By Rick Cook and Terry Bledsoe
What does a career in IT look like? What does it mean to start in the infancy of the computer age? What’s it like to be in a field that’s constantly changing? Doug Bumgarner has lived this life and can tell the complete history of technology in Catawba County. This afternoon we are celebrating his retirement after 39 years of service to Catawba County. In 1971, Doug was the “first IT employee” hired by Catawba County.
After spending two years in the Army, Doug graduated from Kings College in Charlotte with a degree in Computer Science. The year was 1971 and he quickly turned that degree into a job with Catawba County.
Doug began work in November, but he didn’t just sit down and start running the latest app or searching the Internet or looking to Google for answers. In fact, he didn’t even have a computer. The County didn’t have a computer so they gave him books to read about the County Operations. Doug spent his first months reading about the County while working out of the basement of the old Jail Building in downtown Newton.
Doug then began working with SAI, a consultant company in Charlotte writing programs in Cobol 68. SAI would take the applications Doug wrote back to Charlotte to compile and debug them there. The County data was keyed there also.
In January 1972 the County purchased the first computer: a Honeywell 105 with card punch input, a few disk drives and printer output. That month Catawba County hired the first IT Director and moved operations to the basement of Catawba Memorial Hospital. They also hired the first data entry staff at that time. Doug and the new IT Director spent a very busy few months bringing the system online!
In Dec 1978 the County purchased the next mainframe: a Honeywell Level 62 with 512k of memory, and moved operations to the basement of the Newton Library. Another busy few months for IT.
In 1985 the County invested in the 3rd and last Mainframe: a Burroughs A3. Doug was a key employee in converting and testing all the programs as they were moved over from the Honeywell Mainframe.
In 1990 the Datacenter was moved from the library to the New Government Center building with a new twisted pair network and the first large PC based network began.
By the end of the 1990’s a decision was being made to move the mainframe applications to the Unix Mini computers or personal computer server applications. Doug at that time begins to move to the PC desktop support side of the department and away from the mainframe world. He begins working with Dale Goodemote and Norm Tipton supporting the DHR agencies and supporting over 700 computers at the time. Doug received about 2 months of training before Dale resigned and left him with it. At the time Catawba County only had 2 other PC technicians so Doug had to learn quickly. He was able to handle it with no complaints. Within a few months additional staff was added and assigned to DSS and MH. Doug settled in at Public Health and has supported them for the last 10 years.
In his 39 years, Doug has seen seven IT directors: Steve Harkey, Wayne Bonner, Rick Russell, Ray Lemmond, Mickey Hylton, Susan Lowman, Mick Berry, and finally Terry Bledsoe. The county has gone from no computers to over 1800, from no applications to well over 300 individual applications and from no network cable to having at least 2 network drops in every office in Catawba County. Storage wise, Doug has experienced vast changes from punch cards to 8 inch diskettes, to tapes, to 5.25 inch diskettes, to 3.5 inch diskettes, to CD’s, to DVD’s and working with a SAN that has terabytes of storage. Yes the world of technology has changed. When asked what he was going to do in retirement, Doug said the first thing would probably be to buy a new computer!
Best of luck to Doug Bumgarner and thanks for all of your years of service to Catawba County as the “First IT Employee”.