A short history of "How I did it"
I started my investment adventures back in the 1970's with a Kemper money market account. I felt I had not accumulated enough capital to buy individual stocks at that time and was amazed by the 16 -18% return I received. This was during the Carter malaise years, when people were happily buying 20% home mortgages
Next I opened a Fidelity brokerage account when they introduced "Discount" commissions: $25 per 100 shares was quite a big deal compared to the standard $100 per rates. I initially played with options on stocks and then moved on to buying stocks to write options against. I did this for several years with mixed results. I also started a career and made several attempts to start my own businesses.
Later I opened a Brown & Company account mainly because their commissions were only $10 per 100 shares vs. Fidelity's $25. They also offered an order type that allowed you to stipulate the total debit you were willing to pay for a Stock & Option combination - for example; Buy 500 XYZ stock and sell 5 XYZ January 20 calls for a debit of $18.00. I had Brown & Co. through the '87 black Friday/Monday crash and also throughout the dot-com bubble years.
I remember watching the Financial News Network (pre-CNBC) in 1987 on the Friday when the DOW lost over 100 points - a very large amount at the time. I was filled on some put options before the close and also placed more orders for the coming Monday. I got some telephone confirmation of fills early Monday morning (there were not many individual traders using computers back then) and I placed some additional limit and market put orders.
Then it really hit the fan - the DOW fell over 500 points that day.
It became very difficult getting through to a trader after 10:00 Monday so I was not able to get any further purchase confirmations or prices ... By the time I was able to get through, later in the afternoon, they did not have complete transaction reports from the exchanges, which were in a state of unprecedented disarray. They did not have any purchase prices available, not even on the market orders that I had placed...they could only assure me that I had gotten fills on SOME of my orders...
So I told them to cancel any outstanding or unfilled orders and to sell any and all puts in my account at market (Sell Mortimer, Sell!). It wasn't until late in the day Tuesday that they could report my fills, both the buys and sells. It turned out that I made what I considered to be a killing that day!
It took me a long time to realize I was not going to get a better understanding the fundamentals of stocks. I had read many books by the likes of Peter Lynch, The Warren Buffett Way and books by his mentor, Benjamin Graham. I tried to teach myself how to read Annual Reports, 10K's and 10Q's to no avail. Thus my interest in, and bias towards Technical Analysis began...
By 1999-2000 I was using QuoteTracker charting software with an IQFeed data supply and was still trading with Brown. Brown had started to make some online trading inroads by then. I was very fortunate to enjoy participation in the dot-com bubble's five month "throw-a-dart-at-it-and-it-will-go-up" last harrah, making 250% on my funds from October 1999 through February 2000. I was reminded in late February and March how important stop-loss orders were. At one point towards the end I had over 35 different stock and option positions open and noticed that the pull backs were getting more and more severe ...it was harder to stay with a position once taken. I got totally out of the market when volatility was making it next to impossible to protect my trading positions. Getting out was one of the best timing decisions I have ever made; it caused me to keep a Lion's share of gains I had made leading up to that point. Unfortunately I did not participate on the short side that followed the bubble's bursting.
Brown & Co. was later bought out, I forget by whom but I kept an account open with the buyer until that buyer was bought out. I wasn't very active for a few years, was too busy with other projects. At some point I tried Scottrade due to their lower commissions and the charting software they offered. But not for very long. I quit Scottrade after one of their representatives was serious when asking me why anyone would possibly want to place a stop-loss order of less than .25 below their purchase price, which was their minimum stop policy at that time.
I opened an account with MBTrading sometime around 2002. I continued using QT's software and paying monthly for IQFeed's data. I began trading the ES e-mini futures using tick charts but was not very successful at it...Then MBT introduced an excellent charting program having as good a tick-by-tick data feed as did IQFeed. Both were provided free to account holders. So I canceled my subscriptions to IQFeed
[**2017 update...add'l notes]
I opened my account with ApexFutures in 2013 and finally closed my MBT account in 2014