How I got started in Notes

A long long time ago, in a town far far away, I grew up. A bit. Fraserburgh was hardly the center of the universe, but as a Skippers son, we had a little money - more than most I guess and so my first computer was a Sinclair ZX 81, and then a Sinclair Spectrum. At the ripe old age of 17, I then went to Edinburgh University for what could be called a disasterous attempt at getting a degree. You know when you drive along in your car, and a big fat old bumblebee hits the windscreen? A similar thing happened to me, because whilst I didnt need advanced maths to get into an Engineering Degree (and latterly a Computing/Artificial Intelligence degree), you sure as hell needed one in Edinburgh during the '80s to stay the course. Being a responsible hard-working student.. No, I cant lie. I had a blast, and after various attempts, did manage to pass everything bar the maths, and so since then, everything I've done has been an attempt to catch-up.

(I finally got some qualifications around 2000 from the Open University. Good course, recommended)

After 2.5 years working for Sky TV here in the UK, I left (after they demanded I leave my daughter undergoing emergency surgery and come to the office), and joined Stena Offshore in Aberdeen. An oil service company, under new management, and they basically handed all the IT to me. After a wee while, I collected members of my IT department, and we did wonderful things. This was the early '90s after all, and Novell 3.11 (and laterly windows 3.1) was all the rage. After an initial excursion into Wordperfect Office (Seriously!), I was pursuded to look at Lotus cc:Mail.

cc:Mail, lets not forget, was the market leading corporate eMail system at that time. It was simple, fast and fairly robust. It had a shared post office structure (a secure one!), a 'router' which transferred mail (and originally ran on OS/2 - I could install OS/2 multi-session routers, Digiboard 16 port serial cards and modems in my sleep), and most importantly, the ability to read and write mail and directory entries. It had a rudimentary API - the Import/Export engine. Okay, it was a command line text file based thing, but it worked. And so our 1,000 or so employees were slowly hooked up on cc:Mail. After a while, we even managed to piggyback cc:Mail on top of our Satellite phone based infrastructure, and had working eMail to and from our vessels. Vessels with nine storeys, a helipad, two diving bells and six saturation divers operating at up to 300m depth at any time. Serious vessels. And the vessels ultimately had novell networks, so we could eMail from the desk in any office location, to any desk on the ship. Groundbreaking stuff, for which I had a writeup in the Financial Times.

Lets not forget, Exchange was built primarily for replacing cc:Mail - at that point, with a far higher user base than Notes. So the shared database/post office style structure they use today is still the same as cc:Mail had back in the early nineties. Of course, in the early nineties, we were eMailing around 200k spreadsheets, users only had 20mb or so mailboxes, and each post office only had 100 or so users. If your using exchange, then this still might the be the case. Centralised, single point of failure post office structures really dont scale well.

Update: Vowe has pointed out that in fact MS didnt develop exchange, and of course purchased it weeks after Lotus purchased cc:Mail. It still doesnt change my opinion, however, that a shared mailbox 'post office' architecture doesnt scale. More on the Exchange lack of roadmap over on wikipedia.

After Stena merged with CoFlexip (an ex French civil-service company, constructing umbillicals) around 1994, I went off to work for an old friend from the Lotus cc:Mail user group days - Les Adams, who ran a consultancy firm called Mica. Even through I'd had experience of Notes within Stena (I built a really horrible fault tracking system), it wasnt till the MICA days that my notes experience really took off.. Happy days..

Les was an amazing boss - far better than I - and had several groundbreaking ideas. One was to haul all his senior consultants to this new event - Lotusphere. So there was I, a hard-core cc:Mail guy, grumbling at Lotusphere about the lack of Support that Lotus was giving cc:Mail.. And one of the few cc:Mail guys at the back of the Lotus Notes v4 launch, grumbling that cc:Mail had the idea of 'locations' for years, and why were these people throwing babies into the air..

Soon after, MICA sent me to go and work in Eindhoven.. The rest, as they say, is history..