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About ISP Ltd.

Personal history of Angelo Babudro

My C.V. can be downloaded from here. If you would like to know more about me personally, below are some reminiscings on my time in the computer industry.

My experience with computers began when my father taught me to programme computers in 1974. Programming made sense to me right away, and very quickly I knew it was what I wanted to spend my life doing.

Back then H-P and CDC mainframes were all that I had access to, usually on a printing terminal such as a Teletype or modified Selectric. In 1975, getting a used CRT terminal with a 300 baud modem was a dream come true for this young computer hobbyist.

By 1976 micro-computer kits became popular and readily available to anyone with $2000 to spare. Back then, every hobbyist worked with hardware as well as software — the two were inseparable and both equally exciting aspects of the new computer craze. The Processor Technology Sol was an early favourite of mine, a compact desktop S100 bus with up to 64k of RAM and a cassette interface.

Some time later, around 1978 I think it was, a friend of my father became interested in using micro-computers in medical offices to manage patient records. I was excited to be given the task of designing a chiropractic office data base package on an Ohio Scientific Challenger III microcomputer, which had a 1MHz 6502 processor and dual 8-inch 250kB floppy disk drives. It was the first professional office data management package to be developed on a microcomputer as far as I know, long before Visicalc came on the scene.

Shortly after that, I started seeing the Apple ][ and TRS-80. The Apple had relatively inexpensive floppy disk drives, which was the only reason I ended up preferring it over the Processor Tech machine. Then came my first taste of Unix on a PDP/11 when I worked at the University of Minnesota's Hearing Research Lab in 1980/81, although most of my programming tasks there were done on a PDP/8. I was so thrilled to work on a PDP, especially the PDP/11, a computer I had read so much about.

While attending the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology, I would type letters using a text editor. "Word processing" was still an unknown term. I wanted a way to check the spelling of documents but there were no spelling checkers made yet. Since I was a fast typist, I took a dictionary and proceeded to type the dictionary on IBM punch-cards. By the time I was done I had the dictionary on two boxes full of cards (weighing maybe 40 pounds altogether), which I had also transferred to a 7-inch magnetic tape, and from there to a disc pack for my PDP/8. I had no idea what I did was that special until some people in another department couldn't believe what I'd done and wanted a copy of it. Looking back I can see that it was probably one of the first times a dictionary was put in a computer, especially since in those days a floppy disc only held around 90 kilobytes of data and the dictionary was considerably larger than that.

In 1981 I started my first business with the goal of writing and selling my own software on OSI computers, and selling CP/M software and hardware. It was around this time that I first heard about MS-DOS. I was a reseller for Seattle Computer Products and one day I received a brochure for their first 8086-based computer called the Gazelle and the operating system that SCP had written for it. I remember being very impressed with the literature and hoped to sell some of these computers, but hardly as soon as I got my advertising out Microsoft bought MS-DOS from SCP, licensed it to IBM, and that was the end of the Gazelle.

I lost interest in the 8088/8086 machines when I learnt of the multi-user, multi-tasking operating system called Oasis that ran on Z-80 processors and supported up to eight terminals. I developed a multi-user point-of-sale/accounting package on 8-bit Oasis that supported up to four cash registers with automated cash drawers and receipt printers plus four back office terminals before anybody heard of IBM token-ring or the word "networking." Oasis was definitely the most amazing operating system of its day, wringing an astonishing amount of performance out of a very modest amount of hardware.

By the mid-1980s IBM was taking over the market (who knows why for sure?). The 8088-chip was a hybrid 8-bit/16-bit chip that was virtually identical in performance to an 8-bit chip (and in some operations 8-bit chips were even faster). I wasn't very impressed, but a lot of other people were. The marketing people pushed the concept of "16-bit" to the point where the 8-bit market started to crumble.

To compete with IBM's "16-bit" marketing campaign, the Oasis-16 operating system was released, but too quickly and with a sad number of design flaws. By the time the flaws were fixed, Oasis-16's reputation was ruined. So the company changed its name and the name of the O/S to THEOS. Some people still use it today, but I was too disappointed in Oasis-16 to join the "new" company.

It was in 1986 that I started my second business, the one that eventually became ISP Ltd today. I wrote custom software, provided repairs and consultation, and sold and installed many Oasis and MS-DOS accounting and point-of-sale systems to small businesses in the Los Angeles area of southern California.

Some time around 1987, Microsoft sent me a free copy of Windows 2.0. About a year after that, I got a complimentary copy of Windows/386. Both times, I loaded the software and wondered, "What would anybody use this for?" I thought Windows was a silly product that was so inferior to the Macintosh that it would never be heard of again. I was not a fan of Macintosh either, but I thought what Apple had done was impressive (with all due credit to Xerox) and had great potential whereas what Microsoft created was useless and doomed to failure. Well, I was right about Apple anyway.

One day in 1997 a customer asked, "What's the best way to make money with computers these days?" I thought about it for a few weeks and realised the answer was, "Become an ISP" because the Internet was causing explosive growth in the computer industry like nothing seen previously.

Five months later I had four Linux servers built and my first ISP, Paonia.com, was born in the rural town of Paonia, Colorado (population: 1,750). From the initial 4-server design, I experimented and expanded until I had 10 servers and the ISP was operating smoothly. I tried to find every way I could to add new features and performance, to gain a technical advantage in this competitive market, and to keep the servers from having any troubles. In the first year there were plenty of times the servers would crash or have other troubles, and I tested just about every brand of motherboard and hard disk on the market looking for the most reliable combination. By the second year everything was running smoothly. By the third year I was thrilled to see my web server showing over 400 days of continuous up-time. There were a couple of times when our T1 line went down for a few hours and I had to rely on a 56k dial-up connection to serve my customers — and I was amazed to discover that Linux's caching proxy is so effective that with as many as 16 people on-line nobody even noticed a drop in speed.

In 2002 my life completely changed in more ways than I can count. Business grew so fast and then "exploded", God finally helped me understand what the Bible and Jesus were really about, and I felt led to return to my first home, Canada. So I brought my wife and two children and re-established ISP Ltd in Victoria, British Columbia. In 2006 our family grew to four children, and in 2007 we moved east to Nova Scotia. Through the years and changes my wife keeps me focused, my son has helped with the physical assembly of servers and racks, my brother has assisted with marketing and sales, and my father was my most trusted advisor until his death in August 2014.

In all that we do, we endeavour to provide excellent service, working as unto the Lord and not unto men as much as we can, and hoping that what we do will bring glory to God and leave the world a better place when we are gone.