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One persons journey

One persons journey

As I get older, I find myself reminiscing more and more about the path my life has taken. Since my work at NPI has been such a large part of it for the past 20+ years, this reflection seems natural.  Vince and I often share a laugh while remembering past times, so I thought I’d put some of those reflections in writing.

NPI is a spin-off of Northwest Programming (NWP), which was founded by Mike Huston, and who now owns San Juan Sailing in Bellingham.  I’m sure that some of you have worked with him, as he still relies on us for computer support from time to time.  He actually started NWP in Portland, moved to Kent, and set up a second office in his new house. He travelled between the two locations on a regular basis, and the way he split time between both is reminiscent of Vince and Shannon’s travels today between Kent and Bellingham, and also testament to their dedication.

My tenure at NWP started by putting a free add in the now defunct Puget Sound Computer User periodical (they let you do it for free once annually), hoping to get some additional work as an independent software developer.  The manager of NWP at the time was Terry Colton, and she called me up based on the add, and brought me some addition work.  We hit it off so good that when NWP had an opening, Terry gave me a call to offer me a job.  It was a blessing, as I was pretty tired of trying to be independent at that point, so I gave her and Mike an enthusiastic “Yes!”. When I started at NWP, I was working under the direction Audrey Peters, who was one of their senior programmers… some may know her as well.  And there was this other guy named Vince, who was also a programmer but was working on some other stuff. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was working on, but he was a pretty cool guy, and we hit it off.

It turns out that Vince was trying to develop a Network Support department, as that was more fun than staring at code. He was told (by Mike), that if he could grow it to an acceptable level, he would then be able to stop development work, and do Networking Support full time.  Over the course of the previous few years, I’d done quite a bit of PC work and a tiny bit of networking.  What Vince was pushing into was very cool, and I wanted to stop software development work too.

As things pushed forward, we found we needed to spin off a separate networking division with Vince being founder/first propeller-head of it, and me being the second propeller-head.  With the new department we needed a DBA, name and logo.  Since money for this new venture was at a premium, we decided to keep the NW Programming logo (which was a compass rose), and come up with a name.  We settled on NP Information Systems, or NPI as we refer to it now.  As a little note, NP Information Technologies was our first choice, but when we saw that the initials would be N-PIT, we didn’t really want PIT in our name.  We decided that N-PIS was better… for some reason.

As things picked up, we needed a place to build systems and store parts, so we emptied half of the garage and made it ours.  A couple of desks, folding tables, chairs and shelves, and we were good to go.  We even put some insulation on the garage door, but we could still see our breath in the Winter.

For fun here’s an idea of the hardware and software we were working with at the time:

  • x286 thru x486-based PCs running DOS 6.2.2, Windows 3.0 & Windows for Workgroups 3.11
  • EGA and VGA monitors
  • PS/2 and DB9 serial mice and keyboards
  • 9600bps thru 56Kbs modems, and modem banks
  • 10base-2 (coax w/BNC connectors @ 10mbps) and 10base-T (UTP with hubs @ 10mbps) cabling/networking
  • 80 & 132 column dot-matrix printers (mostly Epson and Okidata) with Parallel Port connections
  • Windows for Workgroups 3.11, and Novel NetWare 3.x/4.x
  • Novell GroupWise
  • Microsoft Windows Mail, Microsoft Exchange 4.0, Outlook Express
  • America Online, Compuserve
  • Microsoft Access 2.0, WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3

The next major part of the story is when NPI moved out of the garage and into an office… it was pretty amazing to have achieved our goal to make NPI a “real” business.  It really felt like, and was a major accomplishment for Vince and myself.

The story continues from there, so maybe I’ll follow up with more in the future.  But as the phrase goes, “The rest is history…”