Thursday, August 26, 2010

Birth of a storage magician

Sometimes stuff happens that just makes you feel old. Recently an email went around EMC asking us what we remembered about the early days of ATF, Array Guide, and Navisphere. I brushed off the cobwebs in the old brain bucket, and listed the cast of characters and products as best as I could remember. I kicked off the return email. Shortly, I got a reply from an old friend on the list saying damn, Mich, that was close to twenty years ago. Now feeling old, and after looking for the Geritol and my walker, I began thinking back. You know a mind can be a dangerous thing when enabled. I began pondering ”how long have I really been doing this?” After getting over the shock and horror that I had actually become one of those old farts I knew and loved in the old time data centers with punch cards and green bar, I started chuckling a bit remembering all the weird and wild times I’ve had over the years. I figured I'd share some of the stories; so below is the first, which should prove to be entertaining to those who don’t know me, and to those who do have a hint of how I've become this crazy man.

I never really intended to go into the storage industry from the start. My first real computer job was writing cash register software for one of the very first front and back office system vendors. This was back in the day when cashiers actually counted change by hand. It was the late 70’s thru the early 80’s. It was a tough time for start-ups, and alas, the poor company wound up having the doors locked by the IRS. I began consulting with all the customers of the prior company, and at some point, I met Bill The Concert Promoter. Bill was the picture of cool for the time with his, short beach shirt, dress shorts, and Birkenstock’s. His lack of socks all balanced out with dark sunglasses and a California tan. This slick picture of cool managed to talk myself and two other friends, Tom and Wade into helping him start up a software company.

My first job was to create a tape backup application for the Vic 20 and C64. I didn't realize it until much later, but this was my lesson on when to look for the small unsubtle clues in life. I’ll never forget my first meeting with Bill Living in an apartment on my parents land in Santa Barbara, California with a dog named Duke, who was a cross between a golden retriever and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill had arrived, and we had just started talking about the project when Duke trotted into the area wagging his tail. Gaining his usual attention from me, he then walked over Bill and paused. Then, in one quick, smooth, and unusually quiet motion, he managed to deposit what looked like a couple pounds of partially digested dog food across both of Bill’s feet. I looked down in horror at his toes being held captive by the molten mound of kibble in combination with the look of bewilderment on Bill’s face. Spotting a scoop shovel nearby used by my family’s construction business, I dashed to grab it. Bill managed to extract himself from Alpo Mountain by the time I returned with the shovel. After removing one full scoop shovel full of soggy kibble, providing a towel, and some nervous joking, we managed to get back to the conversation at hand. As it turned out later Duke was a very shrewd judge of character. Despite Dukes best attempts, I managed to secure the job to do the tape backup application, and thus started my first adventure into the land of storage.

Wade’s project at that time was to create disk replication software for the Commodore 64, which was to be known as “Disk Maker.” This became an overnight success, and soon this small software company was up to its elbows in orders for this backup/pirate software. I became the expert on the back office system. We did all our own floppy duplication, shipping, order processing, and tech support. By the time I left, Bill The Concert Promoter’s company I had automated every aspect of the office, order processing, and replication systems. Like a lot of things during this era, myself, Tom, and Wade’s dreams were never realized. Duke was indeed right, Bill managed to spend, blow, or hide all the profits from the sales of our software. That aside, this was the first of many strange adventures into the land of Storage…


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