Welcome to John Harper's Home Page
I work for Anagran Inc, building a new kind of router for Internet, after a long stint at Cisco Systems (well, five years, but it certainly felt long)
I learned to fly, getting my Private Pilot's Licence (PPL_ASEL) in March 2002. Since then I've learned to fly aerobatics and got checked out to fly solo in the Pitts, which is a wonderful plane to fly.
I've written various odds and ends about travel, transport and just odd jottings about life in general.
In the last few years I've done various things with Valve (Vacuum Tube) Audio...
Over a long period I wrote Winlife32, which is (in my humble opinion) the best Life program available for 32-bit Windows. It includes a powerful editing and visualisation system, automatic pattern recognition and termination detection, a rules editor for non-Conway rules, and various other neat features. You can download it and see for yourself here.
My blog, Thoughts from Upside Down, is here.
A selection of my favourites from the thousands of pictures I've taken over the years is here.
See below for something about myself.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For professional stuff, see my resume (or CV if you prefer). On a more personal note, I grew up in the London suburbs (actually Romford, Essex). From an early age I was interested in London Transport buses and in trains. Electronics came along a little later when I bought a copy of Practical Electronics magazine on my 11th birthday. Computers were added when I discovered that my school had access to one of the very first school computers in the UK, an Elliott 903, which I learned to program in assembler and Algol 60. My school (Harold Hill Grammar School) was a great place, in the tradition of English state grammar schools, and I had teachers who were really able to fill me with enthusiasm for their subjects. Special mention must go to my first French teacher, who gave me a lifelong interest in everything to do with languages.
By the time I was 16 I had decided that I wanted to make a career in computers, and decided to study Computer Science at the University of Lancaster, in the sodden north of England. (In retrospect it seems to me that it never stopped raining in the three years I was there, although I'm sure there must have been a couple of sunny days). I learned Algol 68, and did a lot of work on the compiler for a language called BCPL that would have been forgotten but for its place in the history of C. Then I discovered J.H. Conway's "Game of Life", and wrote a program to play it on the PDP-8 together with its KV8/I storage scope. Much later, I wrote WinLife as an exercise in C++ and Windows programming.
During one summer, I did some work for a local company which ran a computer bureau on a couple of PDP-8s (yes, really). But as a bright young undergraduate I was all set to continue my education with a Ph.D. in something to do with computers and natural language, when I suddenly realised I could quit the academic life and earn some money. This seemed quite attractive, so when I graduated I joined Digital Equipment Corporation, then a minicomputer company little known outside its scientific and technical market. I moved to Reading, England, which in all fairness was better than Romford; but not much.
For the first 18 years I was there, Digital just grew and grew. It was a fantastic place to work. In the beginning I did various programming jobs, especially on the best and least-known of the multifarious operating systems Digital created for the PDP-11, IAS. (Rumour has it that the model number came from counting all the operating systems, but actually there were more than 11). Later I worked on network products, starting with X.25 and ending up leading the architecture team that designed DECnet/OSI. Somewhere along the line I started going along to standards meetings, in the days when we believed that the only way to stop IBM's SNA from conquering the world was to make OSI happen in the official world of standards. I ended up chairing one of the big OSI committees, the one that did the Network Layer, from 1984 to 1991. It taught me a lot about how to get things done when you have absolutely no official power at all. It was also where I met my wife, who was chairing another committee at that time.
By 1991, though, the fun of DECnet was coming to an end. TCP/IP was taking over the world, and it was time to move on. I took a job in Digital's telecommunications marketing group and moved to the south of France. This was a great job and was my introduction to the world of telecom, but in 1992 Ken Olsen was forced to resign as CEO of Digital and Bob Palmer was appointed in his place. If you compare Digital to the Titanic, this was the point where the waterlogged hull started to sink dramatically, the stern rising horrifyingly into the air before the structure broke into pieces. (The iceberg was of course Unix). As staff were jettisoned over the stern rail by the tens of thousands, in 1995 I took an offer I couldn't refuse and my career as an independent consultant was launched. In 1999 I joined Cisco Systems in London, and in 2001 Cisco moved me to California, where I still live. In 2006 all the fun had gone out of Cisco, and I joined Anagran Inc, a classic Silicon Valley startup which is building a new kind of router for the Internet.