C_wiz had its genesis in
the decision of a 45 year old civil engineer to escape
the rat race by buying a run down commuter ferry service
on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia.
In his case the rat race was 25 years acting as the
human interface between engineers and various computer
systems including roles as programmer, IBM CAD/CAM
industry specialist, joint founder and technical manager
of the largest CAD/CAM bureau in the southern hemisphere
and finally as a CAD/CAM requirements manager for a
subsidiary of Lockheed at Burbank, California.
First on the agenda with the ferry service was the
building of a new all aluminium ferry in which were
installed VDO Logic Combi engine gauges.
The next problem was to ensure that the ferry masters,
who worked most of the time unsupervised, stuck to the
timetable and did not abuse the vessels. The ferry
masters, under the previous management, had a long
"tradition" of basically setting their own agenda -
which for certain individuals meant that the service was
run for the convenience of the ferry master and not the
The initial solution was a 33Mhz 386 shoebox sized
industrial PC with a 640Mb hard drive and 6" amber CRT
screen running DOS and a program dubbed "General Purpose
Hand" or Gphand for short. This program, which had taken
about 3 months to write, took NMEA inputs from a GPS and
both VDO Logic Combis, displayed relevant information in
large text on the screen and recorded it. As this was
for personal use only, everything was hard coded, there
was no documentation of any form and the display was
primitive in the extreme.
Once this was up and running the author made the mistake
of showing his new plaything to the VDO Australia marine
Much enthusiasm spontaneously erupted resulting in a
quasi-professional demonstration release (1.0.0), now
called "VDO Logic Combi Wizard" or C_wiz for short. This
release used Microsoft Windows 3.1 and was designed to
gauge if there was a potential market.
Based on the uniformly positive reaction to 1.0.0 the
first full production release (2.0.0) was developed
running on Microsoft Windows 95. This release sold quite
well, justifying 2 releases with minor enhancements and
fixes (2.1.0 and 2.1.1). This release was restricted to
supporting a GPS issuing the $..RMC... message and VDO
When VDO released the EDB and GBI (SAE J1708 /J1587
compliant) engine monitoring devices the software was
upgraded to support these and released as 3.0.0, now
running on Microsoft Windows 9x and all subsequent
flavours. Again minor fix and enhancement releases
followed (3.0.1 and 3.0.2).
At this point the software was demonstrated to the NSW
Water Police who were in the process of totally
upgrading their fleet, including 9 x 16 metre and 2 x 22
metre all aluminium high speed patrol boats. In addition
to the features that C_wiz had at this stage they were
keen to have a real time multi-vessel to base capability
so that they could more effectively coordinate major
operations. They agreed to partially fund the
development of the C_wiz instant messaging feature which
appeared in release 3.1.0.
At release 3.1.0 an estimated 10-12,000 man hours had
been poured into the exercise - the hobby was well and
truly out of control and a decision had to be made.
It was becoming pretty obvious that for the product to
become truly all embracing it had to be able to support
many other sources of data. This coupled with all the
other requirements that had been accumulating from users
would necessitate a total rewrite.
So the the ferry service
was sold and
another 5-6,000 man hours have been absorbed in creating
releases 4.0.0, 5.0.0 and 6.0.0 - the data device driver (D3) releases,
able to accept data from anywhere once the appropriate
D3 is written, all user documentation on-line, faster
than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive,
able to leap tall buildings in a single bound....