King of Excel


Since day one, when I sat down amazed by the Windows 95 interface on a September night in 1997 back in Baghdad, all I was thinking of was…

How can I do something like this?

It was few months later when a good friend of mine suggested that I start looking into an application called Microsoft Excel

Since he owned a computer/photocopy/computer classes business, he got some requests from his clients to learn Excel, so he told me that he has some clients already waiting on classes, and he is looking for someone trustworthy, and knows Excel well to start teaching his clients.

And in order to push me, he gave me a photocopy of Microsoft Excel book for free saying, “you can pay me later when we start this.”

The photocopy (in case you are wondering) is what we used to do to copy books, we were in 1997, under embargo, and Saddam’s regime, no one can get access to books like that, so the only other options were bad quality of photocopy for good books from outside Iraq.

Anyways, so that was big, he just handed me 50 Iraqi dinars ($20) worth of money, $180 worth of knowledge to kick start these classes. So I agreed to give it a shot

And the journey begins, the book was very good, too good, too much over my head, it was written by an Indian guy (I still remember that until now) and I kept it with me for long years to come

Overwhelmed by this application and the book, I took a lot of steps back, a lot of times.

I understood nothing when the guy was talking about OFFSET() and INDIRECT() even though they seamed very interesting, and the guy was able to do cool stuff with them

You know, the first few months before I got this book were not much into programming than into exploring the computer (mainly Windows95 back then), and how beautiful and cool stuff can be saved and restored

One of the first few applications I installed, was C++ Programming language (not Visual Studio, it was called something else, and not by Microsoft) in addition to WinZip, Microsoft Office and other stuff

Again, we had these floppy disks (not even CDs yet) that we exchanged for installations, before CDs, before flash drives, before internet seen in Iraq. the other option is to drop the computer case in a computer shop to get these applications installed, all of them for around 25 Iraqi dinars ($10)

But every time I jumped into it, I failed, I was not yet studying computer science then, and my experiences were limited to NEC-6001 computer with something called BASIC (not even QBasic or GWBasic for DOS systems)


However, in that machine NEC-6001, I was able to do a lot of things, and finally ended up working with Peek and Poke commands which in case you were asking (were used to access structure of the memory system in BASIC). I remember even having my own application to encrypt formatting the floppy drive, so only my application will be able to save or read from it.

Anyways, so the book was what saved me and got me back on track.

The minute I see the interface of Microsoft Excel 4.0 it was the minute I realized, this is my life here

I sounded like I just got what I needed to start.

I was 1 year in my marriage (yes we get marry there early), 3rd grade in my college school (before I dropped out) and just want something to start my life with)

And, yes we start our life AFTER we got marry there, not before that

So, this is how it started, within 3 months, I started giving classes in Microsoft Excel, and these classes did not stop until I moved in to Austin, TX in 2007 where I had to restart few things, but that is another story.


In my golden days there, I had times when students from Mosul driving 6 hours to attend my classes

And it was back then when I got the name of

King of Excel.