Software

How out of date are your IT skills?

The longer your career as an IT professional, the more things you learn. Unfortunately, because the IT field changes so rapidly, many of the things you learn become obsolete. Check out list list of my obsolete IT skills that I found while looking around obsoleteskills.com.

The longer your career as an IT professional, the more things you learn. Unfortunately, because the IT field changes so rapidly, many of the things you learn become obsolete.

What do you do with all of those old useless skills? How about collect em all and put a Web site up about them? That's what Brad Kellett at obsoleteskills.com has done.

Here's a list of 10 obsolete skills listed on the site that I've still got in my bag of tricks:

  1. AT commands for dial-up modems
  2. BASIC
  3. Command line programming for Edlin
  4. dBase IV
  5. DOS
  6. Editing AUTOEXEC-BAT and CONFIG-SYS to get as close as possible to 640K of free memory
  7. Jumpers on a Motherboard
  8. Loading the OS2 module for Netware 3.12 to get 64 character length file names
  9. Word Perfect 5.x
  10. Zmodem to transfer a file

Check the site out and see what useless technology skills you still have. Brad runs it like a Wiki, so you can add more of your own or make changes to the ones on the list. It's kind of fun going through the list and checking off all that you can still do. It almost makes you feel obsolete yourself.

31 comments
Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

It is not often but there are still times when it is the most expedient method to load files onto Cisco equipment.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

We talk all the time on TechRepublic about keeping your skills up to date with the rapidly changing technology that we face. What about all of those old skills? On Classics Rock, I mentioned obsoleteskills.com: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=123 There are lots of things that 'obsolete skills' are still good for. Just think about all of the Windows GUI jockeys who look like deer trapped in headlights when you put them in front of a command prompt. What skills do you have that were on that list, and what ones do you still find more useful than obsolete?

Jeff Dickey
Jeff Dickey

I just finished a project with a SCADA company that was a real blast from the past on many, many levels.... including the regular use of ZMODEM to transfer files to their embedded systems. The C coding standard dated from 1990 (and would have been incomplete and sub-par even by then-current standards). I saw some of the old DOS how-to books I recycled around '91 or '92.... and yes, many, many jumper blocks. The fact that these folks are still in business (and proud of having been "going strong for 15-20 years") implies some equally scary things about their competition. Knowing how many economy-critical and safety-critical systems are controlled and monitored by such systems does NOT leave me with nice warm fuzzies. Think Three Mile Island or Bhopal; operators can only commit errors when they have valid, accurate information to base bad-in-hindsight decisions on - and some things should be proof against even ruthlessly competent idiots.

robo_dev
robo_dev

Who can remember running compsurf on a NetWare 2.x server....that mystical process that took all day. How about Token-Ring beaconing, MSAUs, and the beloved DXA0MOD.SYS drivers for IBM PC Support? How about PS/2 adf files? How to make a PS/2 recognize that 8514 adapter? Miss up those Seagate ST-4096 or the ST-277 RLL drives? Back then a 20MB drive cost nearly $500. Remember those long tubes of RAM chips...where you could get a whole 1MB of RAM if you plugged them all in without bending any pins??

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

I got 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9,, 10 Yea, and the friggin gray hair to prove it just like you John! :) I think even the "Old Skills" are still viable in todays world. I've seen instances where myself and a coworker (her name was Sue) working at a Hospital in Florida used ALOT of those skills to pull rabbits out of the hat sometimes when the poopie hit the fan. And believe me, the poopie hit the fan quite often the first couple of years after she and I first got there. Even though we came from different IT paths we were both Old school and we showed how valueable those skills were. "GUI Jocks" are important, but so are the "Black Screen Hero's" :) Jim

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Some of the concepts, like navigating an IMS database still apply, specifically to XPath. It isn't a big leap from GNP (Get Next within Parent) to axis.

DanLM
DanLM

I would label shell scripting, but I still use that. What about perl? Lol, wait... I still use perl too. Now that I think about it, I am still getting calls for cobol also. Dan

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

then I goto the site and theirs some equally stupid ones. Rotary dialing. If you would n't put it on your resume, it isn't one.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

#2 basic - m$ visual basic is still quite popular. Despite claims java will wipe it out, ask Jacqui about the horrors of multiple versions of java development. I wrote a nifty little prog to input data while displaying visual media in vb. I could not have at that point written it in C, Java or anything else. #4 dbase IV. despite its demise the functional equivalent m$ foxpro is still alive and well at many companies as it is the only package that lets you natively edit .dbf format tables. when dealing with small files a RDB is overkill and un-wieldy. #5 DOS. Sure dos is dead but the command line isnt. We have progs shell out via (dos) commands to FTP, call other windoze progs, copy files generated in a job.. and m$ has never provided a visual way to put all file names in a directory into a text file. Windoze also fails on trying to display directories over a certain # of files.

