The Man Behind the Drivers

Twenty-five years ago doesn’t seem that long when you are 61. In 1986, I was 36 years old. My wife and I had one daughter, and we were starting another child – maybe that is an unusual way to put it but that’s the way it was. I was working for a textile monitoring company with Tom O’Hanlan. He had designed a serial interface board for the fairly new IBM-PC computer in 1984 and basically decided that a textile monitoring company was not the way to sell computer boards, so he quit and he and his wife Susan formed Sealevel Systems, Inc. and the rest (for them) is history.

I continued with the textile monitoring company until it finally closed (on Dec. 7th of all days). I then took a job with a competitor for about six months, but it soon became obvious that the entire textile industry was on its way out. I then went to work for an international engineering / construction firm. My work there was very interesting. Every project was completely different. From writing computer program for directing automatically guided vehicles that moved 7,000 pound rolls of x-ray film around in complete darkness to programs that controlled the cooking of corn chips.

Some time in August 1998, I happened to call Tom at Sealevel to ask about a part he had designed into one of the textile monitoring systems being used at a plant in Georgia. A few minutes after we got off the phone, my phone rang and it was Tom. He said they were looking for a software programmer, and shortly after I went for an interview. I started work for Sealevel on September 9, 1998 and have been there ever since.  For the first six months, I did only technical support while I learned the software to get positioned to do Window’s driver work. After that, I worked into driver writing full time.

Sealevel has also turned out to be a very interesting place to work. Since starting there, I have been responsible for just about every Windows device driver we provide with our cards. One of the more interesting drivers I worked on was for the long mechanical arm that was used by the space shuttle fleet. This card and associated driver allowed the astronauts to monitor in real time the exact position of every joint in the arm, so they knew exactly were it was. Previously, this information had to be sent back to Earth, processed and sent back up which created a 3-4 second delay.

While here, I have also written drivers to allow data to be rapidly read from black box flight recorders, diagnostics to be run on modern fighters, boards used on deep sea vehicles for communications with the surface ships, and rugged devices used by our war fighters to communicate between their computers and tactical radios.

Our attempt at another child (and our last) was successful, and he was born in 1987. We now have two grandchildren by our daughter and her husband. Our son isn’t married yet, so we are hoping for no more grandchildren until his status changes.

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