Map of/Excerpts from May 31, 2014, Interview with John Kolman, Maribeth Ward, Stacy Kowalczyk

Link to complete unedited audio recording of interview

(There seem to be problems with moving to a different place in the recording under Chrome; IE and Firefox are OK.)

[Highlights:

                    h:mm:ss

0:40:00  John:  “There might have been another road.  We could have still been profitable – not wildly profitable,..”

0:56:20  John:  “I remember at the end that we had exhausted the IBM people.”

1:14:00  John:  “… NOTIS Horizon.  I really think we had it right with that”

1:19:50  Jerry:   Having to fire a VSE Systems Engineer on Halloween, dressed in a clown costume

1:28:15  MB:    “You felt as a woman you had to pretend you were a man.”

1:43:45  MB:    “Paul was a better schmoozer”.

2:05:00  Jerry:  “I felt abandoned.”

                MB:    “We all felt abandoned.” 

2:16:30              High-up NOTIS staff member from the late ‘80’s:  “Let’s say that we could make millions of dollars by selling little buttons saying  ‘I [heart] libraries’ …  wouldn’t you do that?”

2:17:40  Jerry:   “I don’t want to get all mushy and teary-eyed about library systems, but …”    ]

 

Complete map/excerpts

h:mm:ss

0.00.00      Intro

0.00:30  Jerry’s history  (same as other interviews)

0:02:20  Stacy’s history

0.05:30  Maribeth’s history

0.07:30  NOTIS Systems Inc. Board of Directors

0.09:00  “An extremely stressful time in my career”

0.09:50  Jerry stepping down; “I hired John”

0.13:50  “I was put in charge of Dev. for some period of time…. I didn’t do a horrible job.”

0:14:20  Dynix merger

0:15:10  John was in charge of the “Internet group”

0:15:20  “They were going to let me go. I immediately found a job in Ameritech long-distance.”

0:17:40  “I decided I was going to go into teaching.”

0:18:25  John’s history 

               0:18:25  Jerry:  “John,  I think Maribeth has covered most of your history.”

0:19:30  Y2K

0:22:50  Importance of email/Internet to Support

0:23:30  Giving customers the source code   

0:23:30  Jerry

0:26:30  Maribeth

0:27:30  Jerry:  “What you’re talking about is a ‘version problem’”

0:29:10  “Variables imbedded in macros requiring assembly”

                 KeyNOTIS, LSYS, Escrow of source code

0:31:15  “Programmers not used to academic/collaborative model”

0:34:25  John:  “No really good products to do source-control at that time, like we have nowadays”

0:35:25              “Didn’t have the ‘intellectual property’ angle handled very well”

0:37:10              “API’s in NOTIS Horizon made people very excited”

0:37:45  In Geac:  “I am Yale switch”

0:40:00  John:  “There might have been another road.  We could have still been profitable – not wildly profitable,…

                           “Unrealistic revenue goals”

0:41:00  MB:  “Most intense time for revenue was before we were bought by Ameritech”   

0:42:40  Stacy:  “I felt a lot of pressure after Ameritech bought NOTIS.”        

0:43:40   Reasons for NOTIS’ success

0:45:30  Jerry:  “I think Cataloging/Authorities was especially strong”

0:50:00   Most revenue was coming from (shared) MVS systems

0:52:40  Superior performance due to IBM or NOTIS code?

 John:  “I’d go for the more efficient programs being a large percentage” … “separate indexing system on top; compression of indexes”

0:53:20  Jerry:  “Very elegantly and efficiently written”

0:55:40  IBM’s domination of university administrative computing

0:55:25  Jerry:  Jane realized what this system could do and who would benefit from it and she went after   those sites. 

0:56:20  John:  “I remember at the end that we had exhausted the IBM people.”

0:58:00  KeyNOTIS;  PS/2 / Linux

0:59:00  Jerry:  Why weren’t there more IBM mainframe library systems?

0:59:40  John:  “I don’t think IBM was as big as we are saying.”

                             The big schools needed IBM, but many of the smaller had DEC

1:00:20  Stacy:  Allstate paid $1 million/year [in 1990 dollars] to lease MVS

1:01:00  John:  “keep on moving ‘downstream’”; “you hit a wall on what you can sell”

                Stacy:  “That’s why we started Horizon”

1:02:15  John:  “ability to run consortia … You have to design that in”  Music, Transportation libraries

1:02:45              “we never maximized the revenue on consortia”

                Support; filtering problem reports through central office, e.g., FCLA          

1:04:00  John: PACLink/z39.50 over TCP/IP; partners with Yale/IBM; RS6000

1:06:40  WebOPAC  ’94? ’95?

1:07:10  John:  “People were searching each other’s CICS systems”

1:08:30  Navigator; WinGopher; Infoshare; NetPublisher (MB:  “we were that close to the big money”)

1:10:10  MHI   John:  “Colin didn’t know where start; I knew where to start; I went over to Jim Aagaard.”

1:11:30  NOTIS 5

1:12:20  Jane said:  “I won’t force this to happen, but I think we have to put John Kolman as Vice President of Dev.”

1:13:10  MB:  “Unbelievably stressful”

1:14:00  John:  “Finally [of big projects], would be NOTIS Horizon.  I really think we had it right with that”; visit to Oxford U.

1:15:10  NOTIS was pretty limited to North America

1:17:15  Different programming managers:  John Barron, Colin Smith, John, Verne, Jim Martin

 

1:19:50  Crazy/funny/odd things you remember

1:19:50  Jerry:  having to fire a VSE Systems Engineer on Halloween, dressed in a clown costume

1:23:00  MB:  Employee dying of AIDS; insurance issues

1:25:30  John:  Good location; building

1:27:00  Stacy  …

1:28:15  MB:  “You felt as a woman you had to pretend you were a man.”

