Migrant Worker (Software Div.), 1990s

A funny thing happened while we were chasing the FX chimera. IBM tired of being dependent on Microsoft's DOS for a PC operating system, and brought out their own model, OS/2. At the same time, they noticed that they didn't have a good development environment for creating, on the OS/2 platform, Graphical User Interface (GUI) front ends to their mainframe software. Then they noticed a small, struggling GUI tool developer named Interactive Images, Inc. (I I I) and set it on its feet on a pile of Big Blue Bucks.

III had to adjust by changing its interface elements to those of IBM's Common User Access (CUA) standard, and made the most of this oddly asymmetrical partnership: renaming itself Easel Corporation, building itself a palace on Boston's Route 128, and going public. Suddenly, expertise in Easel became valuable wherever IBM PS/2 computers with their OS/2 platforms were in use, often replacing boring old 3270 dumb terminals. Headhunters sniffed around, and soon I became a frequent flyer, transplanted for weeks or months to such global players as Kennametal in Pennsylvania, John Hancock and NYNEX in Boston, and Sears in Illinois.

But in the middle of all that, a guy at Easel (whom I'd hired, back in the I I I days) called to offer me a job working for him, as a frequently-flying company consultant getting customers started on developing their GUI front ends. That took me to many corners of the USA and Canada, the most difficult place being Washington. The main problem was, Federal policy opposed agencies' old habit of buying everything digital from IBM, with the result that many Federal offices were a hodgepodge of gear from Univac, NCR, Hitachi, etc., and anybody who smelled like a consultant was handed impossible jobs of system integration, regardless of what we'd actually come to do.

Once Windows became a (somewhat) stable product, Easel was upgraded to support it too. Aesop could tell you what was going to happen next. Easel's top management felt like they were Big Stuff, which was OK as far as it went. But they felt Easel Corp. was Big Stuff too, and didn't need the relationship with IBM any more. Uh, wrong. A massive layoff put me back in the hands of the headhunters for a few more years of migrancy.

My favorite headhunter eventually placed me at Programart in Harvard Square, within walking distance of my house. There I worked for a man who had been one of the IBMers pioneering the original PC development, and he wanted to know if I'd like to become an employee.

Well, OK ...