I joined Datapen Systems in 1989 thanks to my mate Dave Meehan, (a school friend from the age of 11), at the age of 21, who knew I was fascinated by computers and technology and obviously knew my background in programming my ZX Spectrum. At that stage I was a Financial Consultant, but frankly was bored by the monotony of it all, and when I was offered the chance to be a trainee programmer I jumped at the chance.

As Datapen was a small company, the "training" amounted to be given a pile of books and some old listings and the occasional bit of advice from the rest of the team! However, as I was motivated to stay in this new world of "IT" I worked hard to comprehend this new challenge. The language I first learnt was Symbol MSI UBASIC, and I think I eventually was sent on a course to learn it, but by that stage I was already pretty conversant with it and writing programs. It was not so different from Sinclair Basic - but how different could variants of Basic be?

UBASIC was the programming language for the Symbol MSI range of ruggedised terminals like the PDT Plus 1510. This was most often used in stock taking of goods as you could attach a seperate barcode scanner. Pretty it wasn't! 

You would create your program and then burn it to an EPROM, (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory), chip, and then insert the chip into the device. I wrote programs for a number of companies using this device, but the one that sticks out was a program for Spears Games, (the manufacturers of Scrabble but now owned by Mattel). This program was used by the sales force to take orders for their games whilst out in the field. Then when they returned home they could connect the device via an acoustic modem and send their orders for the day back to the sales office. Remember this was before 3G networks and mobile phones for that matter - this was cutting edge technology! I also picked up the code that had been started by Dave for Athena - the posters and prints company. Remember them?

One of the other product from the Datapen fold was a piece of communications software called PDTpal. This allowed any device that called in to a server machine, usually via acoustic modems, to "talk" to it and upload or download any data. The interesting thing about this software is that theoretically you can still buy it from Dave, although the era of this type of communications is gone now.

The interesting aside from this is that a naming strategy that I still use to this day, came from working at Datapen - I always tend to name a stand alone program as WHATEVERpal, and anything that works with other programs or data as WHATEVERmate... Funny how these things stick with you.

In some ways me and the Datapen boys were early "app developers", way before those upstarts at Apple came along!

Remember the Symbol name as it was to feature in my life quite heavily some years later, but that's another story.

But the days of UBASIC were numbered by the early 90s, Symbol had other ideas up it's sleeve....