30 March 2013

New job

IAL had been begun in 1981 by Phil Norman and Julian Passfield - wonderful what you can find on the Web:

I was told, when I started working there, that it had been owned, for a while, by a company called Kerridge Odeon - which I had always thought of as a chain of cinema theatres - but when I was employed, it had been purchased by another (apparently also now defunct) company called Paxus - how quickly they come and how quickly they go!

Paxus had bought IAL in early 1984, I think.  What I learned whilst working there was that Paxus had been created - by New Zealand Insurance (itself owned by Australian insurance giant IAG - one wonders who owns IAG :-)) - as a tool for purchasing a large number of small computer companies, consolidating them, digesting them, and ... well, doing what you do with the bits of your food that you don't absorb into your system.

IAL was a small company.  I think there were about 25 employees.  A number of us were called to a meeting in September or October, 1985.  Hemming and hahing aside, the dozen or so of us who were there were to be made redundant.

In fact, the situation was somewhat more complex than that.  IAL's software had started out developed for CP/M computers, later for DOS .  In early 1985, I think, IAL began development for Unix and Unix-derived computers - Xenix and Linux.  Some of IAL's programmers were to leave and form their own company, about the same time the rest of us were made redundant, producing business software for Unix-based systems.

But I was one of the redundant ones.

IAL was, in fact, very good to me.  My last day of work was to be Friday, 29 November, 1985.  I was given paid work time to look for a new job.  Roger Hicks, my boss's boss:

spent some considerable time pointing me to a variety of possible jobs, though none quite worked out.

I thought of the place I had worked at before: the University of Auckland.  Nevil Brownlee was, I found, still working at the University.  Leaving no stone unturned, I 'phoned Nevil.  Did he know of anything?

Well, he said, he had heard that the Faculty of Commerce was looking for someone as a computer support person.  I might try that.

Sometime in November, I was interviewed by Michael Morris of the Accountancy Department.  The Accountancy Department had just, the year before, set up a computer lab, with 20 terminals (not computers) talking to a Xenix machine (with a MB of RAM and 200MB of hard disc!).  During the year, they had purchased several (about twelve, I think) floppy-only DOS machines, and a single IBM AT with 512KB of RAM and 20MB hard disc - and the lot were networked together using IBM PC Net (NetBIOS was the firmware in these devices) with thickwire coax.  These network cards were very expensive.  I know.  I broke one, and breathed a sigh of relief when IBM replaced the $1800 (1985 dollars!) device on warranty.

I had given Mr Morris my CV.  It mentioned nothing of networking?  What did I know about networks? he asked.  Nothing whatever, I replied.

Perhaps he decided no one else at the time did.  He hired me.  My last day at IAL was Friday 29 November, 1985.  I started work at the University, in room 320 in the Commerce Building - a full-sized academic office - on Monday 2 December, 1985.  My office has changed since then.  The name of the part of the University I work for has changed.  My job is still the same one - and I know a fair bit about networking now.

The University of Auckland job was, in fact, the second one I was offered at that time.  The choice between the two jobs (the other was at a mortgage company) turned on transport.

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