Cao

Cao

Cao

It was in the wild era when molten solder dripped impatiently on semi-conductors and DIP processor packages according to a photocopied leaflet, then hooked up to a TV created your home computer. Into this chaos of perforated boards and home brewed operating systems, I was born. Of course, because of bad luck and good marketing, Ataris and ATs were ubiquitous in most North American homes by the time I was old enough to join in. Although, my mother still played the original Pong with me, I missed out on the halcyon days of the Silicon Trail. I still have that Pong unit, though it’s missing one of the 9-volt battery enclosure covers.

Having been born in June, it was one summer at the beginning of school break that I received my first Commodore 64 from my great grandparents. At the beginning of the month, My great uncle – a geologist during the Western oil boom and who also held a Masters in Electronics Engineering – had arrived with his many nifty gadgets in his crazy old modified-for-the-mountains Ford Econoline and preferred I didn’t play with the radar detector and strictly prohibited my disassembly of his Aurora Sat Phone, convinced them computers were the way of the future. That year, even though IBM had introduced the AT and Commodore’s 128 had already been surpassed by the Amiga line, his favourite go-to was the C=64. I was delighted with this gift – Monitor, cassette and disk drives – I loved my Atari and anything with power and circuitry. Or, swords and circuitry.

Later that year, the eldest of my elder cousins (they were all older than me, actually) came to stay with us to go to College. He’d just graduated high school and had taken a course in computer programming that summer. He sought me out in the den and asked me if I’d like to see a man doing jumping jacks fall over from exhaustion and get carried away in an ambulance on my screen. I, avidly staring at the Blue-on-Blue screen whilst typing intuitive things like `LOAD *, 8,1`, ambulated my way out of obstructing his access to the 1541 Disk Drive. Boy did I ever want to see that (remembering this makes me wonder what kind of child I was…)! Instead of inserting a disk or cartridge or even a tape(!), he dropped a stack of paper that rivaled an encyclopedia on my desk. With the vague instructions of “Type that out”, he wandered away. I wondered why I would type something already printed out, but I was curious…

What followed next was a whirlwind of discovery, from how to repair my own joysticks to the revelation my computer came with a schematic AND a manual of it’s CMB programming language. I learned to Peek at and Poke in the right places, how the chips in my system worked and how software could manipulate all of this. The youngest of my cousins was more electromechanically inclined and would spend summers with us, teaching me about wiring, motors, torque and relays. My middle cousin taught me all about Fighting Fantasy, Tolkien and D&D, mostly so I would quit pestering him and go read alone. My cousins also taught me about awesome Sci-Fi like Star Wars, schlocky shows like Get Smart and great music like The Ramones. I still mix all of these interests today.

I switched from CMB to learning MLX under the tolerantly bemused tutelage of a friends’ father who worked at Mastertronic. I made the switch once I came across multiple references that the games I enjoyed most were not created in CMB. This explained why trying to list the source code didn’t work for all the programs I was interested in seeing the code for. I had developed a particular focus on converting D&D or Fighting Fantasy to the computer. Thankfully and unfortunately SSI had beaten me to it.

I graduated to a 386SX when I was 14, and discovered Modems and the online community. I started my x86 career with QuickBasic 4.5, then MASM 3. I soon discovered telephony software like Maximus, RA and Telegard, which introduced me to languages like Pascal and C++. That year I started creating online shareware, mailing disks from my bedroom. Locally, I would tutor the adults taking an interest in the scene on setting up online systems of their own. This gave me enough to buy a 486DX/100 and at 16 I started creating custom-to-order Telephony software. It was then I got a rekindled interest in electronic creation and was introduced to the PICT16. It was also at this time, while extending the Telegard 2.5g codebase I discovered both why the Renegade team started from scratch with their clone and my largest technological passion: Software architecture and engineering. When your codebase can’t be extended any more, it needs to be revised. When you revise or design to improve a fault design, you need to plan.

Since those years, I have continued to create software, firmware and hardware. I have worked in many industries and have also instructed courses in microcomputer systems and programming. My career has taken me through the depths of project management, Directorship and R&D. Whatever I have worked on – from MUDs, Income Tax return software, PBX systems, Drivers, Web Sites, Peripheral OSes and the odd game – my first priority has always been solid and efficient engineering. If I am designing a satellite-based security system or an application to dispatch taxi’s, I always put emphasis on the requirements phase of the project and the design of my software. This is also reflected in revision-based projects, my first goal after ascertaining the goals of the system is to accurately map out what it currently does and how it does it.

Because of my passion for the most intriguing and snarly possible problems, I have encountered opportunities in all industries. My eye for the overlaps in design from all walks of technology and an innate ability to pick up languages and architecture has set me firmly in the niches of R&D and revitalization. My career started out working with the code of others and has been built upon that since, I’ve been the person on the team to come to improve aging or inefficient solutions for many associates in the industry. Since my first contract, I have been improving or replacing systems, the experience in working with and revising existing code led to reaching an informed approach to creation. These paradigms fuel my dreams and inspire me today to develop tools to accomplish projects that will leverage these principals, adding to the rich diversity of future innovations.