were about 3’ x 4’ x 15”, and it had probably 100+ circuit boards. It had 512 15-bit words of (real core!) memory. Needless to say, it didn’t have any compilers. We programmed it in assembly & machine language.

As for the MPC, I didn’t want to completely retire but the company I was working for wasn’t interested in having part timers. MPC appealed to me because it offered schedule flexibility and would allow me to do other things I was interested in.

You’ve been in the industry a long time. What are some of the most significant trends that you’ve seen over your career?

Significant trends… the cost vs. power curve. My first PC with all the peripherals cost me over $5,000 in 1983. Needless to say you get a lot more today for 1/10th the price and it fits in your pocket. Also the internet - compare using a 1,200 baud dial up modem connecting to a few bulletin boards maintained by hobbyists local to the TC area with what’s available today on the web. There is no comparison!

What is the most exciting technology (for its time) that you’ve worked with, and what technology were you most happy to see go away?

Most exciting technology was having a computer I didn’t have to share with other users (that 1983 PC). I was happy to see punch cards and card readers, sorters, collators, etc… go away. Tape drives would be a close second.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve gotten to work on at the MPC?

dcp_multi [Ed. note: a parallelized version of our Data Conversion Program which produces our microdata for dissemination]. It also happens to be the only thing I’ve worked on at the MPC.

When you’re not wrangling data at the MPC, what other things keep you busy?

Volunteering with the City of Lakes Luminary Loppet, baking sourdough breads, tutoring recent immigrants at the Franklin Library Learning Center, and human powered outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, biking and hiking.

How do you get to work?

By bike or on foot - only a 15 minute walk from home!

What new skill(s) are your currently trying to learn?

How to get this *&%#$ Mac to do what I want it to!

Dialogue & Discussion