Home - About Gunnar

World, meet Gunnar!

Yeah, that's me.

I was born in 1947, so by now I am ... well, you do the math. I retired back in 2012, but kept working on and off for a couple of years on a freelance basis. But by now my time is all my own.

I have lived in Stockholm, Sweden, all my life. I grew up in one suburb and by the time I was 16 we moved to another suburb, Årsta, where I have lived ever since.

The building on the left, fourth floor from the top (the's actually the 10th floor), second window from the left, that's where I sit right now, as I'm typing this text.

Not the prettiest house in town, but the surroundings are nice. Not the busy hustle and bustle of the inner city, yet close enough to get there quickly. In fact, I often walk into the city, and I can get there in half an hour.

If I don't feel like walking, thereare several buses and a tram (or streetcar, if you like). The tram passes just by my house, but unfortunately I live almost exactly in the middle between two stations, so there is a bit of a walk, but not too much, about 5 minutes. Travel is pretty cheap, though. At present, the fare for seniors is about USD 1.75, with free transfers within 75 minutes.

I used to drive a company car when I was working. When I retired I decided not to buy my own car immediately, but instead see how I got by without one. And it turns out it works just fine, so I never bought a car. Saves me a lot of money, and I am eco friendly at the same time ;-)

From early on, my goal in life was to work as a computer programmer. But I got there in a rather roundabout way. Back in 1966, after twelve years in school, I tried to get a job as a programmer, but there weren't all that many positions available, and those that were looking for programmers wouldn't hire guys that hadn't done their military service yet anyway. So not knowing what to do, I got a job as a mailman, initially delivering mail in the Old Town of Stockholm.
That's not actually me, but that's pretty much what I would look like. Perhaps not usually quite that overloaded, but I'd walk around with about 20 kg of mail in the bag when I left the post office, plus another batch of similar size waiting to be picked up on the round. That may not sound like much today, but at the time we were doing three rounds a day at the main post office in Stockholm (and one on Saturday). I had to go up at 5 am in order to be at work by 6 am. We would work in teams of three, a team foreman and two grunts. The last round would start at approximately 1 pm, and even though it was a beat and a half  (the team foreman was off the third round) there was never very much mail, so it would seldom take more than half an hour or so to complete that round. And then I was off for the day.

So, I did my stint as a mailman until it was time for my military service. I did my 10 months as a telegraphist in the infantry at the I14 regiment in Gävle, about 2 hours drive north from Stockholm. Not too bad. I could hitch a ride with some other guys to go back home most every weekend.

After leaving the military I went back to working as a mailman. Still at the main post office, but no longer on the Old Town beat. I liked the job, but in 1971 I decided that it wasn't something I could do in the long run. I thought an administrative career in the Post Office might be a good idea, so I applied for an internal training course. There were about 1600 applicants for 16 positions, and I wasn't one of the lucky ones. Someone told me that I had a better chance if I was a postal clerk, so I applied for that training and got in.

Back then post offices in Sweden were more than just post offices. They were also banks. So the training was really more about banking than about pure postal matters. It was six months at the postal school, a month practising at a post office, back one more month for final training and then you were sitting in a post office window. So that's what I was doing for the next three years, waiting for a new opportunity to apply for that adiminstrative course. But fate intervened...

One day an old colleague from my mailman days walks into my post office. "I work as a computer operator at the Postal Giro nowadays," he said. "I hear they are hiring people to be trained as programmers. You said you were interested in programming. Why don't you give them a call?"

Well, I have nothing to lose, I thought, so I called. And they said "Well, you're already working for the Post Office. We can send you for an aptitude test at IBM, and then we'll see." That sounded good to me. So I took the test at IBM, and I thought I did reasonably well. But I didn't hear anything from the Postal Giro. Oh, well, it's summer and vacation time, I thought. But then in the fall I got another call to go and take that test. So I called up the Giro and said that I had already taken the test. The man was surprised as he hadn't gotten my results, but he said he'd check and come back to me. The next day he called up and said "That looked really good! Can you start Monday?"

So, thus started my new career as a programmer. I went to training at IBM, learning assembly programming for the IBM 360 mainframes. Yes, all the main programming at the Postal Giro was done in assembler, because at that time it was the only language fast enough to be able to handle the daily volume of transactions. Other administrative programs were done in COBOL, though. I spent five years at the Postal Giro before I decided to move along. My next job was at the IT department for one of the major retail chains, NK - Åhléns. NK later left the chain and is nowadays just a mall. Åhléns is still active, though. I worked there for three years, and then I decided that mainframes weren't that interesting anymore.

This was late 1981, and there was a lot of buzz about "mini computers". There were lots of companies manufacturing and selling minis, for example Digital Equipment (aka DEC), Data General, Prime, Norsk Data, Wang and Datapoint. Those weren't what we call "mini computers" today. They were the size below mainframes. Anyway, I applied for a job at Datapoint's Swedish subsidiary. They were big in local networking, which was pretty much a brand new concept back then. Their local network as called Arcnet, and it was the biggest competitor agains Ethernet. It was quite good for its time, and could have been a lot more popular if Datapoint hadn't been so protective and insisted on keeping it propietary when Ethernet was not, so Ethernet became the de facto standard.

Initially I worked as a software engineer in their Software Support department. At that time Datapoint had its own operating system. Well, it actually had three operating systems, but two of them were being phased out, leaving RMS (Resource Management System) as their main OS. They also had their own programming languages, their own office suite, and lots of other stuff. For several years I was in charge of the office suite, handling support and also translation to Swedish. I also did a lot of programming in Databus (now called PL/B) and DASL (Datapoint Advanced Systems Language). DASL was something between C and Pascal.

As time went on, mini computers more or less went out of style, as the PCs replaced them, and Datapoint Sweden changed its business model to follow the times. So the call for RMS programming decreased and the focus turned towards Microsoft Windows instead. Programming Windows applications in C was a real chore. There were some attempts to create tools that helped build graphical interfaces for Windows, but it wasn't until Visual Basic that there was a real useful programming language. So by the time Microsoft released VB 3.0 back in 1993 it had become really useful, and that's when I made it my development tool of choice.

With the release of Microsoft .Net Framework (in 2002, if memory servers me right), Microsoft abandoned the "classic" Visual Basic and introduced two new languages, VB.Net and C# ("C sharp"). Many developers, especially those with a C background, embraced C#. Visual Basic had a bit of a stigma, being thought of by many as a "toy language"  because the classic VB had been so easy to get started in. It's also a bit "wordier" than C#, which many see as negative. Personally I see it as a good thing, since it makes the code easier to understand, in my opinion. Also, for a long time C# got some enhancements before VB, so it became more popular. Nowadays there is very little that you can do in C# that you cannot do in VB, and the code generators for each of them produce equally effective code. I never felt the need to abandon Visual Basic, so even now it's my language of choice.
(You can click that image to get a better look at some VB code in Visual Studio 2013).

Well, that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about my working life. So how do I spend my time, now that I'm not working? Well, my main interest is films and TV, and I have a sizeable collection of DVDs and Blu-rays, and I spend quite a lot of time watching those. I'm also quite interested in photography, and I often lug around my Nikon D5100 and take pictures of the beautiful city where I live. Stockholm, remember?