Peter ... changed my life. For the best. And we had some good work times. I've not seen him for a few years and it was a shock - a mighty shock - to get an email yesterday from his wife, asking if my email address was current and letting me know that Peter had passed away the previous weekend after a long battle with Cancer. I remember him so much as the healthily strong man who was the life, soul, leader of the party - even painfully so at times as I shrank into my chair at some of the antics at those business lunches. But Peter was a true friend and ally of those around him - those who worked alongside him and for him, sharing his visions for the company he was working for, which has usually passionate and positive, but not afraid to step out of the humdrum box of normallity where necessary.
I first met Peter - Peter W Still, I suppose I should give you his complete name - in the late 1970s. I had graduated within the previous couple of years, and taken a challenging techincal support post at Tektronix, doing both pre and post sales work and having to sort out all issues in the UK for a company with excellent product, but one where technical support offered no career path and indeed had an "antipath" with a "technical people don't make good salemen" and "we can't promote a support person above salesmen".
Peter joined as one of the salesmen. He was rather good, and he got promoted to manage the new Southern Region for Information Display products, and I joined him there as the company grew and my role shrank to providing support over a smaller area. But Peter had faith in me, and persuaded the company to let me take on a sales territory - far from the office, and considered to be green fields. "You can do your own support down there" was the comment as we moved from the home counties to the South West, taken responsibility for raising $1.1m of sales revenue selling computer terminal products to Wiltshire, Avon, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.
The big company always had "their" way - not only sales targets but call reports and call rate targets - "you must average seeing 2 customers a day". But Peter supported the way I did it in the South West - better prepared visits, selling through technical strength to major customers with support clinics on their sites to cherrish and grow the use of our products there. And with the support of Peter and the secretarial team based in Maidenhead, target was achieved and with customers who had bought the right product and not been oversold
with a mnth to spare - the best territory in the country. [link - Tektronix Blog entry]
Without Peter, then, I would not be living in Wiltshire today and probably would never have visited Melksham. But I'm only scratching the surface there. Only starting the story.
Peter moved on ... to Ramtek, I am reminded from his Linkedin profile. And at the same time Peter, myself and two others took an innovative hardware product - the 4054 from the Tektonix range and wrote one of the first Computer Aided Design system on it; Peter was very much the early instigator. And that resulted in an exciting seven years working with "Designer I", growing a technical team with David and Julie, but alas that's not a part of the Peter story as one of the two others staged a boardroom coup (shall we call it that) which left me as one of two active partners, the other of whom turned out to be the opposite of Peter in terms of trustworthiness ...
The time came that I had to walk away from Compugrafic Design - which had become CDL - leaving an excellent CAD product, a small but excellent team, and some very shady operational issues of which I wanted no part. And where to I turn? To Peter - a "have you got any jobs going" phone call.
I remember the interview not for what was said, for it was pretty obvious it was just a formallity and the job was mine if I wanted it. I remember the interview for getting stuck in the lift afterwards. Of joking with Peter (and Peter) about this being the part of the interview that tested me under stress, and with Peter offering to poke sandwiches through the inch crack in the lift doors that we had managed to open ... I took the job, and thus began an exciting 2 years with Megatek. I rose to "Eurpoean Tech Support Manager" over earlier (and with replacement) staff, and we travelled. I can tell stories of eating goosenecks near Monchengladbach, of sitting in a bar in Munich saying that Computer Graphics will really be coming of age when the person seated next to me used a grapic computer - to find the guy did actually use an SGI machine, and of a frantic ride in a taxi across Paris with Peter after an intense meeting with our distributor thee, with the taxi driver arguing with his wife on the phone telling her that he had to go and listen to what we were saying to report back, not realising that we had a smattering of French.
Megatek was hard and exciting work. Seated on the floor of a big Messe (exhibition hall) trying to fix hardware problems at 3 a.m. on a machine that has just arrived for the show that opened 6 hours later. Driving from Stockholm in the depths of winter to the village of Arborga where our largest customer was located, and sweettalking an American guest who had left his passport back in Stockholm in through the gate of the military development site. And - at Peter's request - acting as his eyes and ears in San Diego as the parent company floundered and was taken over by SAIC, and our European office fought for survival. Intrigue and company espionage ... but Peter was always a dependable ally and good friend.
Last night, we went out an had a strong curry. And I thought that to be in sort of honour of Peter. It brought back memories of Friday lunchtimes at the Indian Restaurant in Chineham, of some folks (not Peter nor me, as it happens) who regularly went Vindaloo when they should have only gone Madras, and suffered all afternoon. But it was a work hard, play hard place. All staff had keys, all staff worked willingly extra hours as needed, and it worked well. A real team, with a excellent leader.
