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Pj Metz 1:58
doo doo doo doo doo doo welcome to the podcast and the stream. And this is the place to be right now. Those are the real words, actually. Do you know that?
Brandon Minnick 2:10
I didn't know that?
Pj Metz 2:11
Yeah, those are real. Those are real words that I said. Welcome to the podcast about people behind the tech. I am PJ Betts and I am coming to you live from the coldest that Orlando Florida has been all year. My house is 65 degrees. And I'm freezing with me as always, Brandon Minnick. But Brandon, you're not home. You're coming to us from a very special location today.
Brandon Minnick 2:42
Yeah, I was as interesting as because you're saying Florida was cold. I'm in Norway right now. And it's basically December. So woke up this morning to a nice fine layer of snow. I didn't pack any snow boots. I don't know why I didn't check the weather before traveling to Norway. But I got one sweater, one jacket and a scarf in this great hat to keep me warm. I am surviving.
Pj Metz 3:17
Well, to be fair, you've been you've been on the road for a hot minute. So you're probably thinking, Oh, I'll check the weather for the place I'm headed. And then beyond that your brain was like, yeah, it's all the same.
Brandon Minnick 3:28
Yeah, I will say yeah, long story short, I wasn't supposed to stay in Europe. This long. I was in Prague when we had our last episode with Dr. G. Wright missed it, go check it out. She's amazing. And I was supposed to fly home. And then even when I landed in Prague, Norway still had rules out there that said Americans gonna get in. And then the conference ended up basically helping us out. So I was able to get in. It was like, well, I could fly from Europe all the way back to the West Coast of the US for five days. Do it all over again. And talk to my wife and she's like, now just just stay out there. So yeah, I've been out here the whole time. I've been doing laundry in the hotel. It's been great.
Pj Metz 4:14
Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Nothing like hotel laundry, I gotta say and as a new person to the traveling for work group. Like I'm very excited for the day that I'm going to have to be like, Look, I packed two pairs of jeans and I've been here longer than I expected. Can I please do laundry? Oh, I don't even know the process. I don't know the process for that. That's terrifying,
Brandon Minnick 4:36
is it? Eventually you'll just get to the point where you have the hotel do the laundry for you. Even though it's like $80 for a load of laundry. Just because you just can't any like washing underwear in the sink just isn't cutting it anymore.
Pj Metz 4:51
No. Yeah, that doesn't sound great at all.
Brandon Minnick 4:55
But anyways, I am here for an amazing conference. It's called NDC Hello, that's Norwegian developer conference. It's one of the biggest conferences in the world, especially for dotnet developers. So if anybody out there wants to check it out, and DC will be live streaming. So you can watch, you can buy tickets, everything live, they will also be posting all the videos. So you can even catch my session on Graph QL. That's coming up later this week. It'll lead on YouTube, sometime. So we'll keep googling NDC Oslo, Brandon Minnick Graph QL to learn about all the things, but yeah, really excited. It's gonna be a fantastic conference, there's only been two days of workshops where I was just telling BJ how we were hacking, or I was at a hacking workshop, hosted by Scott Helm, one of the premier security experts in the world. So just the guy a true honor to be in His presence. It's it's been pretty incredible.
Pj Metz 5:52
Did you guys uh, did y'all illegally hit F 12. and inspect some code? Oh, yeah.
Brandon Minnick 5:58
Oh, we've been using all the developer tools we do at SQL injections. We've been doing cross site scripting Don't,
Pj Metz 6:05
don't dare. Don't you dare hit F 12. If you're in the state of Missouri, it's not allowed.
Brandon Minnick 6:13
He also taught me or taught all of us. How do you take down Netflix for your whole hotel? Is staying at the same hotel I'm
Pj Metz 6:22
in now? Because there's no other entertainment in this hotel. I can only watch the snow outside for so long. So yeah, are you are you uh, you are eventually going to be coming back? Is this conference, your last bit of this trip? Is this the last leg?
Brandon Minnick 6:36
Yeah, basically the last thing for the year, I'm back, flying back home Saturday. So really looking forward to being home being in my own bed. And then yeah, not having to get on a plane for the rest of the year will be
Pj Metz 6:49
very nice. Fantastic. Saturday, Saturday, I am running a half marathon and asked me how well I've trained for it. BJ, I have no trained Jerry. Well for it at all. It's been the longest distance I've run is I think six and a half miles. So it's going to be a treat to go double that. For the first time. There's going to be a lot of walking and a lot of maybe eating like, I don't know, Sour Patch Kids to keep my energy up as I go. I don't know how I'm supposed to do this. I wear I wear Hawaiian shirts in December. I'm clearly not the person that should be running half marathons. Uh, but yeah, that's, I mean, that's what's going on with me. Is this this half marathon? I know you're training for a very special run that's happening in like February, March, right?
Brandon Minnick 7:37
Yeah, doing the full marathon in March. So right after this, I'm going to go run six miles,
Pj Metz 7:42
who right after this, I'm going to go inspect a tree that was cut down in my front yard during, during this morning, and I'm very excited because I hated that tree. was a bad tree. Bad man. Bad tree. Look, listen, speaking of technology, um, we have a very special guest here today. Don't be branded someone that you actually know from real world life.
Brandon Minnick 8:04
We do. Such an amazing person, one of one of my favorite people. He's actually I don't even know if he knows this. But he's one of the reasons I have the job I have now. So long story short, I turned down this job. And then I found out that he along with a couple other people who I looked up to for joining the team. I was like, I had the opportunity to work with these guys, and immediately went back and asked if I could still have the job. So without further ado, welcome to the show Jim Bennett.
Jim Bennett 8:42
Hello, how goes everyone.
Brandon Minnick 8:45
Oh, it's so good to see you again, Jim. For the people out there who don't know, who are you? What do you do?
