I am a member of a group of persons who have taken on the task of digitizing a large collection of historical railroad drawings that was donated to our Historical Society by the Union Pacific Railroad. These drawings are the originals and the collection dates from 1880 through 1970. The total number of drawings is not known, but, estimated over 250,000. Since we started ten years ago, we have scanned about 10% of the collection.  The Society has published two CDs of drawings from the collection and a third one is on the way. Our group is now in the process of improving the database we use to keep the digital images organized and it was my support of this task that got me into trouble.

The Chairman of our Archive Committee suggested I obtain a database program called FileMaker Pro 11 to use in my efforts to improve our database process. He uses it and recommends it highly. I am a retired Aerospace Engineer and my associations with computers,  in one way or another, trace back to about 1955. When I retired twenty one years ago, I did not see a need for a home computer and thus went the next twenty years without one. The need for a home computer arose last year whan  I became interested in improving the database process as well as scanning drawings. This new interest came about because a good friend of mine, the data base guru, passed away. In addition to losing a good friend, we lost a highly valued co-worker on the scanning project. Hence the new computer.

It did not take long after starting up my new whiz-bang computer for me to realize my twenty year computer hiatus had reduced me from a sophisticated Aerospace Engineer to a computer “newbie-techie” at best.  It became clear to me I had a lot to learn and I was very dependant on my friends for help. I have learned much on my own and my friends have been more than generous in helping me. However, it appears I was in need of one more lesson!

My effort to obtain a copy of FileMaker Pro 11 took me to the internet sites that sell software and I quickly learned such software is expensive. I also learned FileMaker Pro 11 Advanced was available and much more expensive. I have no understanding of the added features the more expensive version brings to the table,  so I decided to go with the least expensive version.  As I was placing my order, I noticed the more expensive version appeared to be on sale at a generous discount.  Since I am a fairly smart person, I ordered the Advanced version at the discount price. I had lucked out again.

My new software arrived at my doorstep two days after I placed the order thanks to UPS.  As I retrieved the software box from the shipping package,  I noticed a red sticker on the box which declared my new software was an “upgrade version”.  Good!  I had recieved more for my discount price than I expected.  Another win for the “fairly smart person”. I expected the installation process to be simple and easy and it was until I was prompted to enter something called ” the qualifying program key number”.  The installation process stalled until I learned what the “key” was and where I would find it. Time to do my “homework”. A bit tardy perhaps, but time.

After a little digging around in the FileMaker website, I discovered the problem. The “update” sticker means the software inside is intended to be added to your existing software to upgrade it to a higher version. The problem is I have no such program to upgrade and I have no “key” with to proceed with the installation. The solution appeared to me in a flash of insight. Return the upgrade version for credit toward the version which I intended to buy in the first place. Not in this lifetime it turns out. The rule is  if you break the seal on the CD sleeve you own the software. No returns!  The vendor was very helpful in suggesting I contact FileMaker directly. This I did with haste expecting a favorable response. Ha! I  was told my option was to purchase a “key” to allow me to install FileMaker PRO 11 Advanced  from the upgrade CD in my possession. I paid the price asked and now have my flashy new software installed. All I have to do now is learn how to use the new program.

An old lesson re-learned – do your homework on time!


I am 87 years old and married for 65 years. My wife passed away in 2016. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I was a High School mentor in physics, a mountaineer, a model builder, a machinist and I have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoyed my life and I am trying to look forward with a sense of anticipation and curiosity.


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