I'm an Army brat born in Giessen, Germany. Fast forward sixteen years and a half-dozen countries...
In the late 60s, I attended high school in Alexandria, VA, where I was active as a bass player in the Washington, DC music scene. When I was 18 years old, I got an offer to move to New York City to work with a rising Warner/Reprise pop group. Except for a couple of years in Boston, I've lived in NYC ever since.
In 1970, I joined the original Broadway cast of the musical Godspell. You can hear my young self every Easter when local television stations broadcast Godspell, The Movie. Through the early 70s, I toured with several recording artists and bands, although the high point was jamming with the James Brown band and playing bass on a "Super Session" cut with Eric Clapton and George Harrison. I also got my first taste of life as a studio mercenary, playing on jingles, low-budget albums and soundtracks, slowly crawling my way up Radio Registry's call list.
In 1974, I began playing another Steven Schwartz musical, Doug Henning's The Magic Show with keyboardist Paul Shaffer. Paul and I worked in various portable rhythm sections and I was so impressed with his versatility that I decided to stop screwing around and get a formal musical education. So in 1975 I applied to Berklee School of Music in Boston and received a partial scholarship as an arranging/composition and double bass major. Without NYC bass monsters like Will Lee to contend with, I became a busy Boston session player, playing dates with local Boston rockers like Rick Ocasek of The Cars, Jay Giles and Brad Delp of the band, Boston. Then I got two competing offers: one with the Boston Pops, circa Saturday Night Fiedler, and another back in NYC. I thought I'd Arrived at the tender age of 26. I almost took the Pops gig, but Boston was a pretty small pond and I was itching to get back to my friends.
Me on bass with People Falling
Me on bass too
Me with my roadhouse blues band, Blue Food
I returned to NYC in 1977 and rented a raw loft space downtown, where I remained until early 1999. I initially pursued studio work but heavy construction costs on the loft forced me to seek the regular income of yet another Broadway musical, this one Oh! Calcutta!, which I had been subbing for Double Image bassist, Harvie Swartz.
The most consuming of those building projects was the construction of a commercial multitrack recording studio, Roxy Recorders. The studio did pretty well, working projects for David Sanborn, the Marsalis Bros, Diane Keaton, Ice Capades and the Disney movie "Tron", the latter of which fired up my early interest in computers.
The technical world of recording brought me into close contact with computers. It was only a matter of time before I bought my first: an Apple II, followed by one of the early IBM-PCs. I knew my music career was in trouble. Microcomputer bit-twiddling was such a cottage industry in those days, with so few conventions, that it was almost a performance art. Computers also offered the constructive satisfaction of woodworking without the need for a shop-vac and hand lotions. It became a consuming hobby.
With the exception of Basic, Forth and a brain-dead Pascal, in those days there was an absence of practical high-level languages for the IBM-PC. So I became a passionate assembly language programmer instead, a skill which has all but disappeared from the landscape today. My first project was in 1983: a hack to Ashton-Tate's then-popular dBASE II database program. It was a library enabling serial communications within dBASE, permitting a user to build a full-featured BBS using a language extension wedged into the dBASE 8088 namespace. It came to the attention of Ashton-Tate, who hired me on as a contract author for their monthly newsletter and the A-T Advanced Programmers Guide. Today, I work mostly in C, SQL, PHP and Perl.
My introduction to the online world came from writing assembly language programming articles for PC World and dNEWS magazines in the early 80s. My editors required me to ship my manuscripts via modem. It was only a small step from there to discovering the emerging BBS online scene. I found this virtual community fascinating and spent countless evenings (and countless dollars to AT&T) exploring it. I was hooked on the concept of a global network of computers sharing all kinds of information, and even worked on a simple-minded, totally unscalable, rich-media concept somewhat like the World Wide Web.
I wound up working on NYC's first multiuser BBS, the Ailanthus Tree running out of the computer rooms at the now defunct Kidder-Peabody & Company. After the A-Tree project ended, I wrote a PC version; a Shareware, tree-structured BBS for DOS and Unix called Magpie. (Now you know the history of the MAGPIE.COM domain name). It was adopted by the NYC Board of Education for its school-wide information system, and later by the Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Los Angeles school systems. I believe one is still operating in Zagreb, Croatia. I'm told that it was used extensively by expatriated Croats to communicate with their loved ones during the Bosnian crisis.
Computers were still just a hobby for me though. I continued to earn my living as a musician and was frankly getting exhausted by the double life of coding all day/playing all night. Back on Broadway, Oh! Calcutta! finally closed in 1989. My cushy, union, 8-10pm "fulltime" job was over and I was left with the choice of returning to the grind of unpaid rehearsals and 2am gigs at CBGBs followed by 7am jingle dates, or trying to market my computer skills as a career. I chose the latter but with a lot of trepidation because I'd never actually had a straight job before. For that matter, I had no idea what people did in offices as I'd never actually been in one before. My only contact with their occupants was in the checkout line at the deli as I grabbed my morning coffee while they were paying for a late lunch at the salad bar.
One of the senior people at Citibank's interface design group, Humanware, was a user on my BBS and had recruited a lot of talent from among its techie regulars. When I posted my availability, I was called by a veep at Humanware and hired to prototype a client/server application called MortgagePower Plus. That led to other Citibank projects over the next five years, including Citiphone and the ATM. Through 1996 and early 1997 I worked with some of those same ex-CitiFolk on the design of a US Postal Service kiosk.
In 1992, I began working for PBS on the construction of PBS Online/Learning Link, a Unix-based message and content delivery network -- a sort of K-12 Freenet. It was a fun project and peaked at about 40 sites before myopic corporate politics misjudged emerging technology, failing to see the truck that was bearing down on them: the world wide web. After a failed campaign by my group to persuade the bosses to adopt the web for Learning Link, I left to pursue it on my own.
I've always been a bar and restaurant moth so in 1993 I teamed up with a couple of good friends, and we built our own restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, La Bouillabaisse. It was a low-budget production and everyone warned me that I would lose my shirt. But it debuted as Top Rated Newcomer in the prestigious NYC Zagat Survey, which was unprecedented for a non-Manhattan eatery. I left the restaurant in 1999 and it finally closed in 2003.
Back to the world of computing, I'm president of Brooklyn Technical Services LLC, a software development consulting company, and... eh, this is starting to sound like my resume. You can pick up the professional thread over there if you're interested.
Extracurricularly, I've written for several motorcycle magazines, organized the NYC Motorcyclists cyberclub and got my motorcycle roadracing license. I wrote an article about part of that experience here. In Oct 2012 I broke my leg during a spirited backroad ride in Dutchess County and spent a week in the hospital so I'm currently bikeless, except for two hanger queens in the garage which I'll get back on the road this summer. I also manage the The Bottom Line, an internet bass players' group hosted on Facebook.
I have two cool dogs, Jack and Auggie, and adopted five homeless cats from the block, Trixie, Norton, Ralphie, Sneakers and Casey.
In 1999, my landlord made me an offer I couldn't refuse. He wanted my loft and I wanted to get outta Dodge, which is what Noho had turned into. He wrote me a large check and I bought a fixer-upper house in Bay Ridge. You can read that home renovation war story here.