I N T R O D U C T I O N
From Blade Technologies principal Jason Purcell:
After arriving on campus as a twenty-three year-old freshman, and after a chance conversation (the way so many stories begin), the Murray State Scholarship Office — unhappy with the university's IT workers — soon enlisted me to network their office systems.
I ordered equipment, and in short-order had linked all the office systems with coaxial hardware and the LANtastic network OS. Working out all the system- and infrastructure-specific configuration issues and other hiccups that the black art of networking required in those days took considerably longer. (Remember Token Ring? Yeah, it was superior to Ethernet, but I networked a computer lab at Heath High School in '90 or '91 and found that making it work required the occasional sacrifice of a small mammal. It was a "learning experience" in multiple regards, as I'd won the job with a fixed-priced bid.)
While testing the network, I discovered that none of the office's various scholarship and student databases were in any manner joined. In fact, only one database was NOT a function of a vertical-market application using some closely-held data scheme. Naturally, I pitched a solution, and Scholar Vista was born.
D E V E L O P M E N T
Scholar Vista provided a unified view of applicants and scholarships for which they appeared to qualify. Of course, it enabled the user to filter and search data by numerous criteria, but also provided a number of features to facilitate workflow, such as the ability to create and manage "jump lists." (In retrospect, "bookmarks" would've been a more intuitive metaphor, but this was 1994 and Netscape Navigator had yet to rock our world. Plus, I just didn't think of it.)
The most interesting technical aspects of the job were 1) learning to write reliable, resilient network code, and 2) hacking into proprietary database formats, including an archaic-even-then, ineptly-encrypted flat-file system. Hey, don't judge me — I was young, less-scrupulous, and hungry: I saw a problem that had no commercial solution, made a pretty darn good one, and was rewarded from the office's "hush-hush slush-fund" for an entire semester.
L E G A C Y
I don't know how long Scholar Vista remained in service, but it certainly made a couple of people's jobs noticeably less-painful in the moment. This project was a great fit for my life at the time. I learned some things, was well-compensated, and really enjoyed being around the fun, sweet, classy ladies who ran the office. Good memories. No regrets.