Roy Sharp - Experience and history
9th December 1973 - First job at UK Chemical Information Service as Junior Programmer.
Working on an ICL System 4/50, the code was written on green and white striped paper with boxes for each letter which had to be written in capitals. That was transposed onto punch cards and once per day (if you were lucky) the cards were fed into the computer and it attempted to build the program. A missed full stop, a 1 that became an I or all manner of slip-ups produced a rainforest of print-out and another day’s delay.
18 Months later there were redundancies but an offer to join Gamma Associates in Nottingham was on the table (Gamma hired time on the UKCIS computer).
The computers were already getting smaller - this time DEC PDP 11/44. A computer room one tenth the size of the one at UKCIS, a computer that could multi-task and you could key your programs in directly and check them as soon as you were ready. There was still paper tape for off-line data preparation and ‘transmission’ although this was at the slightly slower speed of 10 characters per second! Note that the worst current broadband line is around 1Mb which is 10,000 times faster
The work at Gamma continued into the 80s with new computers growing in power but also becoming smaller. Gamma’s bureau operation for Newspaper Wholesalers grew and the role changed too from programming/ operating the PDP to focussing on software design, development and implementation ...
With the 80s came the first PCs
Still text-based but now you could have one on your desk. Everyone was a programmer! However, it soon became clear that when it comes to business systems there was still a need for organisation, control and support for systems.
Sadly Gamma did not survive and in 1981, after a brief interlude Sharp Software Services was born and the first contract assignment was to recover a struggling software development project for Booker McConnell Wholesale in Uxbridge.
The project needed its scope and budget re-affirming and the developers giving clear guidelines on tasks, priorities and deliverables. User involvement and testing were crucial to the subsequent success of the project. In the end it was handed over to the local support teams to maintain and control.
The 80s were fast and exciting times because computers were evolving at an ever-increasing pace what business could do with them was changing equally quickly. After Booker McConnell came contracts in the financial markets, mainly in London with a few brief trips to Paris
This was the time of the deregulation of the markets - the “Big Bang” when the London Stock Exchange moved from face-to-face trading to disparate dealing rooms using computers and telephones to communicate and trade. Software and systems had to be ready and tested and guaranteed to work on the 27th October 1986.
Software design and development, implementation and migration projects, business analysis, software testing were all involved as the pace quickened and the race to get ahead of the other banks hotted up. Contracting with both the banks and the companies writing third-party software was an excellent way to be exposed to many new technologies and challenges and to see different disciplines of project management and design in action.
1989 finished in Paris as a key technical consultant during the set-up of a brand new French office for a large Japanese investment bank
1990 Started in Paris in investment banking but also included working with two or three local businesses in Southwell to help them choose and implement accounting systems.
This decade also brought software development projects:
There were also huge challenges managing testing and implementation stages of joint in-house/ third-party system development, office moves, and the longest ‘day’ of 52 hours continuous work recovering a catastrophic data error.
Other interesting assignments in the nineties included
The nineties also saw the introduction of the Euro and the growing concerns over the transition into the next millennium.
The introduction of the Euro meant that systems had to redenominate securities held in ‘local’ currencies at an exchange rate fixed on 31st December 1998. Existing software had to be converted to handle the transition, projects were set up to implement the changeover and it was all needed to work on 1st January 1999 when stocks and shares were traded in Euro - but the old currency values were still required too.
‘Y2k’ as it became known generated a lot of extra work as all existing systems and equipment had to be tested for Y2k compliance. Disaster recovery plans specific to the millennium had to be designed, tested, and put in place. This led to 100 flights to Zurich and a busy year in 1999. (culminating in a very enjoyable New Year’s Eve watching the fireworks over Zurichsee).
An uneventful New Year’s Day started this decade, to everyone’s surprise. Probably the most embarrassing incident was the failure of a number of American spy satellites, especially as they had probably spent the most on trying to avoid problems!
The 2000s continued with Euro-related projects including the need to support the trading of Euro securities on the Swiss Exchange for the first time. Later projects included:
But this decade also saw diversification away from banking with
The decade ends focussing totally on helping businesses improve and use their IT resources to enable them to run as efficiently as possible
The start of another revolution - while the 80s saw personal computing arrive this decade sees the firm establishment of (what someone else called) ambient computing. Computers are everywhere and the way we interact has changed. “Bring your own device” was a trend that concerned many businesses, there is now now choice but to adapt.
This brings interesting new challenges and opportunities:
This page is obviously unfinished but it will fill up with projects relating to: