Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stories we could tell …

So this is the first post of my fifth year and what better topic to pick to celebrate such a start than what we take with us from user events - regional as well as global. Times are changing and the web is playing a bigger role, but I sure do look forward to any opportunity that comes my way to join with users ...

“Talkin’ to myself again
Wonderin’ if this traveling is good
Is there something else a doin’
We’d be doin’ if we could …”

Today, August 30th, has been celebrated in my family since I was born. Both my parents were born in the same day, different years. In 2009, my father passed away but he is survived by my mother. In the neighborhood where I grew up, my father was the first anyone knew who had spent time living in America. Following in the footsteps of my grandfather, my father was a printer.

I was reminded of this when I walked into my library and came across a framed original of my grandfather’s indentures signed in July, 1902, that bonded him, as an apprentice, for six years into the family of a master printer in Woodbridge, East Anglia, England. It was counter-signed by my great grandfather and the picture above is of me with the signed indenture. I only reference this as yes, I am a third generation newspaper man at heart, but for two years I was a computer “apprentice” indentured to the Australian Steelworks company, John Lysaght in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.

My father participated in a revolution in Australia’s printing industry as he was responsible for the very first “electronic” typesetting machine brought into the country. Long before the Murdoch’s, the Packer’s and the Fairfax’s my father was involved with a newspaper that elected to switch from metal type to film. The machine installed in 1965 was manufactured in America by Mergenthaler and called the Linofilm. It was an electromechanical device that produced the “film” required to feed the new web “offset” presses of the day. Once installed, productivity went through the roof and the newspaper company expanded from three papers a week to more than twenty five suburban and provincial publications!

More relevant today, when viewed in the context of IT, was how the Mergenthaler Linofilm came with no local support other than a traditional pre-sales professional. This necessitated my father to “learn” electronics at age 50, down to the functionality of vacuum tubes and mechanical relays - a requirement that saw him spending three months at Mergenthaler’s campus in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. Many Sundays were spent with father absent from the dinner table as he performed major maintenance routines to ensure all was up and running when the first shift of operators arrived Monday mornings.

As I look back on my own career there has been considerable travel. I’ve relocated internationally seven times and I have paid the price – replacing furniture, electronics and cars. Yet the travelling has been my primary source of education – what I observed and what I was taught, proved vital in developing and expanding my knowledge of IT. This is how I took what I had learnt as an apprentice and became a professional.

However, perhaps more importantly, it’s been as much about the people I met along the way! In time, I valued nothing greater than what I took with me from user group meetings. User groups and the sense of community they fostered is how my education continued and proved a powerful catalyst for all the career developments that followed. And yet, with the rise in social media and web publications, I am now seeing some of the same sense of community developing. Next week I will be involved in another webinar so if you are interested in hearing of what new I have to say about modernization follow this link to register: http://bit.ly/nJR6ou

At the start of this post I opened with lines from the Jimmy Buffett song, “Stories we could tell” and readers may recall several posts from the past where I have included lines from other Jimmy Buffett songs. Buffett is a troubadour, and as such represents a continuation of a tradition dating back to the middle ages, perhaps earlier. He communicates current events in ways we can all relate to:

“If you’re on the road trackin’ down your every night
Playin’ for a livin’ beneath the brightly colored lights”

The lines above reflect the singer’s pain and yet suggest inevitability. As a third generation newspaper man, now working in a media unknown to previous generations of the Buckle family, writing these posts gives me as much enjoyment as I’m sure performers like Buffett experience every time they are on stage.

At their height there were 30+ regional user groups focused on NonStop. Many were outside of America and I had the opportunity to participate in events with nearly every one of them. And I hope to continue doing so in the months and years ahead. Even as I write this post, I am working on my travel plans for the upcoming InNUG user meeting to be held in India next month.

