20 years of contract work, looking forward to the next 20 years

Today marks a milestone in my career. 20 years ago today, I started working for the company that would eventually become Intrahealth. Technically, the start date was February 7, 1995, but it was in New Zealand, which is a day ahead of the US, so it counts as today.

I actually started Dejal as a company back in September 20, 1991; see my previous 20 years of Dejal shareware blog post for a retrospective on that.

But 20 years ago today I started working for Mark Matthews, now CEO of Intrahealth, taking over development of his MMAS application: the Macintosh Medical Administration System. It was a pair of server/client apps written in MPW Pascal for classic Mac OS, used by hundreds of medical clinics around New Zealand to manage their practices: everything from appointments, billing, patient medical records, and more. My first assignment was rewriting the prescriptions windows.

An early memory was that Mark actually printed the wedding invites for Jenn and me on his LaserWriter.

A few years later, around April 1997, I converted the project to CodeWarrior Pascal, and 10 years later it moved to Free Pascal (FPC). Being such an ancient product, it has gone through many iterations, but still exists today.

When I started, I was working out of my home office, in a tiny 2-bedroom flat (or apartment as we'd call it in the US). And I mean really tiny — our bed touched three walls of the bedroom.

Later, about a year after the company established the Intrahealth name in 1997, I started working in their office. By that time it had several more employees, but I remained the lead developer of their Mac apps, with part-time coding by another company founder, Andrew Hall, and for about a year another developer. A few years later, in 1999, MMAS was renamed as Profile for Mac, to bring it in line with their new product for the Windows operating system, Profile for Windows.

Big changes

Big changes in 2001: on April 1 my wife and I moved to the US. So at that time I became a contractor again (an international employee would be tricky), and continued working on Profile for Mac, mostly part-time — about half of my time on that, half on Dejal apps, including my first Mac OS X apps, Narrator (since sold to Mariner Software), Simon (which was recently updated to version 4), and others.

I also spent some time on other contract projects, including iData and MindFortress, both snippet utilities similar to Caboodle. But Intrahealth was a big part of my career.

Intrahealth changed countries too: in 2005 they moved their head office to Vancouver, BC, Canada.

After the iPhone was introduced, I created some Dejal apps for it. Naturally, when Intrahealth wanted a mobile edition of Profile, they turned to me. In January 2011 I started work on Profile for iOS, an app designed to sync with the Profile for Windows server, fetch patient information, appointments, tasks, etc from the server, and work offline until the device has a connection again, when it would sync changes back to the server and get updates.

I worked on Profile for iOS mostly full-time since then, as its sole developer, which did mean Dejal suffered a bit — astute readers of my traditional year-end summary blog posts for 2012, 2013 and 2014 will have noticed that I didn't have many releases, and mentioned that I spent most of my time on Profile.

All good things....

This period of my life drifted to an end late last year. Intrahealth has continued to expand, from one employee (me) in 1995 to around 100 staff in four countries today. A few months ago they decided to bring Profile for iOS development in-house, and as I had no interest in moving to Canada, they took on another iOS developer to take over the project. After providing guidance and mentoring to get him up-to-speed for a few months, my Intrahealth hours decreased to practically nothing. Since then, I have just provided occasional advice on issues with the Mac and iOS products. That may continue for quite some time, but it's effectively a negligible amount of time now.

So, ignoring the past few months, I count my time with Intrahealth as about 19 years. I'm a little sad that it didn't make it to 20 years, but even 19 years is an amazingly long length of time to work with one company, even if it was in various employment/contracting capacities, and sometimes part-time. So I thought it was worth taking some time to mark this milestone.

So, what's next?

What's the plan for the next 20 years? Sometimes I wish I could see into the future, so I knew what was ahead.

I know what I want: to continue doing what I've been doing for the past few months — working on Dejal full-time.

After stopping Intrahealth work, I started work on Simon version 4.0. That took a few months, and was released in December as its biggest upgrade ever. Sales of Simon jumped up, thanks in large part to upgrades, which has certainly helped cover the lack of Intrahealth income, though not quite enough to be sustainable; I really need to double my income to be able to afford to do this full-time.

I am currently back working on Time Out version 2.0, which has been in the works for years, but kept getting sidelined by Intrahealth work. It has progressed significantly, and I'm looking forward to releasing it sometime in the coming months. And hoping that I can survive until then, and that it'll do well enough to let me continue.

I've also released a new iPhone app, Pack, to help with packing lists, released several open source projects for other developers, and published many blog posts, including a series of Simon tips.

I am also open to working on contract projects for others, to help refill the coffers. If you know anyone who needs an experienced iOS or Mac developer, please send them to my Consulting page for more information.

And recently I produced a custom build of Simon for a customer who wanted to install it on their clients' machines under their own name. I'm certainly open to doing that for others too, or adding custom features to Simon as paid work.

The upshot of all this is that after about 20 years, I am keen to take Dejal from a part-time, hobby-like business to full-time operation. The Dejal apps are mature, high quality, and useful, and I'm sure could fully support me and enable me to accelerate the rate of improvements, and maybe even release more new apps. I just need to get better at getting the word out about them.

Please help!

If you've read this far, congratulations! You must be sufficiently interested in me and my apps, so can I ask you for a favor? Please tell everyone you know about them! Tweet about the apps, post on Facebook, tell your friends, email bloggers, etc etc. Anything you can do to help others learn about the apps will help me grow Dejal to a full-time, sustainable software business. Which will benefit everybody. Thank you.