In my last blog, I talked but the evolution of Runmac, and gaining the rights to the IP. My son (also Chris) was born in March 1979, prior to which I took a permanent role in ICL CIS in West Gorton, Manchester. This suited me (with my new responsibilities) and them, as their entire production environment was driven by Runmac, so having me around was insurance.
My job in Gorton was ill-defined, and I ended up working on ICL 7502 as a programmer, so a small step from what I had done to date. My daughter Kate was born in April 1981, and not long after this, ICL Dataskil uncovered a project at Halfords in Redditch to move them from an old operating system to a newer one - George 3. As this was where I had a track record, I was asked to put my Runmac software forward as the software in their bid. Halfords shortlisted to two possible solutions, so Dataskil (me really) were invited to do a proof-of-concept overnight (yes, starting at midnight) against the other bidder, Gandlake, who were much more established and had a solution that simulated George 2 under George 3 (shite).
The overnight proof-of-concept was frightening to say the least. You must remember that at this time, I hadn't touched Runmac or George 3 for several years. Anyway, we turned up, installed the software, did the conversion on a previously unseen suite of programmes on 15 minutes, then ran it live. It worked, and Dataskil (and therefore me) won the business! I think Dataskil paid me £1,500 for the software.
I resigned from ICL CIS, and the project kicked off, with Barry Whitehead (now there is a subject of many great stories) as Project Manager, and my business partner David Roberts as part of the team with me. From what I remember, we worked evenings and overnight, as the mainframe was used for live work during the day. I built on the Runmac and MacMaker code, adding a tool that took old JCL and generated calls to MacMaker, which in turn, generated suite macros. The project was a great success.
A little story about Halfords and Dennis Thatcher. Sir Dennis was a Board member, and came to Redditch for a meeting. Now, this was at a time when the IRA were up to their tricks, and surely Dennis was a target. Apparently, he'd turned up, but couldn't park, so drove off into the trading estate, and parked there. When he walked into reception, security panicked, and asked about his car. Dennis told them where it was, but couldn't find the keys. Security set off to find the car, which was unlocked, and had the key in the ignition. Bizarre that Dennis didn't have a police bodyguard.
Whilst the Halfords project was in full flow, a young man called Paul Rappaport (of Ultracomp) came to see the Runmac software in action, and licensed it (for £4,000) for an identical project at Baric. Once Halfords finished, David Roberts and I switched our attention to Baric in Feltham. More about that in my next post.