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Computing and me

My life with 0's and 1's

1985 Amiga and University Life


Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE) - Toowoomba
Later to become USQ

In 1985 we left the bright lights of Brisbane and moved 100 kilometers West to Toowoomba.
I led their media section. Our prime work was to promote the Institute and to create teaching material for their ever enlarging Distance Education section.

Our major problem was graphics. When I arrived all graphics were produced on cardboard then we put then in front of a camera for use.
Not a good thing but the best at the time.
Sony had produced the 1st Character Generator computer. Finally we had electronic graphics to use.

Late in 1995, we then found out about a domestic computer that with the correct hardware could be interfaced into our production area.
It was the Commodore Amiga 1000. (wow what a life change.)

In 1997 I received my first email from an American University friend. The whole department came to my office to have a look at this wonderful thing. This was text based, well before the days of the Internet as we know it. We were part of ArcNet which was an academic network only. Little did we know then what would happen a few short years later.

Deluxe Paint V on the Amiga, showing the famous Venus picture (a detail from The Birth of Venus
by Sandro Botticelli), included with the program
as a sample picture.
The Commodore Amiga 1000, also known as the A1000 and originally simply as the Amiga, was the first personal computer release by Commodore International in the Amiga line. It combined the powerful 16/32-bit Motorola 68000 CPU with one of the most advanced graphics and sound systems in its class, and ran a preemptive multitasking operating system that fit into 512 KB of memory.

In 1994, as Commodore filed for bankruptcy, Byte magazine called the Amiga 1000 the first multimedia computer... so far ahead of its time that almost nobody - including Commodore's marketing department - could fully articulate what it was all about.

In 2006, PC World rated the Amiga 1000 as the 7th greatest PC of all time. In 2007, it was rated by the same magazine as the 37th best tech product of all time.

This, along with the genlock card changed our whole life.
Finally we could have great graphics and very good animation.
Deluxe Paint I-V was our prime graphics software, along with SCALA as the display software.

In 1991 the Amiga CDTV was release. This had a cd as well. cd's in these days were a very new device. The CDTV came with a couple of Cd's to show it off. My boss Leslie Richardson and I had the idea of using this device to produce interactive cd's for teaching.
Over the next year we produced a cd with software that I wrote.
To master the CD we sent our 1 gig 5 1/4 hardrive to England where they created a cd for us. Cd burning was not available in Australia at the time. From memory it cost us $100 for the blank cd.
This cd was then used as a test device for an Engineering training course.
With the demise of the Amiga CDTV we changed to what would become a major part of my life. Windows 95

We tested Windows 95 from the early beta days. Learning to love the idea. We did hate 3.11 but 95 had that edge.

We could even burn our own cd's with our very, very expensive cd burner.

Our multimedia editing was done on Sony Umatic, BVU and later BetaCam machines.

In 1995 I went to a trade event for Television in Sydney and saw a wonderful thing. NON LINEAR EDITING. What a revelation, being able to edit a television program on a computer and have it non-destructive as well.
Most of the systems were around the $100,000 mark but one group had a system that they were building and using software called Speed Razor.

Speed Razor is fully multithreaded, nonlinear video editing and compositing software for Windows that delivers full screen D1 uncompressed quality video, fully field rendered NTSC or PAL. It features unlimited video and audio layers, and real time audio mixing for up to 20 audio layers with DAT quality output. It works with almost all editing hardware, and is offered in real time dual stream or single stream configurations.

In 1996 we ordered and purchased one of these systems. Now editing had become a dream. We could do whatever we wanted, just still had to keep the client happy.

In 1997 I had an unfortunate breakup with my then wife Anne. It meant I needed to leave Toowoomba and start afresh. This I did and moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
A long term friend and media producer offered me a job. This I took up gradely. To make life easy for myself I purchased a Pentium 2 computer with a huge 40gig hard drive (5 1/4) as well as SpeedRazor. This I used for the next few used. It had Windows NT4 as it's operating system. Later this was updated to Windows 2000.

Has been many years since it has been turned on. Today when I was taking these pictures I noticed the wasp nest beside the floppy drive. Must make sure I fix this before I try and fire it up again.

The hardware has a RGB, Composite and Digital input and outputs. This machine cost me $17,000. But at the time was a great machine and well worth it.

CTD and Interactive CD's


In 1998 I started work with Bill Larkins from Sky Multimedia.
His clients included large companies in the Brisbane and Sydney areas.
Client like Yamaha, Glen Logan horse stud, oil refineries like Ampol, Caltex and BP.
The oil refinery work was very satisfying. They had very hazardous areas to work in and needed very thorough training. The filming for these could go up to a week and my post production work would keep me busy for the next month.
Very good results and good to see happy clients at the end of it.
Our main productions were OH&S teaching programs. These were interactive CD's. I had started to write an application to do this. It was called YAAP - for Yet Another Authoring Program. Not very original but fine for me. It was written in Delphi and used G32 for Bitmap usage. It used 32 bit png images which became layers that were added to build the scene.
Audio was produced by a production company in Brisbane.
Bill used local cameramen to film the wild footage. This was then sent to me to edit into the correct sequences. I used Sony Vegas to do this. A wonderful bit of intuitive software. (Still use it today for my own home video productions)
Video sequences were saved in a wide screen mpeg format. Since these were CD based productions I had to keep the entire project under 700 megs. Very hard to do but it was all we had, DVD at that time to just too expensive.

Over the years YAAP improved and so did our client base.
In 2007 Bill decided to go with another production company from Brisbane. I did miss the work but as they say life goes on.
YAAP was put to bed, only to be looked at when I needed some routines for later projects. At the time it was the best I had to work with.

In 2001 I was approached to write a patient database program for allied health industry.
The client was a podiatrist. This program Pat is still being used today. It has gone through many updates but I still have a client base using it.
It uses the KIS principle. Keep It Simple.

A local company were impressed with this program and asked me to write a database program for them.
They are a re-roofing company and my software is used for all their Contacts, Quotes, Customer Orders and Purchase Orders.
This software has been going strong since 2007.