In the spring of 1984, I had more to do, than time to do it. I was a Sophomore at the University of Buffalo, trying to get good grades, and also playing on the baseball team. At the time, I had this big desk blotter on my desk that had all of these graph like grids on it. I came up with a scoring system for each of my classes. Study 1 hour, color in one of the boxes. If I didn't do something the day before, the task began to have a higher 'negative' associated with it, if it wasn't completed. This made it pretty simple, if I wanted to see the number of boxes colored in go higher, I had to focus on those items that would grow the stack of boxes. It was pretty simple, but it worked.
In that same spring semester I took a Great American Authors class. One of the assigned readings was the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had an interesting system of self-improvement, where he charted characteristics he felt he needed to work on, and then he'd check them off as he accomplished them.
My opinion is that this isn't so much a to-do list, as a character building exercise. If you read Covey, or other more recent authors, the items on Franklin's list are those that no outside observer is going to know, upon meeting you once, whether or not you have these characteristics. There not 'urgent'. There not, take the dog out or he'll go on the carpet. There not, get-the-paper done or you'll get an 'F'. But in the long run, they're much more important.
Just after college I came up with a training program for high school athletes. It was the world's longest Microsoft Word Macro. I had a csv file that merged with this huge document, and created a book for the athlete, and a training workbook that went with it. It had quite a bit more than just training for the sport, but how to get better grades, manage your time, etc. The work book covered sixty days, with more material added each day.
In the early '90s, the internet wasn't the option for disseminating information that it is today. As you can see, I was infatuated with laser printing. First printing the Athlete's Edge customized information, then Smart Guide (below).
People saw the 'macro', and told me there were other ways to accomplish things like this, with a database. So I began to learn something called DBASE III.
A product called Clipper came along, that allowed you compile your DBASE Code. With the advent of Windows, Clipper users migrated to Visual Foxpro, and Visual Objects. Over the years, these products died out, and I moved to C# and .net. In 1992 using Clipper, I created a product called Smart Guide, that created a printed guide based on the televison channels you received, and your interests. Distribution was difficult (no internet), but the product was kind of fun, and it taught me quite a bit about real world programming.
The resulting product from my early Clipper programming was a customized entertainment guide. You input your cable company, and the shows and interests you had, and the output was a two week guide. The TV data was purchased, the magazine data I tracked down and entered by hand. Again, had the internet been an option for distribution, this would have, I think, had more legs. As a result, it was a fun project that earned me my first real job.
While doing contract programming for various companies, I would work on 'side project' applications that had focused on time management. I read quite a bit on the subject, and continue to enjoy reading biographies, and how the subject organized their day.
As a programmer, I kept coming across the need for some code that would run intermittently. Do something, if this, do that, run every three minutes, check it again kind of a thing. While working for a hospital, I wrote a bed management system that at it's heart had this set of functions that allowed for intermittent processing.
The early internet allowed the user to view a document that was stored on another computer, whether that computer was in the next room, or on the other side of the world. From a computing standpoint, it wasn't very complicated.