Jim Bennett 8:51
Who am I what to do. Um, so I'm Jim, I work for Microsoft. I'm what's called an education cloud advocate, which is one of these great titles that nobody has heard of Microsoft knows what it means. And most people in Microsoft don't know what it means. But I do the same job at Brandon. Quit now he is on the center of his brand new I focus on the education space. So I help students I help educators be successful with Microsoft technologies. Yet mainly University, I know a little bit high school, maybe boot camps, career changes, but mainly kind of university level. And a lot of that is around just making sure they've got the resources they need to learn how to use the stuff that we make. IoT the Internet of Things is my particular passion. So I play a lot with little devices. Hence why you can probably see behind me I have all manner of different gadgets and gizmos and you know
Pj Metz 9:48
how many of those devices connect to the internet?
Jim Bennett 9:53
Most pretty much most. I mean, this one here this is an AI box is called an Azure Portal. It's got cameras with AI accelerators and microphones, accelerators that click the internet. I've got all manner of Raspberry Pi's and Arduino devices there and all my lights connect to the internet. And you know, I can just press a button on a stream deck on my desk, and then if ever catches
Pj Metz 10:16
up, it will say, Oh,
Jim Bennett 10:19
you know, oh, that kind of good stuff.
Pj Metz 10:22
It doesn't connect to the internet. But I can go with our brand colors back here. Bam. There's what we call the eight bits green. Now, trademark pending, trademark, pending, it's coming.
Jim Bennett 10:38
You should have sent me the RGB code for that. And I could have done that in my life. It could have matched
Pj Metz 10:42
Oh, man, I don't know it's this button on the controller. Do you see?
Brandon Minnick 10:49
Jim, thank you so much for joining us today, I feel like you are just the perfect guest to have on the show. Because eight bits is all about the people behind the tech, and even more specifically, about how to get into tech. And like you mentioned a minute ago, that's quite literally your job is to bring tech to students. So I'm curious, because I mean, I played computer games growing up, I could use the command line in order to run the computer games, but I never learned to code as a kid. So what tell us what what are you bringing to these students in? And also, how young are we teaching kids tech nowadays.
Jim Bennett 11:39
So in terms of what I'm bringing the students I'm, I'm trying to make sure that what we at Microsoft provide for them is student friendly. So if you've ever waited through our marks of documentation, you ever waded through all of our online learning materials, we're really great at building stuff for professional developers, we're really great at assuming you know, all the things, and then we bring you more. So you know, you want to learn about how to connect a Raspberry Pi to the internet, you want to create things, you want to send data to the cloud, what have you. And we've got great documentation that talks about the security of how you should connect and you know, how should architecture application, which is really, really important stuff. If you're building up your big company, and you want to have all the, you know, you're a student is your first year of computer science, you've just dabbled a little bit in C Sharp or Java for object oriented programming 101. And you've got this Raspberry Pi, and you want to connect it to the internet. What do you do? So I'm I'm there to try and think about how I can build the right content. So you go on the internet and search for, you know, IoT connects to the internet, I want to make sure that what you get when you do that Google search is something that's actually going to help you at your level. So it's, you know, let's just do some basic Python code. Let's not show you all the examples with all this, that and the other that you would need in the enterprise world. Here's the two lines of code to make do the thing. It's really my area of focus is
Pj Metz 13:05
let's see, where were you? Where were you? What I was learning to code a year ago? What I need a gym. I was
Jim Bennett 13:15
still doing this stuff. It's just you know, I guess we haven't gotten good enough of the out there yet.
Pj Metz 13:19
Let's I mean, also, like it was I mean, I was brand new to cut, I didn't know what I was doing. And Brandon watched me go through it, where I'd be like, I'm trying to do this. And I don't know a brand. I was like, Well, let me see if I can help. And I think it does come from a certain amount of like, knowing how to Google what it is that you're actually looking for can be difficult. So I am for one, very happy that in the future, no one will have to go through what I went through of typing. How do I make Visual Studio run my code? It will just be information that's easily found. Because the first time I opened Visual Studio code, I was like, what, how do I make it go cuz I knew how to make it go with the website I was building with Brandon, there was a little like, Run button. I didn't know. It was intimidating. It's fantastic.
Jim Bennett 14:09
You've kind of hit on the nail of the difference between a senior level programmer, you know, your principal level staff level C level programming, and you're kind of junior level programmer. It's not about how good you are at coding. It's about how good you are at googling. Yeah, it's true. Um, that was a great session. So we run this thing called the Imagine Cup. It's like a student competition. You know, get students together, build projects, win big prizes. And we had a kind of kickoff event for it. And Scott Hanselman, though, if you heard of him, vaguely famous guy from, from somewhere around Portland, he did a session and one of the things he points out is the difference between the more advanced programmers or senior programmers and the junior ones is just that we've come across a whole class of problems before and we know how to cut out those problems quickly. So when we hit a thing that doesn't work. If you're a junior, you're like, I don't know where to start. whereas the more senior programmer will come along, it definitely can't be that, or here's a little test I can do for that. And I can clear out that whole class of problems and just focus down so we can we can narrow down quicker, because we've seen it before. That's really the only difference.
Pj Metz 15:14
I mean, it's as simple as knowing where to look in the logs for the error that you actually need in order to figure out the problem that just comes with experience. Oh,
Jim Bennett 15:23
yeah, yeah, I mean, I've worked with a guy who was a phenomenal programmer, simply because he was a genius with Reddit with regex. I know they exist. Applications, he, he didn't have the experience. So he wasn't able to kind of architect the whole application at his experience level, because he'd never kind of come across those problems. But when something was broken, it'll be like, right, here's the logs. And he would, he would better do his regex queries through the logs. And he could trace through exactly what was happening. And there's really complex applications. And these were financial applications, who got data coming in prices, stock prices, currency rates, all that kind of stuff, orders go in and out. And he could just navigate through the logs and find out the problem. And it's like, yes, you're a genius. Because you can do that. And there's a more junior programmer, you'd say, this doesn't work. They would just be hours trying to figure it out. He like push, push, push, push, push, here's the log statements.
