The following comes directly from my most recent CV:
A professional Technical Lead / Systems Engineer / Virtual Desktop Subject Matter Expert* with over 21 years of experience in the I.T. industry.
Customer and solutions driven, I actively enjoy learning new skills and being challenged by new ideas and concepts. With SC level Security clearance, I have experience in liaising with stakeholders and delivering customer led solutions for many global companies.
*I have been all three depending on the project at the time. Working directly with the program/project manager I would be leading engineers from different departments working together to deliver a solution to the customer (Technical Lead). On other occasions I may have just been pulled in on a project to help on delivering one part of a solution (Systems Engineer). The “Virtual Desktop Subject Matter Expert” has been the constant for the last 9 years however, running along side these other two roles.
Where it all began.
A history of my computing life would begin with a very smart and shiny Casio Calculator I got as a birthday present one year from a very generous uncle. A calculator? I hear you say. This was the 1970’s and before the time of the home computer so yes it was ground breaking stuff at the time. It was a few years later I discovered the wonders of getting a friend to type 5138008 and flip it up side down.
In 1982 I got my first home computer, A Sinclair ZX81. It came from WHSmiths in the UK and any games or software on the device had to be typed in by hand (very carefully for fear of knocking out the power socket) or loaded in via a tape deck.
My Dad got involved and we started to work through the manual together. I will always remember the running joke “Does it know the price of eggs yet?” This was because the first lines of code we ever typed in were:
10 Let eggs = 30
20 Print eggs
Magazines came with game listings and I would spend the best part of a weekend typing in page upon page of BASIC commands to end up with in most cases quite a basic game. It was the typing it all in though that was where I would pick up how to tweak, change and adapt the code for my own masterpieces.
I pushed the ZX81 as far as I could by expanding the memory from 1k to 16k and also giving it the ability to beep and burp via a speaker that came included in the memory expansion pack. I also purchased a full sized qwerty keyboard to replace the standard flat touch keyboard that it came with. Finally the black and white portable television that acted as my portal into this wonderful device was adorned with a cut to fit green screen complete with the occasional air bubble. Finally a joystick that would basically mimic the keys 5,6,7 and 8 on the keyboard made this little computer into a true games machine of the time.
A few years later I managed to sell my now ageing ZX81 for a good sum and along with some birthday cash managed to scrape enough together to purchase the Commodore Vic-20. I don’t recall seeing William Shatner selling the device in the UK but a quick Google found this little Gem.
Once again I purchased a memory upgrade which took the capacity up to just shy of 20k in the end. Adding 16k onto the 3.5k it came with. With the Vic-20 there was no fiddling around with volume settings when trying to get games to load either so you pretty much got the software first time. (Providing of course you had made a note of the index number on the cover of the tape)
The wilderness years from 1985 to 1991 followed as finishing school and starting work became a distraction from my time sat at the computer. About 1991 my friend and I decided we rather liked the idea of writing a game. I still had the Vic-20 in the loft so it was dug out and we started to look at what it was capable of. It wasn’t long at all until we realised how times had moved on.
I was working in retail at the time and was able to get myself the Commodore Amiga 500+ with a substantial staff discount. My first thoughts upon booting it up and seeing the kickstart screen were “Where is the command line? How are you supposed to program this thing?” I thought I had made a terrible mistake and purchased some kind of games machine with a keyboard. Even when loading the operating system which was called Workbench, a system with windows, filing cabinet drawer icons and a mouse pointer, there was still no sign of any programming language whatsoever.
Its odd looking back now but there was no internet to speak of to find out what gives. We had an abundance of Amiga magazines but these mainly covered the gaming scene or creativity packages such as the amazing Deluxe paint.
The following is a little hazy but I think I discovered a cover disk on an issue of Amiga Format which gave away an older version of AMOS. For its time this package was amazing. Purely by chance we stumbled across a computer stall at the now defunct Blackbush Market which had the full AMOS Pro package including the 3D graphics engine etc for a ridiculous low price. We soon disappeared from the world and knuckled down to create our first game. I was doing the programming and my friend was the artistic wizard creating the graphics and 3D models. We were making a Start Trek The Next Generation simulator. I remember it had the full bridge in 360 degrees, stars whooshing by, a ready room and 3D Klingon Birds of Prey that would appear on the view screen and could be shot at with phasers and of course photon torpedoes. It didn’t occur to us that we could never do anything with it commercially, this was a labour of love.
Once again I discovered my next new programming language Blitz Basic on the cover of Amiga Format. With this package you would pay a kind of subscription and receive updates via floppy discs mailed to you in the post. Still no internet. Blitz Basic felt a little more refined and grown up and we worked on porting over our Star Trek game from AMOS. It worked and looked and sounded great but there was no real game there.
Around this time the Amiga 1200 was launched and I couldn’t wait to snap one up. I could run workbench and a whole number of applications including Blitz and Amos from a hard drive now. It didn’t come with a hard drive I had to purchase this separately. I had to drive to Essex to purchase the Hard drive. Still no internet.