                         [During interview process] I never told anyone I had children.

1:29:45  Stacy:  “First experience with meeting the president of the company in the women’s washroom.”

1:30:20  Jerry:  “I want to talk about it from the other side:  most librarians are women.”

1:31:30  Stacy:  “Too many people in meetings”  …  “I’m never doing that again”

1:33:00  MB:  “You had everyone in the department interview me.”

                          “No nurturing going on … but there was all this huge democracy”

                John:  “A pretty tolerant organization”

1:34:00  Fix priority list

1:35:00  NUGM; Bum Steer Roast – best for managers to stay away

1:36:00  Prettyman … very talented family

1:37:00  Ameritech “divestment” of NOTIS Horizon

1:37:00  Jerry:  “I contend that this was a failure to understand how the needs of large research libraries differed from those of public and special libraries.”

1:38:15  MB:  “They never should have bought us in the first place; they didn’t know what to do with us.”

1:40:00  Ameritech

                “Paul’s [Paul Sybrowsky’s] plan was more compelling than Jane’s plan.”

1:42:00  Paul was saying: “They’re taking money off our [Dynix’] table with smoke and mirrors, and it’s going to come back to bite us.”

1:43:45  MB:  “Paul was a better schmoozer”.

1:44:15  Jerry:  “Jane felt that’s what you needed to do:  create good software and have people to sell it to… She won in the end.”

1:44:40  John:  “It was 90% political; 10% technical.”

1:45:30  John:  “That’s the kicker; there wasn’t a product.”  [We didn’t really have a product yet.]

1:47:40  MB:   “Failure in thinking that they could buy these two different companies and merge them together… set up from the beginning to fail.”

1:48:10 John:   “If we had just stayed with the ARL’s, there could have been a détente there [between Dynix and NOTIS].

1:48:50  MB:  “We had to go down-market”.

1:49:20  Differences between academic, public, and special libraries

1:50:20  John:  “The big mistake wasn’t Dynix and Ameritech and that; the big mistake was Northwestern selling NOTIS…. It took us away from the ARL roots, the collaborative development.”

1:51:10  John  “Instead of a Board of Directors of movers and shakers, we could have had a Board of people who understood libraries.”

1:52:00  Incubators

1:53:40  MB:  “Revenue number … this is impossible”

1:54:00  Jerry: “She [Jane] was very intense, passionate person, and, to me, a lot of the success of the company was [due to] that….  Not being a big, profitable company necessarily.”

1:55:00  Other academic/public differences:  authorities; foreign-language; Campus Accounting / Student Records

1:58:00  John:  “A lot of it is positioning.”

1:59:00  Jerry:  “Having really good customers can result in a really good product.”

1:59:30  John:   “Jane knew how to bring back Development requirements … and filter them.”

2:00:50  John:  “… we probably would have gone with Digital Equipment…. Where are they today?
2:02:00  KeyNOTIS; elimination of arbitrary differences; 9370 mainframe, not that competitive.

2:04:20  “They only listened to Jane and Paul.”

2:04:50  Jerry: “In retrospect, you have to say it was the wrong decision that they made. The system that was created from NOTIS Horizon (Voyager) ‘ate the lunch’ of the Ameritech Horizon… 

2:05:00  Jerry:  “I felt abandoned.”

                MB:    “We all felt abandoned.”     

2:06:10  MB:    “He let Jane out of her non-compete”

2:08:00  MB:    “If you were an investor investing in your retirement, would you have put your money in NOTIS Horizon?  I wouldn’t have.  It’d be too long to wait.  I’m getting old.”

2:08:00  Stacy:  “No collaboration between Evanston and Utah.”

2:10:00  Stacy:  “It was like being at a funeral.”

2:10:40  Jerry:  “What I expected Ameritech to do was to provide a [viable] successor system…. I felt they were abandoning the market I was serving.”

2:11:10  MB:    “I don’t think Paul was a wonderful business person either, but he was a wonderful schmoozer… We were kind of selling vaporware….  The day they bought Dynix, there was going to be only one winner.”

2:13:10  Stacy:  “The cultures were so different.”  Male/female.

2:14:10  John:   “Drive usage on the network.”

 

2:16:30    High-up NOTIS staff member from the late ‘80’s:  “Let’s say that we could make millions of dollars by selling little buttons saying  ‘I [heart] libraries’ …  wouldn’t you do that?”

2:17:40  Jerry:   “I don’t want to get all mushy and teary-eyed about library systems, but …”   Son’s college assignment:  “What makes work meaningful?”

2:19:10        “Actually, I never imagined that I would make as much money as I have, but I’m sure I could have made more….”

2:19:40  Stacy:  “I figured out how many people had the opportunity to use NOTIS software … upwards of 3 million … all the research at all these top-tier universities…. I loved that idea.”

2:21:30 Stacy:  Libraries were very early in automation.

               Jerry:  I think the university connection played a role.

2:22:30  Was Assembly language a good choice?

2:27:40  Jerry: “To say  before 1989 that client/server was going to be the future … you had to be a psychic.” 

               John:  “Dynix/Marquis was first,… but not that far ahead.” 

2:29:45  John:  Limitations of Assembler

2:35:00  Testing of releases

2:37:20  John:   Some of the old Ameritech people … what they’re doing.

2:38:28  End