STGC Alumnus, Errol Ray Lyn – My Story

Errol Ray Lyn

During the 1950s, I attended St. George’s College. I was an altar boy and in the choir at Holy Rosary church together with many friends including Patrick (Paddy) Chung, Professor Dr. Anthony Chen, John, Donald (a Queen’s Counsel Barrister at Law), Rudolph, and Clarence Scharschmidt, George MacFarlane, Floyd and Julio Forbes, Vincent and Arthur Moodie, Philip, Patrick, and Theodore Chin, Joe and Mickey, Leonie, Clare and Nice Richards, Michael Willoughby, my brothers, Roger and Nick Lyn, Iggy Lyn, Winston Lyn, Sir Anthony Irons, and many others. We had some of the most wonderful times going to picnics, serving the Lord, Novenas, Benedictions, High and Midnight Masses…what cherished unforgettable memories.

At the STGC Pageant at Emmet Park, I was the Magician’s assistant; Ronnie Nasralla was the Juggler. Do you all remember the Pageant?

After graduation from STGC, I worked for Singer sewing Machine Co. and met Fr. Easton Lee, who worked at the Singer Machine Office in Cross Roads, near Odeon and Carib Theatres and opposite the famed BRUCE’s patties shop. Then in 1958 I worked for BNS as the Remittance Teller…collecting all the mutilated notes from all the tellers in the late afternoons and replacing them with new crisp bills from the Treasury located in the Post Office Building on King St. The times were very different then from today’s dangerous and scary happenings in downtown Kingston. Every Wednesday, my guard and I would unhurriedly and safely take the bulging bags of worn notes to the treasury without mishap or even stares from pedestrians and people waiting on the chi-chi buses.

In 1959, I attended Iowa State U, got Mononucleosis and couldn’t hack the weather and the grades…had to withdraw disappointingly and sadly, of course. During the two semesters, Fall and Spring I tried going to the Newman Center but felt out of place and unwelcomed, so I stayed away. One of my friends was Rex Liu. His dad was an Ambassador from Thailand…I met Rex as he was in charge of the weight lifting Club on campus. We went to a meet at University of Iowa in the dead of winter which was cold and freezing though there was no snow as yet. I won my class as I was the only one in my weight class…although I was bound (Jamaican use of the word of course) to win because I could military press my own body weight of 125 lbs…btw, I didn’t even need to lift a finger to win in my class…needless to say.

Rex had a 1957 FORD hardtop convertible…what a beauty! It was a two door V-8 that was sooo heavy it didn’t need snow tires to drive around in the snow. At the time my friends, Lingson Lai and Arthur Lowe also attended ISU. Rex drove Arthur & I to his sister’s wedding in Fort Collins, Colorado during the blizzards and snowdrifts and even drove over the frozen lake which scared me as Rex’s car was very heavy and Rex was a bit of an extrovert and sooo full of energy. His dad gave Rex a nice apartment in Des Moines with a girlfriend too…what a classy lifestyle, eeeee!!! He claimed he never used it and we believed him because he was always on campus as the studies and class work was very demanding.

In 1960, I went to Los Angeles to Pacific States U….and graduated Summa Cum Laude 4.0 with a Bachelor of Science Electronic Engineering degree…Learned about Digital and Analog computers, Differential and Integration Calculus too. I was editor of the campus newsletter using a Gestetner repro machine.

At Pacific States U., I met some very sharp students who came from UCLA. My buddy, Richard Schwertzer, an Austrian whose parents fled Austria during the war to Venezuela had a 1956 Chevy so with other friends we often toured California with our other buddy, Don Evans. Richard was fluent in Spanish and German and not too shabby in English too. We often toured the many lovely beaches around the coastline of Los Angeles that were very inviting especially being recently from Jamaica and being familiar with Cable Hut, Wicki Wackie, Sirgany’s, Bournmouth, AlTerry, Boston Harbour, etc.

