Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Byte Shop

In 1981, the first retail computer store in New Zealand opened in downtown Auckland, in Fort Street just off Queen Street; called the Byte Shop, it was run by a wonderfully enthusiastic man, the late Andrew Tearle, whose death I only just learned of which preparing to write this post.

When I was 14, I often took the bus from Glenfield College to Auckland after high school on a Friday; most of the time, my main aim was to visit the then brand-new video arcades and play a little Pinball or Galaxian. Once the Byte Shop opened though, it became a mecca for a number of young nerds like myself to gawk at the computers and the programming books.

The first couple of undergraduate programming texts I bought came from there; Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics (by Newman and Sproull) came from the Byte Shop, as did Sorting and Sort Systems, by Harold Lorin, from which I learned the wonders of things like the Polyphase Merge Sort (extremely important on machines of those day, where 16Kb was still considered a lot).

Andy himself was a genuinely friendly guy, and very tolerant of we computer-obsessed youngsters using his store as a hangout to discuss programming, and I hope it worked for him having us around to help answer some of the curlier technical questions customers had about the machines.

Lots of great meetings happened there; one of the most important for me was a young man named Justin Farrelly, and while chatting we found out that he was an Air Force avionics engineer based at 5 Squadron in Hobsonville, meaning he was only a couple of kilometers away from where I lived with my father in Greenhithe just on the other side of the harbour across a bridge.

Justin and I became firm friends and worked together for many years; it was a wonderful partnership, with Justin doing electronics design and me writing software, and around the same time I finished high school Justin left the Air Force and went into business for himself with me coding for him. We did a wonderfully diverse set of embedded projects, mostly based on the Intel 8051; later on Justin took pilot training and learned to fly helicopters, and went down to Antarctica to winter over with Greenpeace to help them get access to the Antarctic treaty negotiations: in this image on the Greenpeace site, Justin is the chap on the left smiling at the camera in a blue coat.

After that Justin went all over the world and we didn't work together again, but those years from 1981 through the late 80's were incredibly productive and fun. And without Andrew Tearle at the Byte Shop, that wouldn't have happened.

No comments:

Post a Comment