Sunday, October 23, 2016

One of my first jobs...

One of my first jobs ... in the tech world was for a company named Xscribe.  That job really stands out in my mind, as I was able to get it despite my utter lack of credentials (no degree related to either electrical engineering or software engineering).  I got it by making a deal with the engineering boss, a fellow named Mal Cox, one that I promised not to tell the other employees about: I agree to work for free for up to 90 days.  The idea was to prove myself in a hands-on way, at no risk to the company.  The handshake agreement we had was that if and when Mal decided he'd like to have me as an employee, he'd offer me an actual job, with pay and everything. :)  It took him about three weeks to make me an offer that just bowled me over, as it was for so much more money than I'd ever made before.

Anyway, Xscribe was in the business of computerized stenography.  At the time, stenography was mainly used for court reporting, medical records transcription (from recordings), and the rapidly growing field of live-captioning television.  Their computerized product greatly eased the burden of the court report (their typical customer) in producing the formal official transcripts of court proceedings.  It was an interesting market, and an interesting product – though the company was deeply invested in proprietary hardware, which the advent of the IBM PC directly threatened.

This morning I read that there's now an active open source community trying to create free open source software and low cost open source hardware for the same purpose.  Stenography has an even broader set of users these days, and the hardware really should be easy to make at low cost – the most exotic requirement is for quality switches with the right feel.  I don't really have a personal interest in any of this, but it was interesting to see that early field I was in coming full circle to an open source project...

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