Jim Maddison – Business Analyst
The Only Way is Up
I grew up in the 80s; the decade that truly brought computing into the home.
Our first home computer was a rubber-keyed Spectrum 48K which lived proudly in the living room.
We were encouraged to play text-based adventure games designed to teach us how to type but my favourite “typing” exercise was playing Daley Thompsons Decathlon where to make the small, pixely Daley run the player had to hammer the left and right keys as fast as humanly possible.
My first computing light-bulb moment came when I was studying A-level art, and the art department took delivery of an Acorn Archimedes computer. It was (back then) a 32-bit graphical powerhouse of a machine. My eyes glazed over as I gazed upon the thousands of colours in the drawing app palette.
My course was clear. I was going to become a graphic designer and use computers to make wonderful images because computers are the future!
I left school clutching an Art and General Studies A-Level and signed up at Plymouth College of Art & Design. This was where my future begins!
Only, it didn’t. There were no computers in sight. No hint of 3D graphical design, just odd people in chunky knitwear and dungarees. And they were the teachers!
This wasn’t what I had in mind at all. I decided it wasn’t for me and dropped out… of art college. I was on the lowest rung of academia with no useful qualifications to my name. So I did what any self-respecting art school dropout did and got a job in a record shop; Plymouth’s new Virgin Megastore.
The store had a strange computer terminal at one end of the counter. It didn’t have a mouse, or graphics, just text. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had met the AS400. It ran a system aptly named ELVIS, which stood for “EPoS Linked Virgin Information System”. (I later learned that AS400s love Acronyms, they’re everywhere!).
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
After a while, I decided I needed a change from working in retail and started a part-time course at evening school learning basic Pascal programming. This knowledge was enough to get a job as a trainee developer at a company called JBA, who wrote a warehouse management application.
On the first day, we were shown the system on which we would be trained and I instantly recognised the plain green text on a black background. It was an Elvis! Or rather, it was an AS400!
How ironic that I had left school planning to create the next “Money for Nothing” video and here I was starting a career on a system that had no graphical prowess whatsoever.
No time to dwell though, as the world needed me. I had joined JBA to help prepare their systems for the dreaded Y2K bug. An impending doomsday that would plunge the world back into the dark ages!
After only months of training, this plucky band of trainees were unleashed into the code to add century flags to dates. Before we knew it Big Ben was heralding the arrival of a new century.
This was it.
The world waited.
The lights stayed on. Planes didn’t fall from the sky. Phones still worked.
I had done it… I had saved the world! (Well, me and about 30 seasoned developers… but mainly me)
That went straight on my CV!
Past to Present
JBA ultimately was bought out by a company called Geac who closed the Plymouth Hero Office making most of the team redundant. After a brief stint in Teddington, I moved to a small company in the depths of Dorset who also coded on the AS400 – Kingfisher Associates (now known as KFA Connect).
I worked as a developer and on the support desk. The support desk role seemed to fit particularly well with me. It was nice to speak to people who were stuck and needed help, and I liked helping people.
I’d only been with the company for 2 years when I decided I needed a break from this whole “working” thing. I took a step away from the rat race and moved back to Plymouth where I met my wife. I worked in various IT helpdesk roles over the next few years including a company in Exeter that wrote software for Epos systems and a company in Plymouth that handled EDI transactions.
It was 2008 before the siren song of Kingfisher called to me again.
I came back to Kingfisher in 2008 working on the support desk, then as a developer, and now as a business analyst.
Oh, and who says the AS400 can’t do graphics?
Business Analyst – KFA Connect
26th May 2023
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