My first event was Nice, in 1992, and up until this year I can only recall missing a couple. If I had have behaved myself, I may have made it to New Orleans back in 1986 or 1987 as I was working in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a company Tandem Computers invested in, but my boss felt that the company would be better served if more mature colleagues made the trip down to the ITUG event held that year.

The starry-eyed expressions when they returned and the stories they told made a huge impression on me, so much so that in talking to Tandem newbies, Suri Harish and Steve Saltwick, as well as to old-hand Andy Hall, convinced me that I should return to Australia, join Tandem Computers, and lobby hard to get back to Cupertino. Looking for a career change and opting for Tandem Computers, came with a surprise – I was standing in the offices of John Robinson, CEO of SDI (NET/MASTER) when I received offers from both DEC and Tandem and today it seems as though working on the fringes of HP was pre-determined!

As the ITUG Summit Chair (2000 to 2002) it became a tradition for me, that stayed with me for all my time with ITUG, that early Monday morning I would walk the exhibition floor and just chat with everyone attending to last minute details. The lads in the NonStop support center, Jack Mauger’s crew, were always wringing out the last possible cycle from the NonStop servers installed. And everywhere, the vacuum cleaners were busily removing the last traces of construction.

It was quite a buzz, and as the Wednesday evening wound down you could find vendors crowding around bars and restaurants retelling the stories of what had just transpired. As the evening progressed, the livelier these conversations became. Walking the floors, catching the discussions, they all became familiar routines that I followed with every event.

User group meetings were always the source of many anecdotes that would be liberally sprinkled through vendor presentations for the rest of the year! There was always that one bar where you would find Jimmy, Gerry Peterson, Bill Heil, Randy Baker, Pete Schott and a collection of developers, vendors and volunteers all intensely competing for the undivided attention of all present. And nearly always, failing to do so, amidst the merriment of the occasion. Yet the competitive spirit fostered became a key characteristic of all those passionate about NonStop!

ITUG was rife with stories as well that were passed down from one event to the next. The time Jimmy rolled up his sleeves and helped pull LAN cable beneath the booths when ITUG was held in San Francisco! And was it true – did Jimmy cut the legs off his custom suite for one user event (Finland?) turning a nicely finished pair of pants into shorts? Just so he could better fit-in with others present! And did the last Stratus replaced by a Tandem ended up being thrown into the Baltic? Perhaps Buffett knew all too well:

“All the stories we could tell
If it all blows up and goes to hell
I wish that we could sit upon the bed in some hotel
And listen to the stories we could tell!”

Yet, for many of us, this is how we gained the knowledge we have today of NonStop and of how users deploy NonStop, and of vendors providing solutions. Customer presentations provided powerful reminders of just how good the NonStop platform really is and guest speakers never missed an opportunity to extol the virtues of the modern architectures and technologies they espoused! But oh, the travel!

Metal type gave way to strips of film, and perhaps events will give way to social media communities. I’m not a Jimmy Buffett but troubadours exist in all walks of life and there’s times where my musings meander down similar paths. And in so doing, knowledge and experiences continue to be shared with those who maybe just entering the IT industry.

I sure hope we haven’t seen the last event – and the recent OzTUG certainly has helped move the bar up a little higher –I’m all for them! And the opportunity they provide for all us to expand our knowledge! However, changes are taking place and I am skeptical we will ever see a return to those times we so thoroughly enjoyed.

But in the near term, and for the audience with a preference for instant access, I will continue to blog and enjoy reminiscing on how it once was done - it’s my first post of my fifth year, so it is appropriate to get nostalgic, just a tad. And yes, keep posting those comments as I enjoy reading every one of them!

1 comment:

JudyB said...

A wonderful section on our father. Thank you for writing about him at this time - his birthday and also for me as we are celebrating Fathers Day today.Reflecting on dad, his achievements were outstanding considering he was made to leave school before the specified age due to him being the eldest boy he was needed to help support the growing family and also the fact that Grandpa B was not always around or he was in or out of work. I'm glad you have Grandpa's indentures and not his dentures! Judy