Pj Metz 16:27
Oh, man, that's fantastic. And I love that we are actually in like, you and I are in fairly similar fields. I'm on the education team at GitLab. That's kind of our thing. We're trying to bring DevOps to classrooms. So um, earlier, Brandon asked you about, like, what are you bringing the students how you getting students involved. So um, I want to keep hearing more about that, because like, I'm community taught, I learned with Brandon and I learned with Chloe Condon. And I learned with Code Academy where I actually typed out code and learn stuff. So like, um, water? I don't know, I just want to hear more I want to I didn't want to interrupt. But I also like, I want to hear more about what you're doing with students. How about you said with boot camps, what have you done with boot camps.
Jim Bennett 17:13
Pj Metz 19:46
lesson. Like I get it. You got it. You got to don't bite the hand that feeds you, you know, you got to lead it right back up the arm.
Jim Bennett 19:52
Exactly, exactly. But you know, we've made it so that we teach you the basics of what is what is IoT? What is the Internet of Things? What are the different microcontrollers. and simple computers. What is a sensor? What does it do? How does it work? How does an actuator work? When you're skating to the cloud? Why did you take the car? What do you do with it? What do you think about the data that you do? How do you bring artificial intelligence to IoT devices, which kind of one of the big growth areas at the moment, and we kind of build up all that, but we use the Microsoft platform as the tools that you use to do it, we teach you the Internet of Things, using Microsoft tools, we don't teach you the Microsoft tools, we teach you the Internet of Things. That's the focus. And it's kind of this kind of stuff we're doing. So if you're a student, and you want to learn how to do the Internet of Things, the kinds of courses that you can work through it, we've worked with a company called Seed studios who make hardware. So you can literally buy the chem, IoT, it's Internet of Things, you need the things, you got to click a button, and they will send you a box with all the kit that you need all pre packaged, we've also got a simulator for it as well. So if you want to do internet of things, but you don't want to spend 100 bucks on a kit, it's 100 bucks, it's a lot of money, it is a lot of money to spend, and you just want to dabble in that you don't buy the hardware, we've got simulators that simulates the entire hardware stack. So you can do the whole thing you can ever get Internet things, you can learn about sensors and actuators and gather data from sensors and control actuators send the data to the cloud process it run artificial intelligence on the edge, all this kind of stuff without buying any hardware doesn't cost you a penny. And it's it's this kind of stuff we're bringing, and we're working with lecturers around the world who want to take this content and just teach in the classroom, they don't have an IoT course, they don't have the time to develop one. Because these are really busy folks who for some reason, don't get paid very well. You know, education, absolute most important thing on the planet, we don't pay them outlay. And so if we can help them by saying, Here's your curriculum, prebuilt you take what you want, it's completely free, we don't care what you do with it, take the bits you want, take the whole thing, whatever, then we can empower them to actually teach these concepts to students in a way that they couldn't do before. Because
Pj Metz 22:00
you're you're teaching WHAT IS IT training the trainers and giving them the resources they need? Which is to be honest, like I was a teacher for 11 years, the way Brandon sold me on developer relations was I mean, you're I'm kind of still a teacher like you get to stay a teacher. And that seems to have been Brandon's philosophy behind the way he approaches debt. Does that make sense? Brandon, that you just see yourself as like a teacher like as an educator, right?
Brandon Minnick 22:29
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think the best thing you can do as a developer advocate is shoes is to teach people and kinda like Jim was saying, you, you teach them how to do cool stuff. And yes, Jim and I both work at Microsoft. So we're going to teach you how to do that cool stuff using the Microsoft tools. But yeah, all those skills will translate to other languages, other frameworks, other clouds. And so the the idea is, we just want you to become a better developer be able to make good stuff. Less bugs. Yeah. Longer up times. But absolutely, yeah, teaching is the main part of the job.
Jim Bennett 23:11
Yeah, it's kind of two parts. It's, we teach people how to do things. And then when they when they hit problems with what with what they're trying to do, we go back to Microsoft and say, fix it, so that we can teach people better. You know, we advocate for our audiences, we advocate, we are developer advocates. And I like to think that we advocate for developers not our job involves advocating to developers, but really, to me, it's advocating for them, so that we can provide them the support they need. And then when they say this doesn't work, I can't understand this. I don't know that I want to do this, I don't I don't understand your documentation is it doesn't make sense for me, or doesn't make sense, or this is not logical, or I can't grok this, we can take that feedback back to the to the people Microsoft and fix that, which means your learning experience is better. It's kind of like when you say you're a teacher, it's kind of in the classroom. If a student can't understand the worksheet that they're working through, you can then go back to Teachers Pay Teachers, or you know, where you get the worksheet from what was your teachers, you can you can kind of fix that for the next set of teachers. My wife is a elementary school teacher. So I've been learning all about this. She literally just started she graduated as an elementary school teacher focusing on special needs a few months ago, and so she's working as a substitute teacher, and my daughter's elementary school, just five minutes up the road, and she's supporting everything from the resource rooms to the learning centers to classrooms. She's a kindergarten teacher today. So I get to hear about all these great facilities for teachers.
Pj Metz 24:45
A lot of teachers pay teacher's shout out to you for saving my Great Gatsby unit and 2014 I really appreciate it.
