Neil Evenden

When I was 14 years old, 25 years ago, a man named Neil Evenden gave me my first computer programming job.

Neil owned Skycraft Hobbies, a business selling all manner of radio controlled planes and boats and other assorted fun gizmos. He ran his business on a souped up TRS-80 Model I: everything from accounting to inventory.

He wanted to expand the capabilities of a software package called “ICS” (for “Inventory Control System”) to allow it to handle point of sale tasks in his store (printing receipts, and the like). Because back then even complex applications were written in BASIC, you bought the source code when you bought the application, and it was possible to modify “off the shelf” applications like ICS.

And Neil hired me to do the job.

I don’t know how he found me, or why he thought I was qualified. I owned my own TRS-80, but that was my only real qualification. I’d dabbled in programming, but I knew nothing about accounting or inventory or point of sale.

For some reason Neil decided that I could do what needed to be done, and that was enough to get me going on the job. I did it, he was happy, and I got paid.

The self confidence I gained from that first job is a large part of why, 25 years later, I’m still a happy self-employed programmer for hire.

We were driving by the old location of the Skycraft Hobbies store today, and I asked Mom if she’d heard any news in recent years about how they were doing. She said she remembered seeing a death notice in the paper for Neil, and I looked it up tonight in the Spectator:

EVENDEN, James “Neil” — At St. Peter’s Hospital in Hamilton, on December 11, 2004, in his 62nd year. He is survived by his loving wife Faye, son Paul and wife Susan of Paris, ON, and daughter Nancy and her husband Andi Kyte. Grandfather of Jessica and Emma Evenden and soon to be born Lily Kyte. Son of James Evenden of St. Catharines and Beverley (deceased). Dear brother of Susan Wallace and Barbara Singleton. During his years of service to McMaster University he was Director of Personnel and founder of Skycraft Hobbies. Cremation has taken place. A Memorial Service will be held at the MARLATT FUNERAL HOME & CREMATION CENTRE, 195 King Street West, Dundas, on Saturday, December 18 at 1:30 p.m. with a memorial visitation one hour prior. Neil wishes that donations are made to the SPCA instead of floral tributes.

This is a much belated tip of the hat to Neil for giving me my start. May you rest in peace.