At some beaches during low tide, I could even walk out in ankle deep warm crystal clear water for over 100 yards. In downtown Los Angeles, the city’s old Chinatown was open ‘til 2 AM and we often went there for late meals. Hollywood was close by too, so we’d drive up and down Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard and often got succulent ribs from a small take out place next to the Farmer’s market on Hollywood Boulevard…a nightly ritual. We never saw any STARS or Actors.

At the top of Third St and Beverly Blvd, there was a famous Hot Dog Stand, named TOMMY’s…he’s been in LA since 1946. Tommy’s had the bestest chili dogs. As time went on he branched out into burgers and currently operates 24 successful locations…

In 1963, I then went to San Jose, Capital of Silicon Valley, CA to attend San Jose State U. I wanted to switch careers to Civil Engineering which is what my youngest brother did.

I loved the school environment in Northern California as the weather was very mild unlike Los Angeles that had lots of SMOG from the many crowded Freeways and Highways travelling almost all day and night. Here it was almost a laid-back style then as San Jose was more like a country town with orchards of plums, cherries, peaches and farms of vegetables and no immediate access to Freeways or major Highways…

During the eves I would work on many old autos that were relatively cheap then. I tuned them up and maintained them by changing leaky oil gaskets, replaced rings and bearings in the greasy engines but never attempted to take on any transmission work…my brother tackled one and that was one too many as far as he was concerned. In all we have had over 50 cars and vans. I’ve had 41 myself thus far…just for fun for myself. Looking back I could/should have sold some of them and made some money but as a student on a student visa, I felt compelled not to break any Immigration rules by working as it was not allowed then and probably still is the law.

In 1967, I needed to become a salaried and paying taxpayer, so after counting up my course credits, I had enough to graduate with a Bachelor of Science Math degree…actually I ran out of operating funds, so it spurred me on with my brother’s coaxing to graduate and go to work. By then I had passed my Citizenship tests and was a full Naturalized AMERICAN, so I was legal to seek a job without recourse.

After graduation, I worked as a design Engineer for Philco-Ford Corp, a defense contractor, in their Space and Reentry Division located in Palo Alto, CA. As part of my job requirement I had to qualify for a Secret Clearance, which I did in order to be able to handle classified documentation and information. I was an Electronic Design Engineer on a tactical surveillance computer system that was used in the Vietnam war. The computers then were real clunky, huge, heavy and slow compared to today’s fast, small-footprint, relatively light and portable Microprocessor PCs…

In 1975 there were two MicroComputer Stores in Northern California and one in Southern California. In November 1975, I left Philco Ford and opened the fourth Micro Store in all of California (North and South), called BYTE SHOP III aka MicroBYTE Computer. To my utter amazement, I turned over my full inventory of $18K by year’s end.

IMSAI 8080 microcomputer kit

Coincidentally, a company called IMSAI (IMS Associates, Inc. in San Leandro, CA) developed, manufactured and launched in 1975 their IMSAI 8080 microcomputer kits that were based on an S-100 buss architecture with an Intel 8080/8085A 2/3 MHz microprocessor CPU (see the image).

You need to realize that there was no operating software, period, for this device. There was no MicroSoft Corporation, No Apple Computer Company, no radio Shack/Tandy Computer, no Micro Computer Industry to speak of at this time.

In addition, as the MicroComputer Industry was in its infancy, the San Jose Mercury News tabloid and the local Phone Directory had no classification for Micros or Micro Stores…an initial classification was called of all things, COMPUTER ROOMS.

In 1976 and thereafter, we sold every IMSAI 8080 we could get our hands on. In fact these were the only items in my initial inventory. I figured that starting from the bottom ground floor…so-to-speak would be very risk-averse…and it was…and the timing with the IMSAI-8080 was a GOD-send…plus the only way from the ground floor had to be UP and luckily for me it was.

BYTE SHOP I was located on El Camino Real in Mountain View, CA and BYTE SHOP II was located on El Camino Real in Santa Clara, CA. BYTE SHOP III was located at the corner of Bascom and Union Avenues, In San Jose, CA. We were over 10 miles apart from one another, so there no competition to worry about.

