I’m Old, Part LXXXI: Notes

When I worked for Newfire in that late 90’s, there were a number of things we did that were clearly designed to make the company more enticing for purchase. We had continuous integration, source code control, QA, marketing, etc.

In addition, there was the issue of intellectual property. We were implementing some really interesting things in terms of 3D code and a bunch of it was novel. We had patent attorneys come in and interview us and we applied for a stack of patents on our technology. In addition, my boss Marty gave every engineer a notebook with two very special criteria: they were bound and the pages were numbered. This would make it clear if the notebooks had been altered.

If we came up with any good ideas, we were encouraged to write them down and with the date and if they were particularly good, we had to put the book in front of another engineer who signed and dated the entry as a witness. Although it is possible to forge the books, this was supposed to provide a modicum of protected against intellectual property issues.

My book had a bunch of inventions in it that I really enjoyed. One was a process to turn a polygon into a minimal set of triangles, the goal being to turn text into meshes or indexed face sets. Another was a programming language built on finite-state automata for defining object behaviors in games. It was designed to be easy to read, interoperate with our game engine, and to be trivial to JIT compile.

Years later, at Atalasoft, I carried this over. I ordered a stack of notebooks and whenever we brought in a new engineer, I game them a notebook with the same instructions I was given.

What I think I really liked about the process was seeing how each engineer used the notebooks. It was an interesting reflection on their working styles. Some were planners and very much filled their notebooks with everything. Some were journalers and just wrote down a few bullet points for the day. Some were save game slots: wrote just enough to make it easier to pick up the next day. Some didn’t really use the notebooks at all. I was totally OK with all of those approaches.

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