What's This?

I was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1962, so you do the mathematics.  Both my parents (Pam & John) were teachers and I'm sure that influenced me a great deal.   A few years after I was born we moved to a little place in the South Island called Hyde where my father was sole teacher.  One of my earliest memories is from this time; being fascinated by a strip of paper that had been chemically treated so that it changed colour as the moisture content in the air changed (a hygrometer, blue when dry and changing to pink with increasing humidity).  To me it was a amazing weather forecasting device.  I would've been 4 or so I guess.  It seems that I've just about always been into "science and stuff".  Later we moved to another small place, Waihola where my parents ran the "Black Swan" tearooms.  I recall the years spent in this small county town as being pretty much idyllic.  It was a great place to be a little kid.

Some memories are very strong.

...the lake, where New Zealand's Olympic Gold-winning rowing teams practiced... collecting pieces of glass that had been smoothed by the waves and washed up on shore like flat jewels... the common brown, the occasional colourless or green and the rare pale blue... the lake didn't seem to even have a far side... the stream that ran through the paddock next door... shrouded in old willows, it was very deep and slow in places and shallow and fast in others, but always cold and clear with long long tendrils of green weed drifting beneath the surface... submerged sunlit willow roots... the pair of huge old anonymous trees beside the tearooms that had been reduced to stumps like hands, bare of bark and bleached white by the sun... the sound the pigs made when they were fed scraps... one Christmas, up on the hill, seeing a storm front move across the lake like a wet wall...

After Waihola we moved to Christchurch and that's pretty much where we've remained.   I have two sisters, Debra and Marisa.   I'm the oldest -- Debbie's about one year younger than me but I've got at least ten years on Marisa.   We all went to Westburn primary school, Debbie and I went to Riccarton High School but Marisa attended Burnside.   All three of the Wilson children went to the University of Canterbury.  Marisa has a BA Hons, I have an MSc Hons and Debbie's working on a PhD.   My own academic sentence lasted 6 years (groan, I don't want to talk about it).   By the end, MSc in hand, I was very keen to get the hell out.

I had some fun experiences in holiday jobs while at Varsity.  My first year I worked outdoors a Ferrymead Historic Part.  It was a wonderful experience, out in the sun all day, doing real physical labour, actually having to clock in and out and every week getting a pay packet with cash in it.   I made lots of new friends there, unfortunately I've lost touch with all of them (but I do still have a picture).   For a couple of years I worked as an orderly/cleaner at Christchurch Women's Hospital where I saw some things I wish I hadn't...

My first job out of University was with Health Computing Services, a Government Owned Enterprise.   It provided services like payroll and patient databases for hospitals.   I hated the job.  Officially I was a Systems Programmer (aka SysProg, SProg) and part of my training involved monitoring some big IBM mainframes, which was fun, but on the whole it was uninspiring.  Mostly I was "PC Support" for a few PC's the Hospital Boards had (genuine IBMs, PS/2's I think) and in charge of a huge horrendous behemoth of a program, written in DataFlex , called WIMS.   After less than a year, HCS was sold off but I was already looking around...   One day, I happened to see a position advertised at a company called Datacom Software Research (DSR).   One particular thing struck me about the ad was the mention of Turbo Pascal.   My thesis work was still fresh in my mind and the job sounded interesting, so I jumped at it.

By some fluke I got the job and I've been there ever since, more than 11 years now.   I've seen a lot of changes in that time.  When I started we had machines with maybe 20M of disk.  For a while I had no hard disk, it was being used as a "network" drive.   We had very little RAM and went to extraordinary lengths to get things done -- "chain files" and all that nonsense.  We worked almost exclusively in Turbo Pascal, developing very large (and very successful) applications for Land Surveyors.  Debugging was crude and we were always at the point of running out of RAM.  One day I had to write a utility that ran through all my application's files renaming them to 4-character names and altering all internal references to match (the USES clauses) because the compiler's symbol table was overflowing.   Fortunately there always seemed to be a solution on the horizon, a new version of the compiler or some new memory kludge (XMS, EMS...).   The programming was interesting though, I recall needing to solve a cubic to calculate the intersection of two spirals.  DSR was quite small (about a dozen people when I joined) and new people were thrown in at the deep end.  It was great!

DSR was eventually purchased by Trimble but fortunately the staff was kept on.  This is the official "About Trimble":

Trimble is a world leader in designing and developing innovative products enabled by GPS technology. The company provides end-user and OEM solutions for diverse applications including surveying, mapping/GIS, agriculture, construction, mining, military, commercial aviation, automotive, vehicle tracking and timing. Founded in 1978, Trimble now holds more than 200 U.S. patents on GPS and related technology, with over 180 additional patents pending. Located in Sunnyvale, Calif., Trimble has been adding value to GPS since 1984.
GPS is the Global Positioning System -- using signals broadcast by satellites to compute positions on earth (the Trimble web site has more information).

Both sisters have done the regulation Kiwi OE, as have my parents and I'd done a little traveling myself but nothing major.   However, in 1998 I got a company transfer to California and that's where I'm living now (and for the immediate future).   Sunnyvale is about 35 miles south of San Francisco.   The Bay Area is a great place, I love it here.   I'll say more (todo)...

If you're interested, I've got a few photos of myself.