My interest in computers started before computers were available! Actually, I was one of the few males who attended the typing class in high school. I was intrigued with the publishing power of the typewriter. That was back in the 70’s, when computers were still a city block in length…
Many years later, computers began to make their way into the office and home, and my first interest in them was for the use of music publishing. I had been collecting folk songs, and an old folk-based hymnody from early-American times (ShapeNote music), and publishing books using “photocopy, cut & paste” techniques. The computer promised a much more flexible way of handling music, with the ability to move objects and transpose scores instantly.
In those days (early 1990’s), the Atari computer had some of the best music and publishing software available, was about half the price of a Macintosh, and had a built-in graphical operating system with windows, icons, mouse support, and everything else that has since come to be associated with Bill Gates’ Microsoft Windows. So I purchased a used Atari Mega STe, and began publishing music projects with it.
It was fascinating, and I soon became involved in Vantari, the Vancouver Atari Users Group. Through this group, I met many fine people, including a retired symphony conducter, Gaspar Chiarelli. This contact was to prove very important to me later on.
Within a few years, at the urging of my parents and my friends, I decided to go back to school (at the age of 35) and learn computer software technologies. I attended the Surrey CDI school, taking a Systems Analyst course. Up until that time, computer programming had always seemed a bit like “magic” to me, so it gave me great enjoyment to learn how this “magic” was actually conjured! In the end, like anything, it is not so hard, “once you know how.”
Graduating from school was not difficult, but the prospect of finding a job in the field was initially daunting. Competition was quite stiff, and coming from an independent school that had shorter courses (one year instead of two or more) put me at a disadvantage. During the months of waiting and looking, I programmed a software for a friend who had his own Dental Technician lab. It was a contact and billing management software.
After a while, Gaspar Chiarelli (my friend from Vantari) suggested I contact David Galloway, the Technical Support manager of Crystal Software, developers of Crystal Reports, and other business software. Gaspar had conducted seminars on “Music in our Lives” and David’s wife had attended. I called him and he suggested I submit a resume. I did so, and after many weeks of interviews, I started work with one of the fastest growing software companies in B.C. That was the summer of 1996.
Those were exciting times, working on the seventh floor of one of the nicest high-rise buildings in Vancouver, at 1095 West Pender Street. The view overlooking the harbor and the north shore mountains was spectacular. The company was growing at a terrific rate, doubling in size in less than a year. Our work was to support the software products, by telephone, email, and fax. We were on salary, but the offices were open 24 hours a day, for any who wanted to put in extra time, or upgrade their skills by night…and many took advantage of it. In the software industry, no one can afford to stand still, the technologies are constantly changing, which requires a constant growth in knowledge and skills.
After a year or so, an opportunity opened for me to take over development of a component used by developers to access the Crystal Reports runtime engine. This was a visual component, developed in and for Delphi (visual Pascal). It was my first experience with object-oriented programming, and initially I just had to study the source code over and over before I could understand what was going on. But with time I gained a full knowledge of the current code, and was able to fix bugs and extend it. I also worked on an expanded and comprehensive Windows Help file for the product. Development of this component was to go on for the next few years.
In the middle of this time, I met the young lady who was to be my wife. Rebecca was working at the same company, and we soon found we had common interests. Having been a bachelor all my life (I was 37 years old at the time), it didn’t take me long to decide that this was the woman I had been waiting for, and we were married soon after.
About one and a half years later, our first child was born, a son, whom we called Matthias. This signalled the time for us to move out of the city. We chose to settle in Creston, where my parents had retired (and still live today). That was in the fall of 1999.
I negotiated a contract with Crystal (who had since been purchased by Seagate Technologies, the hard-drive company) to continue development of the Delphi VCL component by contract over the next year. It was a new experience, working for myself, but a valuable one.
When the year was over, we had some opportunities to travel to Germany, for training and work at a church center in a small village in Germany. These opportunities extended over the next three years, with three visits of four, six, and then sixteen months. During our time in Germany, I worked on a few different projects:
- development of macros in Word Basic, to manipulate text and make links.
- development of a church songbook, which included:
- writing and harmonizing songs
- layout and publishing of the songbook
- preparation of midi and mp3 files
- programming plugins for the music program Sibelius
- programming a midi-player utility
- publishing of music CD’s to accompany the books.
- development of a recipe program
During the times in between our trips to Germany, I would work on our house, and do sales on eBay. I also built some computers, and so gained experience on the hardware side of the computer technologies. Occasionally, by word of mouth, I would receive job offers to help others with computer problems or upgrades in their homes. Because of this experience, I have now decided to enter into this line of work full-time.