Biography of W. Mike Zintel



I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, Canada. As a child, I wanted to drive trains. I owned a book on electronics. I disassembled old televisions and used the parts to make radios and amplifiers. I listened to radio stations from Boston on AM “skip” at night. My grade 5 science project, a one tube AM receiver and two stage class A amplifier caught fire in school. My teacher wouldn’t let me plug it in again.

Later in life I wanted to be a professional photographer. I shot weddings. Kids and Santa. Restored old family photos. Worked in photo lab. I was pretty successful; I could afford my own film & chemicals.

I eagerly waited each month for a borrowed Radio Electronics to arrive. I built a mini-moog. I got hooked on computers at the local Radio Shack. Machinery that you build in your head and fix without solder. Cool. Too bad it didn’t do anything useful. Hours and hours went by.

Some time after that, people started buying me computers to use, and paying me to write code. Good. Because I needed better computers and I couldn’t stop anyway. I wrote a billing system for a law firm, a retail point of sale system, general ledger, accounts receivable, payable, payroll, inventory, report writer, underground storage tank inventory management, service station automation, hospital patient record management and test automation, medical lab data collection, a graphical user interface for the Clipper dBase compiler, 360 assembler interpreter for MS-DOS, other stuff. I wrote whatever the person who bought me the fastest computer wanted.

One day my boss at Motorola bought me a Sun 3. UNIX was like a whole bunch of computers all in one, rather like the mainframe, but not ugly as sin, like the mainframe. I spent the next 6 years building embedded software for “data over radio” base stations and network routers. I worked with brilliant people. Our products were devilishly complex. And beautiful on the inside. Nobody bought them.

Meanwhile, folks down the road in Redmond were all buying beach houses, and people were buying their products in droves, which confused me, since their products were not beautiful on the inside. I worked at Microsoft for the next 25 years, and it was a good job. Most days.

My goal is to be a photographer,

drive a train,

and pilot a deep sea submersible.