Alan Blackwell - Biographic Narrative

This page isn't a CV - just a narrative framework for links to places where I have been. (Or a typically pathetic piece of Web-enabled self-aggrandisement, if you prefer). Sadly, almost all links on this page are broken (as of June 2006), which demonstrates the transience of the web as an archival medium. What page has remained the same since I last revised all those links in 2003? Why, this one of course!

I was born in Wellington, New Zealand. (webcam). I have been happily married for 20 years to (the very patient) Helen Arnold, and we have rather more recently (May 2001) acquired a delightful daughter, Elizabeth.

I attended Newlands College, where I developed an enduring bad habit: attempting everything that interests me. This included individual and team sports, debating, amateur dramatics, regional scouting administration and a couple of appearances as a lay preacher. I still pursue a wide range of leisure activities - all different from the ones I knew at school.

Academic things that have caught my attention

I have been studying at universities on and off over 18 years now. As at high school, I have considered anything that catches my interest. To date, this unfortunate habit has lead me to study:

Electronic Engineering at the University of Auckland.
Comparative Religion and Medieval History at Massey University.
Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington.
and most recently Psychology at Cambridge University

My Master's thesis at Victoria University, described a qualitative approach to solving spatial reasoning problems, and was supervised by Peter Andreae. My PhD investigated Metaphor in Diagrams, and was supervised by Thomas Green.

Intense curiosity about everything in the world, combined with an apparent attempt to obtain degrees in as many fields as possible, has left me with a lot of possibly unrelated knowledge that I am trying to glue together in some interesting manner. While waiting for this to happen, I have a number of other ways of passing the time.

Ways of making money

In between university degrees, I found it necessary to try and apply what I just learnt to the business of obtaining food and shelter. I have worked for three different companies:

Progeni Systems Limited

At the time I worked there, Progeni was the largest software house in New Zealand, with over 200 employees, and several sales offices in Australia and the USA. Due to some kind of corporate magic, there is still a Progeni Corporation in the USA, but they do not seem to mention the (presumably defunct) New Zealand parent. I worked for six years in the Control Systems Division, where I built computer systems to automate factories and laboratories.

Cambridge Consultants Limited

CCL is arguably the oldest "technology consultancy" in the UK, and was the first tenant on England's first Science Park - a real estate marketing concept that has since transformed the English suburban landscape. As an "artificial intelligence engineer", I built real-time diagnostic and encryption systems for some of the largest companies in the UK, including a smartcard gas prepayment system for British Gas, and some early development of D-MUSE, an AI toolkit for distributed agent-based systems developed for the Defence Research Agency.

Hitachi Europe Advanced Software Centre

The Advanced Software Centre (later Hitachi Enterprise Software Solutions) was established as a European base for Hitachi's international software tools business. As the technical leader of a software tools development group, I worked on hypertext tools (a product called HyLink - predating the WWW, and with similar capabilities, but supporting bi-directional links), visual programming (a product called AppGallery), and software reuse (I led the team that developed ObjectReuser, later called WebReuser: a reuse support environment). I was a regular speaker and writer at international meetings, giving commercial perspectives on the topic of software reuse.

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