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About The Programmer

Here's a little history about me.

I bought my first computer, an Apple II Plus, in 1981 while a young teen in high school. With some very smart friends, we wrote a video game called "Shell Shock" where two players fought each other in tanks over a graphical landscape. Players were connected through their 300 baud modems (that was the technology of the time.) The game was written in 6502 Assembler and took up far more RAM than the 48K an Apple II Plus offered. So it had code swapping and other custom operating system features. We tried to sell it to the major Apple II games companies of the time (Broderbund, Electronic Arts, Sierra Online, Origin Systems, etc.) without luck so it never had mass distribution.

In college, I bought my first of many Macs, in spring of 1984. That was when the Mac had first been released. So my first programming experiences on it were with a huge photocopy of the pre-release Inside Macintosh manuals while using a very primitive Microsoft Basic 1.0. I then built a psychology office billing program for an aunt that included a custom database I designed to mimic the Mac resource manager. At this point, I was using first generation Pascals for the Mac (Apple, TML, and Lightspeed. Anyone remember these?) None had object support yet. Yet, the resulting app was enough to get me a job offer from Lotus who were building their first 1-2-3 for the Mac. I didn't take that job.

Instead, I joined a company that has gone through many names: NorthEdge Software, TIMESLIPS Corporation, Sage Holdings, Sage US, Best Software. However, the product I worked on has always had one name: Timeslips. (http://www.timeslips.com ) It remains the industry leader in time and billing for Windows and Mac platforms (and MS DOS before that died off.) I started as the sole Mac programmer and in the first year, the program received the MacUser Eddy Award for Best New Financial Software. (The Eddy Award statues looked a lot like an Oscar Award and my boss tells a story where he was going through New York airport security with it after the ceremony. When security asked what it was, his business partner said "It's Robert DeNiro with his Oscar." Apparently, the security attendant believed him and let him through without further incident.) Within a year, I had introduced the first objects into the Lightspeed Pascal codebase. In my last upgrade on the Mac, I had rewritten much of the interface with object classes.

As Windows 3.1 became marketable, I ran a team to convert our DOS product into Windows. Both platforms shared a common codebase under Borland Pascal 5, and finally, the Microsoft side got religion, er, objects. (Remember the Mac vs PC wars? It was me against a large PC team for a while.) But the codebase was suffering from years of upgrades in the hands of far too many people who didn't document and had departed. So when we needed to deliver a Windows 95 version, we started from scratch with Delphi. That was a tremendous challenge. I was the Chief Architect and ran a team of 8, many raw recruits out of tech support who had little object oriented experience. It took us 3 years and 4 upgrades of Delphi before it was done. (In fact, even though we were writing a 32 bit version, we started before Delphi had a 32 bit version using Delphi 1.) One and a half million lines of code are quite difficult to debug. Half of that 3 year period was spent on debugging. So when it hit the market, end users went through quite an experience. Over the next year, we released 11 service releases to address bugs and correct a few omissions that the 100,000+ customer base had been used to in prior versions. Not fun.

These days, the product is very stable, in part due to an extensive object oriented codebase. In fact, I designed the entire program to allow it to be reused by any other team developing business apps in Delphi. (As Timeslips is part of The Sage Group, PLC, which has numerous divisions world wide, including PeachTree, ACT!, BusinessWorks, and MAS 90, it had proposed that we build code that could be shared prior to our Windows 95 rewrite. See http://www.sagesoftware.com/ ) It's a very comprehensive framework that far extends Delphi's classes into UI, reporting, business objects, user macros, etc. It's just too bad that a commercial software company cannot distribute portions of its source code.

In 2000, I joined the dotCom craze as the VP of Engineering at MOMENTIX.com in downtown Boston. I ran a team, was Chief Architect, and sometimes coded, on Microsoft ASP 3.0 with SQL Server 7. The company was an Application Service Provider for the tradeshow industry. Our reusable application allowed tradeshow brochures to be quickly published with the correct look and content for each tradeshow. Here I found life without objects once again and was very disappointed. In fact, our codebase had been written without much COM (which could allow C++ or Delphi objects). No, we were writing everything in VBScript and JScript. This is a huge business application with plenty of real program code. And no objects. In any case, the company folded (due to the market, not the code in case you thought otherwise) and I started to look for new challenges.

I started PeterBlum.com in 2002, after exploring the newly released ASP.NET framework and publishing several free web controls. Continue...

That's where I am today. Living in a dotNet world and loving it.

--- Peter Blum