Price Waterhouse Associates
I started with them on July 1, 1974. Well, July 2 as the first is a Canadian Holiday. After the usual meet and
here, sign this, they sent me down to the office of a minicomputer manufacturer, Basic/4. Here, learn about it,
and you will be doing a payroll system on one.
A terminal and keyboard commected to a minicomputer. 8k of ram to work with. and you could chain programs
together. And I could make it do anything. The terminal was 24 lines, 80 columns.
The language, a verion of Basic, running interpretive. And you programmed it in real-time. For storage, a fixed
1Mb platter, and a removable 1Mb platter. The fixed platter may have been bigger, hard to remember.
In the next 30 months, I designed, programmed and implemented six major systems, and designed a seventh
(that followed me when I left). I was having lots of fun. And two special projects that I remember (I'm sure
there were more): a study of Gross, Expenses and Net, by specialty, for the doctors in Alberta so they could
negotiate with the government, and a modeling system.
The modeling system was done for a Forest Products Company on Vancouver Island. It was done in interpretive basic.
Kind-of a precursor to a current day spreadsheet. The assistant Controller would not sign off on the system
we designed for him. He did use the modelling program, and discovered that they had an excess of one type of log
and a shortagee of another at their mills. So, he went to the log traders and told them not to sell the logs that
were in excess, but to trade them for the ones they were short of. That decision saved them 2 million in one year.
Then we could do no wrong, and he signed off on the specs. We made him look pretty good.
For the Alberta Doctors, I found that I could write out to disk all of the data I needed, just snuck under the storage
capasity of the 1Mg platter. But to analyse it, I needed it in sequence - by specialty by gross, then
by specialty by expenses, and finally, by specialty by net.
Since I had no formal training in computer science (no one taught me what I could and couldn't do),
I was reading the "Art of Computer Science" by Donald Knuth. The second volume was about Sorting and Searching.
And then the 'light came on', and I wrote the sort I needed in about 2 1/2 hours. So efficient that I had to
add a display of its progress as the disk activity would go 'quiet' and people would shut the computer off.
At one point, they sent me down to the Seattle office to teach a fellow (Jay) who was about to get his CPA, everything
he should know about the Basic/4, and 'what to keep his hands off of.'
And what is it that I do? I use a computer to solve other peoples problems.
I developed a reputation for making the machines do things they did not think possible.
So, I became known as "The Wizard".
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