Jim Bennett 24:52
So for those who don't know, teachers pay teacher's is where teachers can create learning materials and then sell it to other teachers. So if you're ready Teacher You can literally buy learning materials. And the reason there's all this kind of transactional nature is teachers don't get given enough money to pay for the materials they need. So they don't get paid enough anyway. So they will, they have to buy it themselves, because there's no other way to do it. But if they sell on Teachers Pay Teachers, they can actually get more, they get paid more. Yeah, the teachers paycheck is pathetic for what they do. It's hideous how badly teachers are paid, I could probably spend the rest of the session just ranting. We can buy aircraft carriers and spend 2 trillion on fighter jets that don't work. But we can't pay teachers a decent wage, and we expect them to buy stuff. Last night, pop the Dollar Tree with my wife so she could buy some stickers and pens and stuff to get out in class today out of her own pocket. And this is just, this is terrible.
Pj Metz 25:51
And this is why I'm in tech.
Jim Bennett 25:55
While other people are leaving teaching, there's a great resignation happening and teaching.
Brandon Minnick 25:59
Yeah, it's funny, I was just when I was in Prague, I was chatting with some folks who are from around that area, specifically Switzerland, and they were saying how teachers there. It's one of the highest paid professions. And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense to have your best, brightest smartest people teaching because then they'll pass on that knowledge and the next generation becomes even
Pj Metz 26:26
better, brighter, smarter, leveling up, right.
Brandon Minnick 26:30
You're, you're investing in the next generation, and then you all will essentially grow as a society together. And, you know, those are gonna be the people making the COVID vaccines 20 years from now, because they're gonna
Pj Metz 26:43
be around. Yeah, I mean, both of you are saying the exact the exact same thing that I hear a lot of times that teachers are underappreciated, undervalued and certainly underpaid. And that teachers pay teacher's website. There's also free stuff on there, people believe in what they're doing so much that they'll just give it away for free. It's, it's it's endemic, that like, teachers have to have something called Teachers Pay Teachers to make extra money. But I will say like, there's some amazing bright educators out there that are making amazing things for every kind of subject. And what Teachers Pay Teachers does, it doesn't just allow teachers to get paid for some of the work they're doing. It allows us to share stuff with each other. And you ask any educator in the world, if you're working in a school, and another teacher says, Oh, I don't know what to do for this unit. Another teacher is gonna step in and say I have something for you. And they will just give it to you. We are constantly just trying to give stuff to each other. So teachers pay teacher's said, Look, we want you to keep doing that. We want a place for you to do that. But also you can get, you know, $15 for this Great Gatsby unit for this Pythagoras and theorem unit. It comes with all the quizzes, tests, assignments that you need, and it gives you the curriculum, hey, you're going to do this for three weeks. Here's what everyday looks like, here's what it looks like. If you're on block schedule, here's what it looks like. If you're on a standard schedule. It's a fantastic website, any educators out there, I highly recommend it. Um, Jim, first off, I'm loving you for being like an education advocate on this show is fantastic. But I want to ask about like, we're talking about education, we're talking about how you're helping educate the next generation of how did you get started with coding what what did your coding education or where did you start with tech?
Jim Bennett 28:32
Hmm, so I actually started a very, very long time ago.
Pj Metz 28:37
I don't believe it.
Jim Bennett 28:39
I actually started would have been Oh 1983 1984 So you know, we're talking 35 years ago. A lot. Yes, I am that old. I know. I look at a mere 21
Pj Metz 28:58
But listen, you are you are absolutely the youngest looking old person I've ever seen in my life. But so 93 It is it is a high five and I love you, Jim. It's so is this what machine is this on that you're that you're programming on?
Jim Bennett 29:17
So I learned to program on the Zedeck spectrum, the 48k version with a rubber keys. So there's that there used to be an inventor in the UK Sir Clive Sinclair. He sadly passed away 16th of September this year. But he was a brilliant inventor and he was trying to bring computing devices to the masses. So we actually invented the first pocket sized pocket calculator. Yeah, the first one is actually smart enough to go in your pocket
Pj Metz 29:42
first pocket calculator. Yep.
Jim Bennett 29:45
The first one is small enough, the Sinclair executive. And that was the first one that's small enough to go go in your pocket. And he went from the side inventing computers, and he wanted to build home computers, so not the big ones you find in massive ways. houses for data processing businesses, he wanted to build home computers. So we started off with a single digit X 81 with one kilobyte of RAM in it, you can get around packed, expand it to 16 kilobytes of RAM, or basically set it processor. And then he released I think was about 83, he released the 48k ZX Spectrum. So that's the one you got in the picture there. The one with the rubber keys, it was this lovely metal shell had this rubber keys used to type it had 48 kilobytes of RAM. And that is nothing you know, I've got source code files with with that. But it's didn't have much, much RAM had no built in storage. So what you had to do is you had to plug in a cassette deck. Now for those who have not seen cassettes, cassettes are literally long strips of magnetic tape, that will kind of roll up in this plastic box. And it used to get music on there, and you get a bit of games on that. So you don't have to buy a tape deck, a separate one, wow. Then you plug in cables into the back of the spectrum. And you could read from the tapes, or write to the tapes. That's how you save save programs. There you go there, wow. And that actual cassette there, that's the one that comes that's the next spectrum horizons that is that came with the original spectrum, it had a number of games on there. One called horoscope skiing, I think was on there hungry Horus, and a few other games. And it had some basic coding activities.
Pj Metz 31:27
So I have to say,
Brandon Minnick 31:30
just just to paint a picture for anybody who's listening on the audio podcast, we're pulling up pictures of these of the the Sedex spectrum. And if you can picture in your mind, this is what it reminds me of when you ever see like a police interrogation. And they have this tape recorder recording. Um, and before they sit down, they hit the record button, and then they started interrogating him. That's what this looks like. But you're saying this is the computer.
Jim Bennett 32:00
Yeah, so the tape that was set up, so you click the Insert button. That's how that's what that was just always none of this has seen it, save it to a zip drive or, you know, so my age there again, or a floppy disk or USB stick or SD card, it was on a cassette.
