Since I’m a n00b in the bloggosphere, I suppose a brief introduction is appropriate. So...
Somewhere around 1845, my ancestors set out from their small village west of Koblenz and south of Ahrweiler in the Rhineland area of Prussia, to settle in the town of Scott just east of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Oh. Wait a minute. That’s just a bit too far back.
Ok. Shortly after 7:00 in the morning, on 11 November 19[unintelligible], I was born the only child of Sue Ann Johnson and Richard Lewis Schaut. According to family tradition, I got my first name from my father and my middle name from my grandfather, Symphorian Orban Schaut, making me Richard Symphorian Schaut. I was 15 years old before I could spell my middle name correctly.
A middle name like Symphorian has both advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is, when your mother hollers for your attention with the parental voice and a “Richard Symphorian Schaut,” there’s really very little doubt that the object of her wrath is you. The advantage is that you can win quite a few gentleman’s bets as to who has the strangest middle name. I only lost that bet once; to a guy named Jerome Symphorian Peplinski.
Of the early days of my life, I remember very little, though my mother relates an anecdote from when I was about 4 years old. According to her, my parents attended a Catholic wedding with me in tow. Apparently I was quite impressed with the whole affair, because, at an appropriately quite moment in the ceremony, I said, “Gee, this is neat, mom! Why don’t you and dad get married?”
Shortly thereafter, my mother, my father, my uncle and my grandmother became members of the Bahá’í Faith. When I was 14, all five of us went on a pilgrimage to the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Now the Bahá'í Faith is a rather young religion that began in Persia in 1844 (just a scant decade before my ancestors left Germany to come to America). At that time, three generations of Bahá'ís from anywhere in the West was a very rare occurrence—so rare, in fact, that everyone wanted to meet my family.
I remember one gentleman, older, distinguished, highly revered, who wanted to meet us. My grandmother, playing the role of matriarch, introduced each of the members of the family leaving me for last, at which point she introduced me as, what else, her grandson. At that point, this older, distinguished, highly revered gentleman, with a look of absolute astonishment on his face, stepped back and said, “You mean you admit that?!”
In any event, I’m still a Bahá'í. I might talk about it, but I’m not sure. We already have a serious number of religious debates in the software industry, so I really don’t feel a pressing need to bring religion into it.
Shortly after pilgrimage, I started playing guitar—a musical career that didn’t last beyond my senior year in high school, though it did include a stint in the rhythm section of the Green Bay West High Jazz Ensemble. Since then, I’ve become something of an amateur musicologist, so expect me to talk about music from time to time.
Also during my teenage years, I began to learn how to sail at the behest of my mother’s uncle. I’ll never forget the first day he took me out. When we got to the boat, he pointed to the mast and said, “That’s called the ‘stick,’ ‘cause it sticks way the hell up there.” Then he pointed to the boom and said, “That’s called the ‘boom,’ ‘cause that’s the sound it makes when it hits you in the head.” Now he wasn’t talkin’ ‘bout no aluminum isomat spar. He was talkin’ ‘bout a 4x4 piece of solid spruce.
Today, my wife and I are the proud owners of the S/V Windswept, Island Packet model 35, hull number 71. Expect me to talk about boating and sailing from time to time as well.
After high school, I attended college at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and later transferred to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee from which I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. Note, that’s a Bachelor of Arts, not a Bachelor of Science. Despite the extensive Math I took during college, I still ended up being a literary Economist.
Now, there’s an old story about Economists. It seems an Economist when into her employer’s office and said, “I’ve run a detailed analysis, and I predict that the economy will go into recession some time in the next six months,” at which point the Economist’s employer said, “Well, then, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to lay you off.”
Being a literary Economist, I never really had a change to walk into my employer’s office and predict a recession. Part of the reason is that, when I graduated from college, we were already in a recession. The other reason is that Economists with the BS tend to get hired before Economists with the BA. Whatever the case, I’ll probably bring a few concepts from Economics into my discussions of the business side of things, but don’t expect any treatises on the marginal propensity to consume or the relative elasticities of supply and demand.
So after a hiatus from the academic world, during which I met and married a truly wonderful woman named Beth who has, since, given birth to three incredibly bright, yet incredibly challenging, children, I went back to school and studied Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin. Now, Madison is an interesting place. To give you an idea, The Onion, began as a tabloid newspaper published in Madison.
After I completed the equivalent of a second undergraduate major in Computer Science, I began looking for employment. Microsoft representatives visited the UW campus, and apparently I impressed them enough for them to invite me for a series of interviews in Redmond. I made it through to the “as appropriate” interview where I was given a somewhat well-known programming problem relevant to selling word processing software in the Japanese market. The solution I wrote has since become known as the “even-odd trick,” and, judging from the amount of time Chris Mason spent looking at that solution before deciding that it was OK, I suspect I was the first interview candidate to ever write that solution.
On my resumé, my primary objective said that I was interested in writing applications software for three operating systems: Unix, Windows and OS/2. Microsoft hired me to work on Word 5.0 for the Macintosh, and I’ve been writing Macintosh software ever since.
I’m currently a software design engineer in Mac BU, and I’m still working on Word. I’ll mark my 14th anniversary at Microsoft this coming June, and the only product I’ve ever worked on is Word. That can seem like it would get stale, but I still have a great deal of fun, and there is still a sizeable list of things I want to do with Word, or, at least, Word for the Macintosh.
Expect me to talk a lot about Word, about the Macintosh, about what it’s like to work at Microsoft and be a developer of software for the Macintosh and about software development in general.
After all that, the only thing else you need to know about me is that “good morning” is an oxymoron, regardless of the time of day it’s not afternoon until after I’ve finished my third cup of coffee and someday I’ll commission the printing of a large number of t-shirts that read, “If I faint, please administer chocolate.” Any takers?