This year is the 30th Anniversary of the start of Optima Systems Ltd and my 25th year of being part of the journey.
When looking back over my time at Optima it doesn’t seem such a long time. But when I start to think about the things that have changed both personally and professionally it’s quite scary.
Optima has seen me through a lot of personal ups and downs and on the occasions Paul and I talk about what’s actually happened, it suddenly puts it into perspective of just how long I have been here! My kids have all grown up and now have kids of their own, I have less hair and less tolerance!
Optima has been a very stable and nice place to work. Flexibility and care for those of us who work here has always been the main ethos of the company. Paul has overseen this through his 30 years here.
So Many Changes!
Professionally, it’s been a roller-coaster of new and different technologies. The core of our business is supporting clients, both for Software Development and IT Support. We have always strived to do this with care, professionalism and integrity. I feel we have achieved this.
When I started at Optima it was a very different IT landscape for small to medium sized companies. Mobile phones were in their infancy (and huge!), the Internet was very new and was not widely used, PCs were standalone and for most people servers where hardly ever seen unless in large companies.
So Many Different Technologies!
Equipment was extremely expensive and the investment for most companies sometimes too great to justify.
Windows 3.11 was just released, and this allowed Peer-to-peer networks to be created. This did change things, as suddenly people could see the benefits of using PCs and sharing information. Emails were new and a lot of people were sceptical they would ever take off.
Using the Internet was through a dial-up modem running at 56 Kbits/second, at their best. Surfing the internet wasn’t something you did. There were dedicated sites you could dial into but the idea of using Google to search was a thing of dreams.
Emails were not as simple as today. Nothing came to your PC automatically; you had to dialup and check your emails. If you weren’t in the office, you could not see your emails. Not a bad thing maybe!
In those days we did setup shared dial-up connections across offices, but this was not just problematic but hugely expensive. There was no limitless internet - you paid per minute, the same as a phone call.
Support for clients could not be through TeamViewer as there was no such thing. The only way to support clients was to visit them. This meant driving around the country fixing things, even little things like “I can’t print” meant a visit.
Before the likes of Tiny Computers, the first mass produced PCs, we built the PCs from component parts. There was no plug and play all the drivers had to be installed via a floppy disk in order to make them work. If the floppy disk was corrupt you couldn’t go on-line to download it, you had to contact the seller and try and get one sent out through the post! Or if you were lucky you might find they had a site you could connect directly to and download via your 56K modem. Not as simple as it sounds.
Windows 98 introduced a small amount of plug and play, or at least it told you the device wasn’t working, and you needed to install a driver.
Site visits before mobiles had to be planned as once on the road it was hard to get hold of anyone.
Mobiles were a godsend, although they did increase the workload hugely. It meant that you still made as many visits, but in-between you could call other customers and try and talk them through fixing a problem. It’s amazing how well you can remember your way around an operating system when you have no choice but to talk someone through it, whilst driving, hands free of course!
Servers for the Smaller Companies
The release of Microsoft Small Business Sever in 1997 really did change the way small companies could work. This gave not only a full domain setup but also a version of Exchange. Exchange was the first way of sharing emails effectively and having them company wide. It also allowed people to share contacts, calendars etc.
More importantly it allowed a single telephone line to be setup to send and receive all the company’s emails.
This wasn’t easy to setup but as the newer versions came along it all got easier and more wizard based.
Using SBS and Windows PCs suddenly became the normal way of working. Then of course came the internet and that changed everything forever.
Nowadays we only visit a customer site when we cannot connect remotely, which allows us to support many more clients from the comfort of our office.
So, What Now?
That isn’t to say everything is perfect these days. We now have Virus attacks, Social Media, Hackers, to name but a few.
One thing I know for sure, I have enjoyed my time at Optima and will be here for a few more years to experience the next wave of technologies.
Who else would take an aging technophobic IT Director?!
As a Director of Optima Systems Ltd Jay is responsible for overseeing Sales and Marketing, Human Resources, Customer Relations and Account Management. In addition, Jay is responsible for the design, development, efficiency and smooth running of the IT Networks of our clients, as well as our own technical infrastructure. More about Jay.
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