My name is Mark Cecil. I am the co-founder and CEO of DataWorks, Inc. I started DataWorks in 1986 as a custom software house. When we opened our doors our motto was "Write code, be creative, have fun, make money". There was no business plan to become the best-of-breed leader in retail inventory control for the hospitality and entertainment industry. How DataWorks got here will be the subject of another blog post (or two).
My background? Born in 1958, I grew up on a family cattle and tobacco farm in Cecilia, KY. I moved to Naples, FL in 1969 two weeks after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. My dad - Bill Cecil - was a high school math teacher. He and another math teacher (Roger Otten) wrote a grant to the Digital Equipment Corp where they asked for and were awarded a massive room-filling, card-reading, paper-tape punching, two terminal computer for Naples High School in 1972-3. I think it was a DEC PDP-8. I remember this "serious" row of orange and yellow toggle switches that you used to boot the computer with. Click here to see what the room kinda looked like.
My first line of computer code was written in 1974 when I was 15 years old. My dad was looking over my shoulder as I punched in my first statement. I owe a great deal to his vision. That opportunity was pretty special. And if you were going to find the spark that lit this company's fire, it could be traced back to that moment of combustion. Based on that, I am now going to bestow the title of "DataWorks Digital Daddy" to William H. Cecil. Business cards are now being printed...
I set off for college to be a Botanist. In my junior year, with a 3.8 GPA I switched my major to Studio Art. I received a BFA in Painting from FSU in 1980. I followed that with a MFA in sculpture from the University of Cincinnati.
As a professional fine artist working in Ohio, I got my hands on a series of personal computers (Atari 400/800, Apple IIe, Kaypro 10) that re-kindled my original digital ember. I taught myself assembly language for the Motorola 6502. Using Byte magazine's monthly feature, Circuit Cellar by Steve Ciarcia, I learned a great deal about hardware and interfaces.
I spent my spare time loitering around Radio Shacks, raking though their discount bins looking for inexpensive TTL and CMOS integrated circuits. The three chips that still come immediately to mind are the : 7402 (nor gate), 555 (timer) and the 4017 (decade counter) . With an artist's salary, I built rather than bought technology. I bread-boarded and wire-wrapped computers based on the Z80 chip. I etched my own circuit boards, built an EPROM burner, hacked together a frequency counter, and wrote a primitive OS for my sculpture's behaviors.
My most ambitious project was coding a CAD-3D modeling tool in Basic with machine code calls to handle the rendering. My plan was to exhibit my sculptural models in a gallery full of monitors with my digital wire-frame drawings. I was becoming more of an engineer than an artist.
As I was designing and building robotic sculptures, I had an opportunity to write a mail list management program for a community arts center where I was employed as a curator. I wrote the program in dBase II. The year was 1984.
I have been writing business applications in dialects of the dBase language every since.
My retail background is also seeded back in the 1970's. My part-time after-school job was at a contemporary apparel store called Jamis. The store is still owned and operated by a husband and wife team (Ed and Fredi Verdesca). I started the job as a janitor. When I left for college, I was still the janitor, but I was also the accounts receivable and accounts payable clerk.
Later on in the late 1980's and early 1990's Ed Verdesca would be an important business mentor for me. Ed had worked for IBM in the 1960's and with his savvy for fashion apparel, I learned the operational side of the retail trade from a system's analyst point of view. Without Ed Verdesca's early input and guidance, DataWorks would not have ended up focusing on inventory control.
There are a lot of other important events and people in the history of DataWorks. I have seen ups and downs, success and failure, and learned more than I have taught. I have made lots of mistakes. And - I have been lucky. It has been -- and still is -- a very enjoyable journey.
The purpose of this blog is to document the journey, share the vision, and build marketing presence for DataWorks. I will probably write the first dozen or so entries, but I plan to share the writing with other talented DataWorks' team members. The topics will be shelved somewhere on these library stacks: art & design, computer business applications, or inventory control operations.
If I wander into topics that touch on aviation, scouting, marriage or being the father to seven children it is because these are the other passions that make up my life.
I hope you enjoy the effort.