Thursday, December 31, 2015

Liberty BASIC at IBM!

While working on our prototype for the Defense Nuclear Agency I discovered that we needed to reset some files repeatedly whenever we tested and demonstrated the functionality of our system.

I was eager to put Liberty BASIC to good use, and since we were running on OS/2 this gave me an opportunity to create a utility that would make things easy.  Liberty BASIC to the rescue!

It was actually easier to create this utility in BASIC than it would have been in Smalltalk.  Smalltalk is very powerful and really is one of the best languages, but BASIC is stronger for banging out small and simple programs.

I took great pride that when were were demonstrating our system to the customer that they also got a demo of Liberty BASIC in action!

The IBM dress code

Our contracting work at IBM in Waltham was back when IBM had a particular dress code.  All the men had to dress like the agents in the Matrix (without sunglasses).  All the women also needed to wear a lady's business suit.

However since we were not employees we could wear whatever we liked.  The fun part of that is that we got to wear IBM badges which gave access in and out of the building, to the cafeteria, etc.  I got the biggest kick out of this because the IBM employees gave us the strangest looks.  They clearly could not figure out who we were and why we were permitted to dress in casual attire.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

IBM Smalltalk and team development

One really great thing about getting the job at Gem Consulting was that we were developing in IBM Smalltalk for OS/2, on IBM computers at IBM.  So we had access to quality support.

My experience using Smalltalk up to this point was using Smalltalk/V which was a popular and very good Smalltalk product.  The IBM Smalltalk was fancier and included GUI drawing tools and source code management, and working with a team of developers (there were four of us) gave me important experience that I never had before.  I learned so much by developing software with others and it taught me to break software down into modules even more effectively than I ever had.

The working space was an audio visual presentation room with an LCD projector that dropped down from the ceiling.  Around the outside of the room were tables where we worked.  We were able to communicate effortlessly because we were in the same space, and when we needed to design or make plans we would all turn our chairs around and use tables in the middle of the room.

Our development of this project went swiftly and smoothly.  I really enjoyed this style of work.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Onward and upward!

In my time at CFC Incorporated I had several interviews for work in Smalltalk.  One of them was in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They focused a lot on Unix in the interview, or at least that's the way I remember it.  I never got a call back from them.

Another interview was with a company in Waltham called Marble Associates where my friend Laird Popkin worked.  This job seemed fantastic, and the interview was going great.  But when they told me that it was a traveling job which required that I fly to the client every Monday through Thursday I regretfully declined because I was unwilling to be away from my wife and children and also my church community in that fashion.

One day in 1995 I was contacted by one Peter Statterman, and he told me that his company GEM Consulting was looking for an experienced Smalltalk developer for a joint IBM and Raytheon project for the Defense Nuclear Agency of the US military.

We met at a coffee shop in Natick, Massachusetts and he interviewed me.  I must have said something right because he hired me!  It was exciting to be working on a project for IBM on the OS/2 operating system platform.  I was already working on Liberty BASIC for OS/2 and so this gave me the experience I needed to jump right into the project.

GEM Consulting hired me as a subcontractor.  The money was really good, but it was only a three month contract to create a prototype.  If that went well they would extend that to another six month phase.

My intention was to focus on Liberty BASIC when the contract ended and try to launch a full time business.

This was the start of a new chapter in my software development career!