Pj Metz 32:14
And that's wild. Yeah. And those
Jim Bennett 32:17
cassettes, you'll get a cassette that could play, you know, half an hour of music on the cassette. And that would record an entire program on that it would take. So if you loaded a game, you could buy games on cassettes, and it will take seven minutes to load. So you put the cassette in seven minutes. To say start loading the game, you press play on the tape deck, and it will take seven minutes to load. And sometimes the game will crash as soon as it loaded. So you start all over again. But that was the this was the first real the first real home computer and this
Pj Metz 32:48
Yeah, like even this first picture I was looking at it's from a Guardian article. And the title is the legacy of a computer for the masses. This is bringing it to homes in something that an average home could afford.
Jim Bennett 33:05
Yeah, this was like 100 pounds at the time. I don't know what that back in the day.
Pj Metz 33:11
We're doing it 1983 pounds. Today money. And I'm guessing it's gonna be like 350 pounds. That's what I'm guessing 100 pounds is gonna be like 350 Where can I type it in? Where's the character? There we go. The one we're gonna do dollars.
Jim Bennett 33:31
Yeah, so probably probably about 300 pounds today. So you think about how much you'd pay for a bottle, the range Xbox so that the games grabs on, it's kind of that kind of price. So it was still expensive. Not everyone could afford one. But it was priced at a point that the masses could start to buy them. And you you plug it into a TV. So don't worry about any kind of monitors are nothing special to say you plug into TV. And yeah, my dad came home with one one day. And it was just amazing. It was this thing. And she put in the cassette and you play games like wow. And then you could actually write in Word and he will convert the words things that would happen. So the very first program I wrote you always have to have line numbers because the code is pregnant basic. And you have to have line numbers very first program I wrote was line one print quotes Hello quotes ran that and it printed Hello on the screen that was my first ever Hello World and probably about 8384
Pj Metz 34:30
Is that not the most exciting thing though? Like every I feel like everyone the first time they said computer do this and it did it. You're like I am I am a God. This is
Jim Bennett 34:42
better than that to go to one run that instrument. Hello, hello. Hello.
Brandon Minnick 34:50
Jim Bennett 34:51
this is this is the thing. And actually if you go back to the pictures you had up there Yeah, that was one picture A little bit down below the pictures of Clive Sinclair, there's a picture there with an orange book. So when he came in this big orange book was ring bound with kind of black spiral ring binding. And it had how to program in basic. So it actually taught you how to write basic code. And it had example programs you could type in. So you can type in word games like hang man, or very basic graphics games, you can just moving around the screen, things like that. And so not
Pj Metz 35:26
only is it like an affordable computer for home, like, yes, you have to have a tape deck. Yes, you already have to have a television. But it also automatically already comes with how to program and how how you can take what we have, and build things with it.
Jim Bennett 35:43
Mm hmm. Oh, yeah, that was really that was part of Clive's idea. So class I did was to try and not just bring a games machine, but bring an actual computer people would use, yeah, they could, they could program themselves. And there was lots of applications you get, you get a printer for it. So you could do word processing, you could do you know, a database where you actually save the data off to cassette tapes, you have to load the database program from a cassette analyze your data from a cassette, but it will all these things too. And yet coding was just, it just exploded. So there was so many magazines and books are being released on how to code. Now I was young at the time, I was kind of 767. As I started doing this, I didn't have the attention span, to do all the programs. Yeah, hang man was hundreds and hundreds of lines of code. And I'll do a little bit but I would get bored. But my mom, my mum, absolutely fantastic person, she's ABS incredible. And she had the patience to sit down with me and actually copy and finish off typing. So I'll do a bit share with you. But I do a bit she would do that. And she would support me and all the typing that I would do, so that we could get the program written. So thanks to her, I was able to it wasn't the Howard of the board. I didn't thanks to her. That got me hooked.
Pj Metz 36:57
That's absolutely fantastic. I love the idea. Like sometimes it takes someone else kind of nudging you along and being like, Look, I know it's not great right now, or you're not fully in right now. But if we just keep going this could be and surely she wasn't like, this is going to help you because in 30 years, you're going to be working at Microsoft, and we're going to need you to make the money that you got to go out there and work for a tech company, she was just thinking, I know that there's something interesting here. And I want you to get there. Because sometimes you gotta you got to wade through some stuff, that's not as interesting. Um, but like speaking of interesting, I think we have an ad break that we were gonna take real quick. And we'll just hear some from our sponsors. And we'll be back in just one second y'all. Hi, I, if you're hearing my voice, that means you've been listening to or watching eight bits with Brandon and PJ. And we're here to talk to you about your product. And how it can help you in your life by to do whatever your product does. So if you're an avid listener of the show, or you watch us on Twitch, then you will know that your product, your product is right for you.
That's right. That's a real ad. I'm almost sad that one day we are going to replace that with a real ad. But if you'd like to advertise with us, this is a program that does take money that Brandon's fronting all of it. And he needs to get paid back at least a little. No, we we are that's open. We will advertise on here. Hello at eight bits.tv will send us an email and we will talk with you about that. Brandon, what do you guys this, this adds so good.
Brandon Minnick 38:56
So, so Jim, I'm really curious, because I feel like if you told anybody nowadays that your first experience into computing and even gaming was, well, I turned it on. And then I waited seven minutes. And then if it didn't crash, I got to use it. And it was amazing. They would think you're crazy. So what what was the next step? So how did this technology evolve? And then how did you evolve? How did you evolve with it? Yeah, yeah,
Jim Bennett 39:28
um, I mean, the next step for me was just I just coded. I just kept on coding and I would try and do things more advanced, more advanced. Now, things were a lot slower back then it wasn't just the seven minutes that you have to wait for the game to load. If you need to know how to do something now you would just Google it would go to Bing and Google it with Bing and you'd find the thing that you have to do
Pj Metz 39:52
with being late with
Jim Bennett 39:53
big, you can just go into a get the answer. back then. We didn't have that we didn't have there was no internet. There wasn't there was like a community, I couldn't go into a discord forum and ask a question. I would have to literally go to the library.