MITS Altair 8800 computer kit

The Southern California Micro Retailer, named MITS Altair offered Altair 8800 kits based on the Intel 8080 2.0 MHz microprocessor CPU …they were the first of the HOBBY COMPUTER SHOP.

In 1976, I only bought one kit from MITS Altair and assembled it just for the experience. It was a fascinating toy which was not cheap, as a dollar those days had full value unlike today’s devalued dollar, and salaries were correspondingly much lower than that of today’s too.

However, the experience was well worth it from my viewpoint as I quickly determined not to buy/sell these units because of the assembling difficulties for anyone not familiar with soldering and careful handling of semiconductor circuits like CPUs and Memories that are susceptible to damage from static electricity. The same is true for assembling the IMSAI 8080 but there were less soldering of wires and it looked more like a finished product even in kit form before assembly; plus the IMSAI 8080 microcomputer was more colorful and the much larger paddle switches versus the toggle switches of the MITS Altair 8800 really sold me on the IMSAI 8080.

From 1976 to 1982, I sold many brands of Computers that were available based on the S-100 buss architecture and using the now obsolete CP/M disk operating system.

In 1976, my friend, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer brought the third Apple One PCB (Printed Circuit Board) to my store. It was a bare board with 4K of RAM memory, no input or output devices, no power supply. I had to hook it up to a clunky 10 cps KSR 33 teletype machine, with an optional built-in paper tape reader, and a power supply of 5 volts and –12 volts. In addition there was Stanford University’s Dr. Lichen Wang’s Tiny Basic program (in PROM) which had some limited computing power…but nonetheless this was state of the art in 1976, my friends!!!

No other programming software was available at the time too for microprocessors. There were many pac-man games and simple children games for these devices. Microsoft was in its infancy as it started operations in April 4, 1975, Radio Shack’s TRS-80 (affectionately named…Trash 80) was not yet available until December 1977. ComputerLand, a MicroComputer store chain would start its business pretty soon in 1977; it changed its name from Computer Shack…

Here are some Industry launch dates:
• Microsoft’s GW-BASIC was available circa 1983; IBM PCs were available August 12, 1981.
• MS-DOS grew from a 1981 request by IBM for an operating system for its IBM PC range of personal computers. Microsoft quickly bought the rights to QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), also known as 86-DOS, from Seattle Computer Products, and began work on modifying it to meet IBM’s specification. The first edition, MS-DOS 1.0, was launched in 1982. The version shipped with IBM’s PCs was called PC DOS.
• COMDEX (Computer Dealers’ Exhibition) of Las Vegas, NV (1979 – 2003).
• West Coast Computer Faire of San Francisco, CA started in 1978.

In 1982 I sold the business and relaxed for a few years…then in 1987, a job headhunter approached me about a Technical Writing Contracting work, which fit right in with my technical, writing and English grammar background…Many other writers had Literature backgrounds but little or no technical experience…however, they were often helped by managers who needed writers…To this day, I’ve yet to find out how he got my name.

Errol & Jia
Errol & Jia

I could go into more details which may be too verbose at this juncture, so I’ll fast speed to the year 1999, unfortunately, my first wife, Ming died from lung cancer, though she never smoked in her life.

In 2001, we had recently returned from visiting my many friends, classmates and relatives in Toronto, Canada, and after the fateful 911 terrorist attack on AMERICA, on October 1, 2010, my second wife Jia and I opened J&R Learning Center, Inc. It’s a Childcare facility, that keeps us very challenged physically and mentally with our preschoolers, kindergarteners, and after-schoolers who we pickup from various schools within a 5-10 mile radius, However, the overall rewards are more than worthwhile, as I can bring all my auto, computer, technical documentation writing, Math, English and STGC/Blake Prep schooling to bear and pass on to the future generations of AMERICANS.

Jia was born in Beijing and resided in Hangzhou, the HONEYMOON CAPITAL of CHINA. Her parents still live right across from famed WEST LAKE…a beautiful lake of LOTUS flowers and plants…by coincidence I chose the LOTUS flower for our logo…and it’s a symbol of PEACE and SERENITY…very befitting me theenks!!!

Errol Ray Lyn You (my dad’s surname)