So we started writing a new game called “Star Wolf”. Basically in it you could connect two Amigas together via the serial port and fight it out around a 3D generated Solar System. We had this great cut scene where the ship would launch out of a mountain on one of the planets and would hand you the controls once you were in space. The cockpit was all very steam punk as I recall. It worked well and we had these massive blocky planets and both fighters could be operated independently on the two computers. It was great but was it worth lugging your Amiga and portable TV around your friends house to play? It soon dawned on us it wasn’t.
On a trip to London to purchase a scanner, still no internet, in the mid 90’s we we saw a demo of a game playing on the IBM PC.
It was Star Wars : X Wing
We were blown away by this game. It combined 3D space combat with everything we loved about the films. So it was decided we would still develop for the then still popular Amiga but we would buy a PC to play X Wing and Doom II, another game that hooked us in.
The Compaq Presario all in one was now king. Purchased from Currys in 1994 it run at a whopping 66mhz and had a quad speed CD rom drive. It was enough to play Doom and X wing.
Running Windows for work groups 3.1 it wasn’t too dissimilar to the Amiga Workbench and we were soon up and running tweaking DOS with memmaker to get different games to work with various autoexec.bat and config.sys files.
Over time the Amiga got shuffled further and further to the back of the desk and eventually it was removed along with its little colour TV which was used as the monitor.
I soon discovered that I had indeed purchased a bit of a dud when it came to upgrades however. Being a trendy little all in one there was no option to swap out a sound card or beef up the graphics. All I could do was add a little memory and maybe a bigger hard drive. It kind of let me install Windows 95 on it but would grumble and moan frequently.
So in 1997 I purchased my first tower from Special Reserve in Egham. (no longer with us) It had a Voodoo 3D graphics card and Soundblaster sound card and ran at 133mhz. Enough to play some of the more meatier games at the time. I also started to Learn Delphi or at least my friend was and I took an interest in how easy it was to use a GUI to create forms and windows etc. This was the year that I got my first job working in IT for Post Office Counters Ltd on a Helpdesk. Using Windows for workgroups 3.1 for a while before going to Windows NT4.
By 2001 I was now working for Royal Mail business systems in the Software Control and Distribution Centre. We were deploying software across the whole Royal Mail estate using Microsoft’s SMS 2.0. We were also cutting CDs to send out to engineers from the definitive software library and testing Windows builds and software.
At home I purchased the next Tower, again from Special Reserve. This time it was running with a Nvidia TNT 3D graphics card, sound blaster live and a 1.7ghz processor. I had gotten hold of Visual Studio 97 and was beginning to use Visual Basic and C++ to experiment with programming in Windows. The Internet had arrived a few years before hand and I had started making various websites and animations/interfaces with Macromedia’s Dreamweaver and Flash.
In 2003 Royal Mail Business Systems was outsourced to CSC and it was the end of an era. I continued to work on the Royal Mail account until 2005 until I was put in a new team looking after National Grids software deployments.
At home in 2004 I bit the bullet, as Special Reserve was now no more, and I decided to build my First PC from scratch. I got a Lian Li case, an MSI motherboard, SoundBlaster Live 2 sound card and a Sapphire Radeon Graphics card. The processor was a Pentium 4 running at 3GHz. I soon discovered though that trying to use the power supply from my previous PC was not a good move. Anytime the CPU started working hard it would simply quit and reboot with so much air being blown around the room from the poor fans trying to keep everything cool in the case. A quick trip to Maplins and I was back in the game with a much beefier power supply. All was well once more, I was running Windows XP now, after a brief spell with Windows 2000.
By 2009 however I had moved into a flat with my wife. The big chunky PC case was not welcome and was mothballed. Laptops were now my space saving future for a while. Various models came and went and I was impressed at their capabilities. I was now learning C# with Visual Studio 2008 as my workplace, still CSC, had allowed me an MSDN license to do all manner of wonderful things. Talking of work I was now working in the Technical Delivery Group working on various Projects for many different customer accounts. It was around this time that I first got involved with the world of Virtual Desktop. I was exposed to the likes of VMWare, Citrix XenDesktop, AppSense, NetApp storage and the joys of getting to build a server in a data centre.
By 2011 we now had a house with a dedicated office area. The big chunky PC case was back out of mothballs. Since I had last powered it up Windows 7 had come and Windows 8 wasn’t too far off. So Windows XP was looking very old. I tried installing Windows 7 but it was not working out. Time for the next big change.
In 2014 I purchased an Asus motherboard, an i7 running at 4Ghz (overclocked to 4.5 GHz) with a solid state Samsung hard drive, 32 GB Ram and another Sapphire Radeon graphics card. Using the same Lian Li case I was able to use the previous power supply this time with no problems. By now I had Windows 8 and was soon to upgrade to Windows 10.
In 2017 I ventured into the world of Virtual Reality with the Oculus Rift. Initially for the joy of piloting a space ship in Elite:Dangerous I soon got into the wonders of VR. However my poor graphics card was making a lot of noise so in order to alleviate its pain I replaced it with a Geforce 1070. This was at the time when the Bitcoin miners had ramped up the graphic card prices so a 1080 was really out of the question.
Very little has changed since then.