Working Life

I've been working with computers commercially for over 22 years now, and for many more before that. I've worked with Unix machines such as VAX 11/780 and HP 735 workstations, and Sun Sparcstations, although some of my favourite work was done using Transputers, using the parallel programming language Occam. In more recent years the machines have tended to be more standard - Intel and AMD PCs - but some have been more noteworthy, such as test boards for some of the first production run of ARM 926 processors, now used in many smartphones and the new tablet PCs.

I started work for EASAMS in the late 80s, and then Insignia, but by the mid 90s' I was working for TCAM Systems, based in the City of London, who write the software used by stock brokers in their trading rooms. I was working on their KRESTconnect software which connects their back office systems to the new London Stock Exchange CREST system. Part of the system used an asynchronous FTP client which I wrote from scratch. KRESTconnect translates updates and queries on TCAM database records into files sent to CREST, and parsed the replies back into database entries. TCAM are part of another company called Stratus who make, amongst other things, fault tolerant minicomputers.

In 1997 I started at ARM Ltd, in Cambridge, who design microprocessor chips, mainly into embedded systems such as portable phones, fax machines and so on. A short time after starting at ARM, I was asked to supervise development of the debugger in the ARM Software Development toolkit, which was being readied for a new release. This involved improving the systems used to track defects in the product and improving what I could, all the time trying to make best use of the developers I had available to me in fixing the problems the testers found. Although acting more in a managerial than technical role, my technical skills were kept in good trim, and towards the end of that period I started doing some work on the debuggers target-end software, called Angel. I enjoyed this so much that I eventually shifted groups within the company to join the Angel development team. Angel had some problems in it's communications with the host debugger, which used a packet protocol somewhat similar to HDLC. I took on and completed the task of identifying these, and more started working on Angels task and exception management. Later in my time at ARM I joined the technical publications department to write a manual for one of the products I'd been involved with. This was pretty successful and I continued writing with the group for a couple of years.

After ARM I joined Creative Business Systems, a company specialising in business-administration software - stock taking, payroll and the like - using MBS Navision. I worked on some Navision projects and on an inland revenue electronic form submission application. I also enjoyed training clients on the data analysis tool QlikView. I really like QlikView - it's very intuitive way of exploring very large datasets makes it ideal for situations where you don't know in advance what you might need.

My next move took me to Stuga, who wanted consultancy help with a machine tool control system which I helped provide. Stuga were in Great Yarmouth but I was able to telecommute most of the time, travelling in once a fortnight for update meetings. I found it remarkably easy to work this way, although it could be a bit lonely at times.

My most recent job was with Global Graphics of Cambourne, who sell the software that converts letters, lines etc into dots on a page. Their software is frequently used in major newspapers, book publishers etc to drive high-end print systems, rather than desktop printers that usually rely on other software. My job there involved managing a range of 20-odd software products, the "connector" pieces that enable the generic main product to work with specific printers and file formats, and involved not just typical programming but working with colour, a very interesting but specialised topic. I enjoyed getting hands-on with the printers: seeing them fire up for the first time with software that you made was a real buzz. I also enjoyed the managing the product range, and have decided to focus on this, if I can, in future work. Sadly in April I was made redundant as the company decided to focus on other developments.

You can reach me at: