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Pioneering spirit - Brian Eardley-Wilmot Interview

01 Dec 09

One of the best-known names in the New Zealand IT community, the twice-retired but- still-working Brian Eardley-Wilmot took time out of his busy work schedule to tell The Channel about some of the things that have earnt him his reputation as an industry pioneer.

When did you first begin to work in IT and how did it come about?

I first entered the industry in 1978, when I obtained the Apple Computer distributorship for New Zealand with  my company CED Distributors. At this time I distributed National Semiconductor consumer products–  calculators and digital watches – as well as owning the High Street retail outlet The Calculator Centre, later sold and renamed The Computer Centre.

A large percentage of the Calculator Centre turnover comprised the high-end HP and Texas Instrument  programmable calculators, purchased by staff and students of the nearby University of Auckland. Around  1977 I noticed our turnover in these products was reducing. My investigations showed that in some cases they  were being replaced with personal computers from Apple, Radio Shack and Commodore – so onto  Apple.

Tell us a bit about your career so far.

I sold CED around 1984 and retired for a year. Because of my enthusiasm with the Macintosh GUI desktop  metaphor I established Brimaur Services (Brian and Maureen), as essentially a vehicle to distribute Microsoft,  Adobe, PageMaker, CorelDraw and other mainly-Windows products. In the early ’90s I also obtained sole  distributorships for Acer and Epson. Brimaur acted as a de facto Microsoft country subsidiary until they  established their own New Zealand offi ce in 1992.

Brimaur was sold in 1994 and I retired again, acting as an occasional business mentor until I established  Computer Forensics NZ Ltd in 1999. This company is now New Zealand’s leading data recovery and  computer investigation enterprise, with significant business coming out of Australia, where we trade under the  name Data Recovery.

What is the most memorable moment of your ICT career so far?

Probably my one-on-one meet with Steve Jobs, when I was pitching for the Apple Computer New Zealand  distribution rights.

What projects are you working on at present that particularly excite you?

I am currently working to establish our enterprise Data Recovery as a dominant player in Australia. Our  word-of-mouth referrals in Australia are increasing at a great rate.

What do you see the future of cloud computing being?

I think it’s an excellent concept and is the natural evolution of the smart use of the internet, allowing both  private and business users to have relatively inexpensive, simple and lightweight workstations using applications in a most cost-effective manner.
Apart from the internet, what do you think is the most important or exciting piece of technology to be invented  in the last 100 years and why?

That’s undoubtedly integrated circuit technology. Components utilising it touch almost every aspect of the human condition.

Apart from what your company produces, what is the most exciting technology out there today and why?

Quantum mechanics: developments in this field of science are presaging huge paradigm shifts, not only in  computing but medicine,transport, optics and much more.

How have your studies prepared you for a career in the ICT industry?

They haven’t really. I entered the Australian Army as a boy apprentice, and completed studies as a radio  technician. I guess that the fascination with technology naturally led me to ICT. This has to be the mostexciting vocation, constantly changing, constantly improving – just look at Moore’s Law for proof

Would you suggest that others follow your example?

It would be arrogant of me to suggest that, however, I would suggest that success depends upon the desire to  achieve excellence. I have found that it is not possible to achieve this excellence across a broad offering of  goods and/or services. A great strategy for success is rather than tackle the competition head-on in an established marketplace, better to establish a new market and be the fi rst one there. In this fashion you can  establish a beachhead. Do it right and you can, to an extent, own this new market.

Who do you most admire in the technological world and why?

That has to be Bill Gates. For someone many regard as a geek to have successfully and sustainably developed  such a huge enterprise is a tremendous accomplishment – almost unique.

If you could work in any other fi eld apart from ICT, what would it be and why?

Something involved with the cutting edge of consumer electronics. I have always been fascinated and  delighted with this area, particularly in entertainment. Being an early adopter does have its financial penalties,  but I guess that’s why God invented Trade Me, to enable these early devices to be moved on!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am definitely not an outdoors, sporty type and prefer more leisurely pursuits. I am a prolifi c reader, reading  two to three books a week. I also endlessly tinker with my home wireless LAN, which is currently running at a  surprising 50MB+ wireless client to ethernet client. This, together with Orcon’s 15MB download speed, is  allowing me to experience at an early stage the advantages and fun of digital convergence. Also, in the last few  years Maureen and I have discovered the delights of cruising on boutique cruise lines such as Silversea,  Regent and Oceania.

Do you find it difficult to maintain the work/life balance in the modern world (where technology has become  quite intrusive)? How do you manage it?

Our small company, which in many cases is asked to perform mission-critical services, has a 24-hour help  desk with responsibility spread around the company. Because of this, there is sometimes no real demarcation between work hours and home hours. This is made much easier by using VPN and that excellent Microsoft  product Remote Desktop.

What is your favourite technology gadget at present and why?

My Hewlett Packard Mini Note. This is an extraordinary netbook with an 80GB solidstate disk, draft 802.11n  wireless and 2GB RAM, while weighing practically nothing. I have now installed Windows 7 Ultimate on it  and it runs perfectly. The ability to have what presents as a fully-featured PC in such a small, convenient  package means I will keep this gadget for some time to come.

And your favourite website?

Most definitely Google, for both business and pleasure. To be able to fi nd out virtually anything about  anything at any time must make it the most valuable website.

What are you reading at present?

I am just finishing Dan Brown’s The Lost

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