Pj Metz 40:08
Now, how did you find funny pictures of cats?
Jim Bennett 40:10
We didn't have funny pictures of cats didn't?
Pj Metz 40:14
Wasn't ages before the internet. So did you? Did you go to the library and find more books on programming then? Yeah, yeah,
Jim Bennett 40:23
I mean, we used to go every week. So Wednesday's was late opening at the library. And because I live too far away to just go there on my own, yeah, eight 910 years old, I can just get get my bike and ride three miles to library. So we used to go every Wednesday, that late opening, so we'd go with my dad after work every Wednesday, and I would be looking around, I would get some books to read. And I would look in the computing section. And occasionally, they would have some books. The problem is it's so library, they don't have 1000 copies of every book. And they still got small amount of competing books. So even smaller amount of Basic Books for the spectrum. And you had to hope for somebody hadn't taken the book out. So yeah, go there, flip through try and find a book. If it didn't have any books. It was a librarian. Yeah, excuse me, do you have any books on the spectrum, I could reserve and you have to wait three weeks, potentially, for the book to come back. So you can get it out again. And so you just get this book, and you'd be glued to it? Yeah, I got one for graphics programming in basic on the spectrum. And the last thing you built was like this haunted house. And so it's this house in the woods, all eight big graphics. Yeah, the spectrum had this weird thing where every eight by eight pixel square, you can only have two colors, just two colors per square. That's that that kept the graphics memory down. That's a big mass producer. So you have a very blocky graphics. And you'd build this, this house with trees and lightning flash and then open up like a pumpkin and pop out. And you know, I got this book. And it took me like three weeks to get all the code in because they had to go back to the library and say, Can I renew this library book, please, because I haven't finished the code on there. And you get lucky no one's dead. So get out for three weeks and just finish off this graphics program. And it's just just brilliant. And it was just kept me kept me going. It's kind of all types of programming and playing games. Downside is, you know, I had a sibling had to share the computer with a sibling. So it was, you know, parents were all to get one hour. And that's it. And then hopefully, through coding something, stop, save it to cassette, wait an hour for my next turn and get back on it. But it's kind of carried that carry that I'm going with things back then as well. That wasn't the computer science education in schools. So I was doing this on my own time. At school, we didn't have any computers, we could code. As I got older, I got towards the upper end of high school. We had BBC micros, which is from the British Broadcasting Corporation, computers they released gave out all the schools. And the computer lessons we had were how to put things in a card style database how to do desktop publishing. You know, I did a GCSE was exams you do in the UK when you're 16 in it, no coding at all. They didn't have any coding, it was Excel, Sarah page plus how to use a handheld scanner. You know, it was nothing that was coding. So I wasn't exposed to coding as a career. It wasn't really something that was talked about in our career sessions. We didn't talk about the fact you could get into tech. It was something I was doing at home. And I knew some people at school who were dabbling with PCs, and Pascal's and eventually be updated to a PC. I kind of do a little bit of little bit promo on the PC, but it wasn't really taught. And so I didn't have this idea in my mind of I want to go into a career as a program just wasn't a career I knew about, right. But I was actually enjoying chemistry. I was doing chemistry at school, I loved chemistry, great teacher, I had absolutely loved chemistry. So I thought I'll get I'll be a chemist, I'll go work for some chemical company making stuff just because I like this. And I've no idea what I want to do. And look through chemistry degrees. And I saw a chemistry degree. They called it Computer Aided chemistry. And so it was letter chemistry, plus copies of stuff. So you did things like coding, you do things like molecular modeling. So actually build 3d chemical structures on screen and workout protein folding and how they connect together. And then you did things like machine interfacing. So how do you control a piece of chemical equipment from code so you write code to control the machine that put stuff in things? And I thought, This sounds a lot of fun. I'm enjoying this competing stuff. I've done some programming. I enjoy this chemistry stuff. Let's do this. And so I got into this degree program. And I realized as soon as I did my first eight hour lab as a coder, I don't care about chemistry. I just don't care about that. I just want to write code. But I kind of stuck with it. Probably should have switched degrees if I thought about it, but I still didn't really have a career path in my mind because nobody explained tech careers to me at the time. Did a couple years of that did an internship. Yeah. And my internship. Yeah, I was working for what was SmithKline Beecham. It's now part of GlaxoSmithKline when the big global pharmaceutical glamorous as a coder. They literally wanted somebody to build to write code. Yeah, that was a little bit code. There's a come in and code for spend a year writing code. So start off with some VBA, some classic ASP, not even SP dotnet. This was pretty loud.
