Have you signed a little screen when you bought something with a credit card? I invented that.
There’s an old joke from a century ago: “How do you make a small fortune in aviation? Start with a big fortune.” Imagine turning 26 million dollars into $50,000. This is that story.
Warning: This is my experience, as best as I can remember. I didn’t change the names of either the guilty or innocent. I also include deep bits of the technical stuff. If someone wants to make a movie or TV show of this, I’ll be glad to gloss over it when I write the screenplay.
Chapter 0 – The Beginning
My phone rang. It was Phil Schlosser. Phil had been my adviser at Ohio State University while I was working on my master’s degree. I had no idea why he was calling. I had just started my first job, and thought I had put OSU in the rear view mirror.
Phil said that he had an idea: create some technology, patent it, and sell the whole thing to IBM (this would be Microsoft or Google today; this all happened in the 1980’s). He said that he needed someone who could build hardware and program it.
Chapter 1 – Starting Up
That first job was in Marion, Ohio, about an hour’s drive north of OSU. Being young, I had lots of midnight oil to burn. Later, that youth was a detriment. More on that later.
Phil had partnered with Nick Venetis, a fraternity brother of his. Nick said he didn’t know anything about technology, but he was going to be our sales and marketing person, anyway.
Phil came up with the idea: we would build a wireless fire alarm system. This seemed like a great idea, especially the MGM Grand hotel burned down the ground in Las Vegas.
So, we went to work. I had played around with power-line lamp control modules, marketed as the X10 system (later to be marketed by Radio Shack [rip] as “Plug and Power”). It seemed to me that we could connect a smoke detector to an X10 transmitter. There would be a X10 receiver that would display a room number on a screen. We only had three “rooms”.
Our resources were generously provided by parts “borrowed” from OSU. We promised ourselves that we’d repay OSU, but that never happened. That was a foreshadowing of the many broken promises of the future.