1982 - The Origin of the Name
Back in the good old days, not so many people were able to deal with computers. At that time Leopoldo was living temporary in Italy and started to make his first steps in the world of software programming. At the same time, in the same town, another guy - Andrea - started to make his first experiences in playing around with a microVAX at school.
So, whilst other boys were heavily engaged in chasing girls, Leo and Andrea started to build the fundament of their later professional career. And since people who were able to develop professional software were really rare, it was only a matter of time that they met, become friends and start working together for money.
Finally it was Andrea's idea, to sign their works with the name YeaSoft. The name was probably slackly inspired by the company name Electronic Arts™ first seen on some impressive pieces of gaming software: Since we were really young, it was nearby to call ourself young electronic artists (abbreviated in YEA) and since we produced software and not music or paintings, YeaSoft finally was the used name to sign our works.
1982-1985 - Learning, hacking, selling
And so they started to mess around with any computing device they could get in their hungry hands spending their nights with entering mysterious peek and poke commands in the consoles of machines that had less processing power and memory as your mom's egg timer.
Being both incited by the wish to understand the inner workings of software written by people with more experience and inspired by the first movies where computers were not shown any more as mysterious walls full of blinking lights printing their prophecies on voucher rolls interpreted by high priests called "system analysts", they learned step by step the art of persuading a computer to do what they want him to do. This was a quite difficult and hard challange, because of the fact that there was no internet, no communication, no other people that understood what they were doing and especially, in a godforsaken jerkwater town like Lucca, no way to get readable and affordable books or magazines.
Luckily Leopoldo visited his native country once or twice a year - from where he brought magazines, books and some hardware which was impossible or at least incredibly hard to get in Italy. One impressive book from Germany was the famous C64 Intern (1st Edition), a book that contained also the full printed (and poorly commented) assembler source code of the C64 "operating system". This listing taught them a lot about the inner workings of computers and about assembler programming.
After the word was out that there were two young guys in the town able to write software, they get their first proposals for writing software for money.
The first project was quite interesting and it had a sort of funny aftertaste. Its name was NecroGest 1.0 a software able to manage the electrical infrastructure of more than 90 cemeteries of the province of Lucca. Electrical Infrastructure in a cemetery?!?! Yes! Italian tombs are beautiful marmoreal structures and on each of them there is at least one elaborate artistic grave candle powered by electricity. And the relatives of the deads have to pay an annual fee for maintenance and power. NecroGest managed the entire business process including the printing of the absolutely non standard sized italian national mail money transfer vouchers (Bollettino Postale) on Star's SG-15 dot matrix printer.
Many other commercial projects followed. None of them was interesting from a technical point of view, but they supplied the money needed to do all the real interesting things. Things that become really sexy, when Leopoldo brought a 300 Baud acoustic coupler from his last trip to Germany.
While producing monstrous phone bills to their parents, they started to explore the world of "real computers" - machines like the VAX at the University of Bologna or the IBM mainframes at the ESA research center in Frascati… That was the beginning of their later engagement in telecommunication - the seed of the firm belief that every computer in the world should be interconnected to form a giant network of wisdom and communication.
- Do you remember David Kano, the computer operator from Space 1999?
- The software was originarily written in Microsoft Basic on an Olivetti M24 and operated at the customer's site on a Commodore PC10 - later on it was completely rewritten in Clipper™
- Many thanks to the anonymous students who shared their accounts with us! We learned a lot during endless nights of writing software on real compilers and reading manuals downloaded at the incredible speed of 300 bits per second (you can read while downloading!).
1986-1992 - Building the Matrix
Mid '86 Leopoldo decided to return to Germany in Aachen where he met Jan Egner during a college introductory course. Since Jan and Leo shared the same interest for beer and computing, it was just a matter of time that they found a first interesting project: the rescue and the transfer of a database with some sensible information for the National Airforce from old proprietary hardware into a modern system.
Before starting his studies at the RWTH Aachen, Jan decided to complete his military service and since he was one of the very rare young guys with real knowledge about computers, they decided to let him administer the computer system managing the annual National Airforce Gala (Dt. "Ball der Luftwaffe") - a system containing tons of sensible data about really important people and about their relationships, instead of letting him crawl across the mud. For many years the software was running on a really weird machine without any standard interfaces under a much weirder OS (have you ever heard about EUMEL?) and written in a programming language named ELAN.
After they realize that they had nobody any more who understood the system or was able to solve problems and (worst of all) nobody who could solve hardware failures, Jan was asked by his former commanding officer, if he could help to transfer the data into a more standard system with a new software. Remembering some nights spent with Leopoldo transferring data from obscure 8-bit systems to a standard PC, using some really nasty hardware hacks, they thought about the problems and then decided to accept the challange.