DanLM
DanLM

very quick... During a job interview, I was told if I understood IMS. That I would have no problem understanding relational db's. And to be quite honest, they were correct. The transition was easy. Dan

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

Ha ha ha, Get it? Lords of COBOL? Sorry... (sounded funny in my head) :)

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Easytrieve, ADS/O, PL/I or BAL. I'm feeling mighty old. :(

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

As well as having to know memory spaces and available IRQs every time you wished to add more memory, network card, or the like. Then, once you got the jumpers set, you had to go edit the config.sys lines that loaded the drivers to match. Frequently, manufacturers would only give you so a few options for address space. This could be a challenge when you were installing 2 or more cards/devices where amongst them, you could find a non-conflicting address or IRQ. Your option was usually do without one device, or swap for a model/manufacturer that gave you different options.

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

Back in the day (dont you hate it when an old fart says that) when you HAD to have a set of needle nose pliers in your pocket at all times... you could spend hours (and sometimes a day) trying to figure them out. AND... MIS PRINTS in the manuals would ALWAYS throw you off. That or get a manual printed only in japanese or Klingon or something... You would end up doing it trial and error to get the darn board working right. You'd end up with a legal sheet with all the settings you'd tried over the last 2 hours that DIDNT work or did something REALLY BAD.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Granted they are a little weak, but jumpers aren't something you see very much anymore on motherboards and certainly not on expansion cards. PNP did away with all of that.

murk_lurker
murk_lurker

I consider DOS to still be very useful, it also made using Linux/Unix command line nice n easy..... :@)

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

There are plenty of apps out there that work perfectly well and would cost way to much to do over from scratch.

RationalGuy
RationalGuy

Many of the things on this list are floating around on a system or two in a lot of server rooms. The salient question is: Can someone new to IT build a career out of knowing this?

BillMlod
BillMlod

"Sounded funny in my head", thats a great one. Oh and your comment was pretty good to.. And I still use batch files sometimes, especially to test systems. Bill M

DanLM
DanLM

my resume though. Dan

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

On your "premium" boards, you might be get lucky and they'd have the jumper settings silk-screened somewhere on there. But on the cheap ones that I'd see 95% of the time? Forget it! I don't know how many boards I ended up tossing because someone had lost or just thrown out the documentation. Not being happy about that, sometimes the client would suggest systematically going through all of the possible combinations until it "worked". I'd have to explain to them that there were at least so many hundred (or thousand) of possible combinations, and that testing each one would probably take 3 or 4 minutes, I was being paid by the hour...

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Sometimes you could 'borrow' the things from other cards and drives if you could find one that wasn't necessary. But they were always a pain. What was worse was not having the documentation and having to set them to a custom configuration.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...because you didn't have something as stupid as a jumper. Always had plenty in my "kit". I can't remember the last time I felt compelled to carry a "kit" anywhere.

robo_dev
robo_dev

...working late at the day at a customer site, found that I did not have a spare jumper. Therefore had to drive ten miles back to the shop to get a #$#%% jumper, then drive back. Yes, a sloppy tech would have bent the pins together or shoved a penny in there or something.......

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Still have my nutspinners, tweezers, claw, magnifying glass..... Getting the jumper off, without losing it, having to disassemble the entire unit because you couldn't shake it out, or bending the sh1t out the pins. That took skill. :D But that was applicable on a lot more than the motherboard.

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

I remember when you set a MB up that you had to go through the MB book and set at least 5 or 6 of them up or the darn board woudnt work right...there were always BAZILLIONS of them on the board left over that you never knew what the !%$#& they were for either...not even mentioned in the book. Loved those days :)

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

It's a niche marketplace, to be sure. There's always money to be made there. And people like me who've been doing it since it was "cutting edge" won't be able to do it forever. And, as dead as Cobol is supposed to be, there's still countless lines of code still in use in mission-critical situations. I certainly wouldn't suggest that such legacy areas be anyone's primary focus. But there will likely always be opportunities for people who make some effort to be familiar with them.

RationalGuy
RationalGuy

... that a kid coming out of school learn dBase, Foxpro & Clipper Code and chase those limited jobs around, though? Is that a growth position from a career perspective?

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