Alas - Megatek UK didn't survive in its SAIC form in a way that Peter or I could carry on there, and that was the point at which I moved across to a training role, and a new group of people - actually taken on by a trainer who remembered me from when he had taught me Unix for Designer I in Compugrafic days, but that's another story.
You might think that - with three associations - that was the end of my time with Peter. But not quite. Or, rather, No.
About five years later, Peter was running the startup operation in the UK for a company called Connectware - a subsidiary of the large AMP corporation, selling ATM packet transfer and switching hardware and the Vitec range of image rocessor boards. And he persuaded me to give up my job with First Alternative and join him. We all make mistakes - Peter and I had both done so in this case; a trip to HQ at Richardston (?) near Dallas showed a company with too much politics, and too much vapourware in its products. We had little to sell or promote, and nothing to be proud of and current. A couple of months later, I set up Well House Consultants, with First Alternative as my major contract training customer.
But at Connectware, Peter insisted that we do the new thing and get online, and start communicating by email. He pushed me; and thats where I set up a Demon Internet account, dial in modem to a London number, and got online - in those days there was no web - it was email and newsgroups. Newsgroups brought new contacts thinking about similiar things to myself, and forward technical friends from around the world. And that led to lifechanging things which had me meeting Lisa in due course. "The rest is history" as they say.
I have lost a true friend in Peter. We might not have always agreed on everything, we might not have embarrassed each other, and we may not have agreed with each other's lifestyles. But if either of us was in trouble and needed help, we could ask. "Please jump for me" and the answer would be "how high". Both ways. (written 2011-11-07, updated 2012-11-04)
Associated topics are indexed underZ700 - People 
Melksham - a town of some remarkable people - (2013-01-19) 
How should we choose our Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner? - (2012-10-27) 
Alan Turing - 1912 to 1954 - (2012-06-23) 
Passing of Steve Jobs - R.I.P. - (2011-10-06) 
Family Pictures - (2011-07-12) 
Quiet Monday in - (2011-05-23) 
A long day, a long journey, and families and similarities the world over - (2011-05-22) 
Baby Pictures - (2011-04-27) 
Visiting relatives - (2011-02-26) 
The family is defunct. Long live the family. - (2011-01-09) 
Zyliana Kyrei Cox - (2010-11-16) 
Birth Notice - Aeryn Cassandra Ellis - (2010-11-07) 
Dulwich College Preparatory, and Sevenoaks, Schools - (2010-10-21) 
Congratulations, Kimberly - (2010-07-25) 
Catching up with an old friend - (2010-07-01) 
Simon says - (2010-06-05) 
Melksham manslaughter case concludes - sort of - (2009-11-14) 
Learning about Lurchers - (2009-04-18) 
Visiting Family - (2009-03-23) 
A lot has changed - but the memory lingers on - (2009-03-12) 
Melksham, Wiltshire. Town Crier Competition, 2009 - (2009-01-11) 
Michelle - (2009-01-06) 
Why I remember East Grafton - (2008-12-02) 
Amazing family members - (2008-05-02) 
London Midland ... Merrymaker ... Percy Danks - (2008-03-10) 
Paging Martin Noke, who petitions for more trains from Trowbridge to Swindon - (2008-01-28) 
Delegates of all shapes and sizes - (2007-10-09) 
Heading Upstate New York - (2007-08-14) 
The Gdansk fireball - (2007-07-27) 
The kind spirit of Melksham - (2007-06-21) 
Back off home with our best wishes - (2007-05-21) 
Gordon Dodge, R.I.P. - (2007-04-16) 
The Last Word on the road - (2007-03-26) 
Weekend Visitors - (2007-03-13) 
Graham Ellis - an Introduction - (2007-02-05) 
Light and shadows at Beach - (2007-02-04) 
Robert and William Whitworth - (2006-08-01) 
Perl delegate - much more than just a delegate - (2006-07-06) 
From cat breeder to Cobol to Perl - (2006-06-21) 
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Erin Brent - rest in peace - (2006-04-29) 
A person of few words - (2006-03-18) 
Look out for the motor cyclist - (2006-02-17) 
A fond memory of Sir Freddie - (2006-02-11) 
Loosing breath with Gerald - (2006-01-31) 
The world didn't stop for Christmas - (2005-12-26) 
Perl course during the week, getting married at the weekend - (2005-12-16) 
A Victorian Lady - (2005-08-23) 
No Smoking - (2005-07-27) 
BBQ Season - (2005-07-24) 
Canteen Dragon - (2005-02-09)
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