And then we dived into Delphi, which is Object Pascal kind of drag and drop controls on the screen right Pascal code behind and I spent basically the bulk of a year as a Pascal coder, Delphi coder, building up systems for what's called combinatorial chemistry. So they it's one of the tricks they do in in pharmaceuticals is they will mix 100 of these 100 of these and different combinations, produce 10,000 drugs and then just test them against something to see. It's very slapdash approach, but they do it on bulk, they say a couple of things hit and then they can dive in deeper. So it's, it's, it's that sounds bizarre, but it works. It's really, really effective for for certain things. And so we're building the systems to put it together. And I was getting paid to write code. And it was just brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And I was very junior. Yeah, never had a professional coder before. And I worked with some fantastic people who supported me all the way through as you know, they saw I had an inkling for I had a real interest. Yeah, is that right? You want to learn more? I bought this book, here you have it, first you work through it. First, you learn this thing. Yeah, here's some ideas about this. Here's some stuff like this from people who had been programming for longer. They still weren't professional programmers by trade. They started off in the lab doing chemistry, but they liked helping out on like, writing some VBA in Excel. So they kind of got promoted into it. This was kind of 9798. So the the job market for programmers was very, very small. It was kind of a citizen developers. But once I spent a year coders, I said, this is what I want to do, wrapped up my year of chemistry, it's like, right, the next job I take, I'm a coder, got to be allowed to have thick,
Pj Metz 46:44
and it's funny, your your career path was never like really a huge leap from one place to a completely different one. It was incremental and building on something that you had previously done before. And I think that's where a lot of younger people who are trying to get into the industry, they think, Oh, I'm never gonna make it up there. But a lot of times, it's these like steps that build on what you've already done, and what you've already created for yourself, that allows you to move from one level to the next, I think your your story seems to be a perfect example of that. Yeah, I
Jim Bennett 47:16
mean, my first professional job when I got out of university was working for a chemical and biological informatics company. So this company produced systems for managing chemical data, imagine biological data, and I joined that chemical data team. So we were doing things like building what's called Oracle Data cartridge. So allows you to find a new data type in Oracle that you can query. So we were querying chemical structures in our home. So this was back in 99 2000, we could query a Milliken million structures in a 10th of a second to find out whether you had exact match to a chemical structure. Yes, pretty good stuff we're building. But I couldn't have built it without understanding the chemical structure. Yeah, how do you encode it? Well, you've got this thing of like these letters with lines between them. What does this mean? We're actually feeling phenol Groupon. And this is a, you got a charge on this one, or you've got this, that and the other. And because I understood the difference between an ionic bond, a covalent bond, that single bond, double bond, aromatic bond, triple bond, I knew how to write the code to take the chemical structures that the scientists were dealing with, encode those in a form the computer can understand, and then build the queries. So I was working with folks who all came from a chemistry background. The, the first guy I worked with did the same degree as me just one year beforehand. So it kind of allowed me to take my knowledge of chemistry, with my love of logic computing, and bring those together. And they didn't mind the fact that I didn't have that much programming experience. They were like, Nope, you're weak to hear, you're going up to London for a C++ training course, it's been a week up in London learning C++, because we want you for your aptitude and your chemistry skills. And you're saying that's kind of a path we're seeing a lot, we really are actually seeing that law with the idea of the rise of the citizen developer. So you're the whole kind of low code, no code movement, allows people who have the business knowledge, they know the area they work in, but don't no tech, who want to get into tech, to take what they've got, take their knowledge, and apply it using computer technology that is designed to be easily accessible for people who don't want to dig in and write code and take their first steps. Just like the people I was working with, when I was worthless with cambium. They started off with XL started, right VBA. And then they moved into programming teams. It's kind of the same idea. Now you can start with the power platform, whatever loco platform, you want to take what your skills get into tech as a citizen developer, loco developer, and then you can move into full code developer if you want to. And it's it's lovely. We've now got the tools to build that journey that I went on, you know, 20 odd years ago.
Brandon Minnick 50:00
Yeah. Now Jim, I got to ask a selfish question here. Because a lot of this, I've learned for the first time, and we've known each other for years now. And it's funny because I've always known you as or when I met you. We were mobile app developers together, using Xamarin. So so how do we bridge the gap? How'd you get from building processes for chemical companies to creating mobile apps and C sharp.
Jim Bennett 50:30
It was another set of kind of incremental steps. So did the company for kind of five years, and the tech industry was really building up back then, especially around the city of London. So there was these big banks paying ridiculous amounts of money for people to work in tech. And I was working in town called Guilford, half an hour outside London, earning a good a good salary, a good salary, but I was learning I got to London, I could get this much money. And so I thought, why not? Let's go work. Let's go and slave for the man. Let's go as money. So I've been programming full time programmer for five years, I was really deep in C++. Yeah, that was that was the the language back at the time reading C++, and apply for a job at a bank and got offered a job with a mahoosive paper. And kind of went from there, I was working for banks, coding for banks, ended up traveling around the world. I was working for HSBC, the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation in London, they asked me to help interviewed for a person with my skill set in Hong Kong. So we could actually integrate our system in London with their system in Hong Kong. And I said, I'll do it, I'll just move to Hong Kong.
Brandon Minnick 51:41
I know the perfect guy for it.