After a week of extreme hacking locked in a cellar only with computers, beer, music (Dire Straits - Brother in Arms), cables, connectors and a soldering gun, they came out with rings under their eyes and with a PC containing the framework for the new application written in DBase III™/Clipper™ and all transferred data making it possible to celebrate a great National Airforce Gala 1988 without any organizational problems. It was a great feeling to be invited and to see the results of the project.
After the successful completion of the Airforce-Project, Jan and Leo decided to continue and intensify their collaboration and so they found their apartment-sharing community in Aachen where, beside of a long series of commercial projects (like MCRW - a very interesting embedded project) mainly intended to finance their living costs and their tremendous phone bill, they could indulge in their passion for data-telecommunication, modems, mailboxes and hacking innovative software for bringing people together during long electronic nights.
With the foundation of "YFTN - The Cyberspace Whack", a very popular Mailbox-System not only in North Rhine-Westphalia, they create together with other interested people a very vital community of telecommunication-nerds that met weekly in a sleazy pub ("Zum Bügeleisen") and at every time of night and day in Jan's and Leo's appartment. That brought together a lot of people some of which actively participated in some of the most interesting YeaSoft projects. People like Erik Schmidt, Martin Koser and Stefan Erben who worked together with Jan and Leo in the development and documentation of some popular software, people like Günter Berner - the incredible assembler and C programmer, Frank Landrock - the Netware specialist, Jasper Neumann - the genial mad scientist of computer magics, people like Rainer Loeb (Sysop of LoCoS) the software programming physician, Joerg Stattaus (Sysop of MAUS AC) the other software programming physician and the first sysop that accepted to start a inter-network gateway project together with Jan and Leo, Michael Keukert - the author, journalist and historian of the beginnings of personal data-telecommunication, Martin Junius who was one of the first to work together with us to build gateways to the emerging internet. We all shared the dream of unlimited electronic communication for everyone in the world.
During this period tons of important software was written by many people in the network community. Software that changed the way we communicate and that introduced people without hard technical skills in the world of private data telecommunication.
From YeaSoft's point of view, two non profit projects should be mentioned, since they were, each in its way, pioneer for certain ideas and concepts:
- BiTRIS<no_tm> was a very popular Tetris-derived game featuring not only competitive multiuser gaming (that was very rare at that time) but also a social networking component: the extreme accurate rating engine guaranteeing a constant validity of high scores paired to the simple and secure merging of highscore lists through the mailbox networks made it possible to create a vital german wide community of BiTRIS players. Due to the extreme fun aspect also in watching at player teams, a lot of tournaments were organized in pubs during the meetings of the local mailbox communities.
- Yuppie! was a very popular E-Mail, Discussion Groups and File Transfer program for the
FidoNet. It was probably one of the first programs based on those two fundamental ideas:
- Everybody should be able to use it. In able to achieve this, it had one of the best user interfaces ever seen in such a type of software and one of the best manuals ever written (Thank you Martin!)
- The software should not only be able to store all the communication but also to manage it efficiently by offering performant search algorithms, automatic sorting and categorization methods. So it implemented an extreme efficient message store, where the headers were stored in a database. It was probably one of the first mail programs worldwide to implement complex content based SPAM filtering algorithms (YedIgnore).
Between 1988 and 1992 YeaSoft was a registered company in order to manage from a commercial point of view the most important projects. Two commercial projects should be mentioned:
- MCRW - a data acquisition system for petrol trucks based on special boards using a SAB 80535 CPU and using memory cards (!) as data media.
- MacFarma - a multiuser, client server based, business solution for italian pharmacies that managed the whole accounting process with the national health insurance, the realtime stock ordering process, and the search for alternative medicines. MacFarma won the italian Targa Apple Software 1991 prize as best business software (It. "Migliore Ingegnerizzazione del Software") and was presented at the SMAU 1991.
Good times are just good times because they do not last eternally, and so also this great period of our lives drawn slowly but surely to a close.
- YFTN: Acronym for "YeaSoft's File Transfer Node"
- Who remembers the famous dog fights between Marcel Pelzer and Sabine Puttins?
- Yuppie!: Acronym for "YeaSoft's Ultimate Point Package International Edition"
1993-1999 - The big void
This chapter is still work in progess….
1999-2002 - Mastering the Internet
This chapter is still work in progess….
2003-now - Linux and the Cloud
This chapter is still work in progess….