20 February 2018
Alan grew up in the 70s and 80s, making things from Meccano, dismantling various items around the house, and experimenting with electronics. He built a variety of circuits, from audio amplifiers to computer add-ons. He also enjoyed exploring musical ideas, starting with a reed organ, guitar, tape recorder, and a modified record player (used as an amplifier).
In the early 80s, a programmable scientific calculator started his interest in programming, which continued with the Apple II and BBC Micro at high school. For music, he started using Yamaha keyboards, with home-made effects circuits.
The first home computer that Alan owned was a 16K Sinclair ZX Spectrum, which lead to Z80 assembly language programming. Due to his interest in making music, he switched to the Commodore 64 for its SID chip, then the Amiga 500 for its sampled sounds.
Having used both Macs and PCs since the 1980s, Alan worked for 20 years developing hardware and software to control industrial equipment, such as printers and label applicators. Some of his designs can be seen at whitenoise.me.uk.
After the birth of his youngest child in 2006, Alan switched to focus more on software — one advantage was that it was easier to work from home. He then spent six years working on display systems, whilst occasionally also developing hardware, including a digital video recorder.
Over the years, Alan has worked on a variety of embedded systems. Much of that involved the direct use of microcontrollers such as Hitachi 6303, PIC, Hitachi SH, ColdFire, and LPC (with an ARM core). He has also used Altera and Xilinx FPGAs, as well as various IDEs and PCB layout packages. Alan particularly enjoys working on projects which require both hardware and software knowledge.
Alan’s mother used to call what he does ‘messing with wires’. (Getting a first-class honours degree from the Open University didn’t change that.)
Alan’s life was turned upside down in 2010, when his wife Marie was diagnosed with an incurable breast cancer. He gave up work in 2012 to look after her. Tragically, she died in 2013, leaving him to care for their two young children. They were together for nearly 21 years.
Since then, Alan has become interested in Swift programming, for macOS and iOS. He has also become more interested in writing about various subjects.
Some of his other interests include cars, recreational cycling, and making music using Propellerhead Reason.