Jim Bennett 51:45
You know, I can do it. And I moved to Hong Kong. My wife's always been of the attitude of, we'll just go whatever it is, we'll go, I came home and said to her, should I apply for this? And she said, Why haven't you done it already? You know, she's always up for any any crazy schemes like that, which is fantastic. And so kind of working through the banking industry. But as I did that, I realized the banking industry is a toxic environment. This is not this is very much a blanket statement. This is not meant to include everything. I know, there are some great teams and banks, but in general, it is a toxic environment. Yeah, I'm working there with traders who only care about money. They that's sexist, it's racist. It's constant insulting each other. The number of times people be shouting insults across the across the office, they they're the sexist comments that have come through from people. It's the racism that you'd get. It's a really toxic environment. It's all about money. Everyone can get away with whatever they like, as long as they're making the money. And you start getting sucked into that culture. And that's not a good culture. You know, I've kind of look at myself going, I'm driven by money here. And this is not the right thing to do. This is not how I should be looking at, you know, the receipt from for the McLaren from the trader sits next to me as a coder fell on my desk was like, Oh, I wouldn't mind that, that McLaren, you know, he's driving around Hong Kong at 30 miles an hour, I wouldn't want my map. And that's not a good mindset to have. Sure. And so I realized I needed to change. I ended up working in Bermuda for a hedge fund there because plein air us Hong Kong had bad air, not with my daughter really cleaned out. And I just worked for the guy who was a terrible manager. And it just destroyed me. As you know, I'm done with this. I'm done. I'm literally done with this banking farm. And it is not a good thing. And I'm done with this take take take culture that is banking. How can I give back. And so I started looking at the ways that developer communities work. I started looking at the people who were giving back the people I was learning from, what were they doing to contribute? And so I thought I want some of this, quit my job went off to Thailand, parts of the co working space. Again, my wife's like, Yeah, let's go to Thailand, parts of the co working space, taught myself technology if I thought I want to learn something, I was a dotnet developer at the time, I'd seen the Xamarin thing and a couple of Microsoft builds. I thought this looks like fun. I want to learn this. I've got my iPhone, I've tried Objective C, let's try this damn thing. And all months in a co working space learning Xamarin. And as I learned it, I thought I'm going to give back every step of the way. So I was on the Xamarin forums, first of all, asking questions, then answering questions on Stack Overflow, answering questions. I was writing blog posts blog about everything I did. Every step How can I give something back? How can I give something back ended up back in London working for a bank because you know, the money runs out after well on the work of a bank. My thought while I'm doing this, I'm going to be community focused. So I was focusing on what meetups kind of give talks about what technology can talk about. We've got involved in the meetup scene started off by going then started then started giving sessions started talking at meetups here how can I take this further? Apply to speak at Xamarin Evolve? Yeah, what the hell? Let's apply to this big tech conference. I've got no chance of getting in because I'm relatively unknown. You've been accepted our we're gonna make you a Xamarin MVP. Wow. You know, Jamie Singleton, I love, you know, of Xamarin. Back then she's now Business Manager at Microsoft, the dotnet. Team. But you know, it's just working with amazing community folks who supported me as I was giving back to the community. And it was just really, really great. And so, flew ends up getting a job as a Xamarin, mobile developer in New Zealand, because yeah, travel around the world. And just really coding and still started off joining the local Xamarin meetup and up, work as an organizer of that meetup, trying to bring people through getting trained up running Xamarin events, he flew off to Xamarin, evolve, gave a talk there had a fantastic session. And it's just a gorgeous culture of constantly giving back to the community. And I loved it, it was so good for my soul.
Pj Metz 55:42
You didn't have to wait either. Like this is this is what I think like, like, I'm immediately taking a lesson from this. A lot of people think, oh, I need to establish myself, then I can start to do it. As you're going when you learn something, and you figure it out. tell someone else about it. Because the way you figured it out might help somebody else. And especially the way you said you worked with Xamarin, you were like, I was writing as I was learning, I'd learned something, I'd make a blog about it, I'd learned something I'd get on the forum, I'd learned something. I'd go to a meetup, I listen at the meetup, eventually, I go to a bunch of meetups and like, I'm like, oh, I want to talk about something at a meetup. You don't have to wait until you're established to start being a part of the community, the community is hungry for people to give to it. And so start giving as soon as you can.
Jim Bennett 56:32
But also the community, a lot of committees made up of beginners, there's a lot of people looking to learn. So they're in the same boat as you. So if you can say, here's this very simple thing that I've worked out how to do, you may not think it's much, but there is probably 1000 10,000 people out there across the world who also want to learn that simple thing. And so because you're doing it from the perspective of a beginner, you've made accessible to all those beginners, earlier about Microsoft's fantastic documentation for professional developers. And we're identifying these gaps where beginners come along and just get swarmed by it. If you can do this very basic, here's how you do this. Here's the very much not even 100 level, the zero level, this is how you get started. This is this is what this button does this is that this is where the Run button is Visual Studio code to find this information out, and the more that's there, the easier it is to find it on Google. So yes, if you think I want to be involved in a community, but I'm a beginner, that is the perfect time to start. You put out your beginner content, you help others on the same journey as you. And then as you get that I just keep that that humble nature in your mind of I remember when I was a beginner, the kind of content needed to create now that I'm more advanced, I need to keep creating that that beginner content, because that's what people love. If you look at the conference sessions, you know, the ones that they like, oh, we want this really detailed conference session for this conference. So people could learn something, but the ones that are packed are usually the 100 level sessions, the zero level sessions, they're very, there is a huge demand for introductory content out there. And as new technology change comes along, things keep changing. There's more demand for this beginner content. So now, if you want to get involved, do it now start creating now write that blog post today. You know, take that one, print hello to one and blog about it. Do that now,
Pj Metz 58:28
Brandon, this is the exact advice you've been given me for a year. I love it.
Brandon Minnick 58:33
I couldn't say it any better myself. And it's funny because I I use Jim's content. Like I said, I looked up to Jim in the community. And I wouldn't have the job I have today if Jim hadn't heard that Jim was taking this role in the same team. So thank you, Jen. And Varsa. Thanks so much for joining us on the show today. We only have one minute left, but let people out there know where they can find you.
Jim Bennett 59:02
Yeah, all over the internet. Jimbo Bennett. So if you just Google Jimbo Bennett, you'll probably find me on Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn, Instagram. Jimbo Bennett. I'm really friendly chap. Please connect. If you build anything called Share it with me. I want to celebrate everybody's success. So if you've just even if it's just something you think is not cool yet, you've got your first LED lit on an IoT device. Share with me. I want to celebrate your success. I love when people share their projects with me. So please, please. So Jimbo Bennett ever on the internet. Please connect. Please share that the great things you've done so we can celebrate it together.
Pj Metz 59:37
It's great. This makes me so happy. This makes me so dang happy. This has been a great show, Brandon, like, Thank you for helping me be on this show. Jim, thank you for being on this episode. I'm just I'm super happy to be here right now.
Jim Bennett 59:53
Thank you both for having me. This has been a lot of fun. I really appreciate everything that the two of you do. Really appreciate what you do for the community. And I appreciate the chance to be here with you today.
Brandon Minnick 1:00:03
Likewise, Jim, and thanks for listening, everybody. This has been another episode eight bits and we'll see you again next week.