(donīt worry, may be skipped)
|For me it all started
in May 27, 1943 in Quito, Ecuador. Although I have no
clear recollection of my first years, I have the feeling
that it was then when my parents developed my love and
respect for God, people and nature.
During my high school years, with some friends, we formed a group called the ODEC, Organization for Scientific Studies (Organization de Estudios Cientificos). We used to build artifacts such as Tesla coils, electrical motors, Galena radios, and our favorite activities included things such as mixing Potassium Permanganate with cotton and Sulfuric Acid and wonder at the little explosions taking place inside the test probe, another one was adding Nitric Acid to copper pieces and enjoy the sight of the orange fumes leaving the flask. It was great, but balancing those red-ox equations in the paper was even greater. 38 years later, we still meet whenever we have the chance to be together.
It was natural for me to go into Chemical Engineering, and in 1968 I graduated from the Escuela Politecnica Nacional in Quito. My thesis was about the design of a chemical plant to convert Solasodine, a natural alkaloid, to 16-dehydro pregnenolone. It was a lot of fun. I worked in the Chemical Research Labs at the same school until 1970. It was at this time when I discovered the world of statistical analysis and probability laws. It was very useful for testing hypothesis during a Chemistry experiment. Applying the rule of the least squares to fit a curve for the speed of a chemical reaction for some reason amazed me in a very special way. I hated the logarithm tables, so I loved the slide-rule. I preferred ARISTO over Keuffel & Esser.
Mathematical Statistics became like an obsession to me. I loved drawing Gauss bell curves and plotting discrete distributions. So I was lucky to find a job with the INEN (the Ecuadorian Standards Institute). There I had the chance to see how the abstract statistical distribution models were applied to control the quality of products in manufacturing plants. As part of this job, I had the chance to interact with the National Bureau of Standards in the USA, and to take, in 1973, a formal training in Statistical Analysis and Quality Control in Sweden. I had the honor of having Dr. Lennard Sandholm and Dr. Juran, well known authorities in this field, as my instructors.
One thing was for sure, statistical analysis required a lot of number crunching, and this lead me towards learning FORTRAN IV. I remember reading the FORTRAN IV PRIMER book of Daniel McCraken and completing by hand the coding exercises months before ever being close to a computer for the first time. I still remember my excitement when I had the chance to punch my first program, feed it into an IBM-360 and see the line printer throwing out pages of numbers perfectly aligned with the tables of a Poisson probability distribution. It was right there when I got in love with computers. It was 1974.
This was my second love. I married my first love, Maria de Lourdes, in 1971. My wife has always been my support and my source of love and encouragement. We have three wonderful daughters: Marisol who will soon graduate in Computer Science at MIT; Tatiana, who is studying graphic design at the Art Center, College of Design in Pasadena, and the little one, Gaby, who is a freshman at Valencia High School.
Encouraged by my wife, I applied successfully for a scholarship to the Fulbright Commission, and in 1976 I got a M.S. degree in Industrial and Management Engineering from Columbia University in New York. At that time, the days of the slide-rule were over, and my favorite tools were an ARISTO M36 hand-held calculator and, of course, the IBM-370 and its card puncher.
All this was wonderful, but the terms of the scholarship required for me to go back to my country and work there for at least 10 years. I did that, and between 1977 and 1986 I lectured Operations Research, FORTRAN and Quality Control part-time in several universities, at the same time I worked for PROCONSULT, an engineering consulting company, and later for Sistemas Andinos, the Data General representative for Ecuador. It was an interesting period. Through Data General, I had the chance to witness the grow of the mini-computer industry. We installed and supported dozens of DG computers in Ecuador, including NOVAS, MicroNOVAS, and the famous ECLIPSE line with those gigantic 192 MB removable hard-drives, each drive larger than the washing machine at home. Working with display terminals instead of punched cards was awesome.
Then, in 1983 the IBM PC appeared in the market. It was no treat at all to the mini-computer industry, it was another toy, in some ways a little more advanced than the Commodore 64. But I always wondered, why these little toys allowed me to do things at home that I couldn't even dream with the mainframes and super-minis? Programming animated "sprites" in the Commodore 64, for example.
It didn't take much time until the entrepreneurial genes of my father started doing its job, and by 1986 I started with my brother Marco a small company, COMPUCENTER, dedicated to develop database information for IBM PC's. The idea was to gather in Ecuador information about USA companies and products related to the PC industry, compress it so that it will fit in a 1.2 MB 5 1/4" floppy diskette, and sell it in the USA, with a query program included, as an electronic catalog that could be accessed directly from the diskette. This product was PC-TREND. The project was very exiting. We were able to compress a proprietary relational database (pseudo-text) with about 10 MB of data into less than 900 KB, which left enough space to pack the query programs written in USDB Pascal. The system contained query programs and data for 2500 companies interrelated with about 4000 products and was packed in three 360 KB low density floppies, which after the installation created a single 1.1 MB file that could be copied into a HD 1.2 MB floppy or be accessed directly from the hard drive. It required a PC with at least 64 KB of memory.
Because of the PC-TREND project I moved with my family to USA in 1986, but marketing the product proved to be more difficult than anticipated. By 1988 we had to close the company and I had to find a job in corporate America. Here is where my experience with Data General came handy. I worked first for The Holman Group as DP manager of their DG shop between 1988 and 1990, then, since May, 1990 in the Installed Support team of the Hospitals Systems Division at KEANE, Inc. in Los Angeles, where I currently work. At KEANE I adapted some of my PC-TREND ideas to create within the Data General environment an electronic manual generator, KHELP, which provides internal on-line support documentation.
Since my days at Columbia University, my passion were calculators. I can't pass through a department store without having a look at the calculators stand. I had the luck to live the evolution of these wonderful little devices since the first MITS appeared in Ecuador in 1972. It continued when my ARISTO M36 calculator replaced my ARISTO slide-rule in 1975. The HP-35 was too expensive for me to afford, but the ARISTO calculator was more than enough for the Industrial Engineering tasks. Larger projects were handled by the main frames and the mini-computers. One of my two hobbies (the other was Origami which nowadays has been replaced by collecting calculators) was to write a TSR program that would emulate and enhance the ARISTO M36 functionality (no longer used in modern calculators) in a PC. This lead me to find a better way to enter numbers into numerical devices by applying a structured data-entry procedure. I developed the procedure in 1992, filed a patent application in January 1993, and was granted a patent in April 22 of 1997.
Yes, for me it all started in May 27, 1943, and with a 90% of confidence level, it will end sometime between 2010 and 2030. For now, I'm enjoying the Internet evolution.