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In the Beginning - Leo Notenboom

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Leo has some wonderful memorabilia on his website including...
For those interested in MS Help History below you will find a gem as Leo's shares with us memories of his early days at MS in the Help core team.
Enjoy   
   Rob Chandler (Help MVP)

memories .... :-)

So we're talking late 80's and 1990 here.

As part of the languages group I developed what would turn into the Advisor character mode help engine, initially for Quick C, then eventually Quick Basic (I think). I recall trying, and failing, to get Quick Pascal to take it on. It's real target ended up being the Programmer's Workbench IDE/Text Editor that shipped in (NOT Visual) C 6.0, but actually also made it's debut in the "M" text editor that shipped in an interim release of C 5.2. I actually don't know about Word - something tells me yes. Check a help file if you can get one, and if the first two bytes are "LN", that's me :-).

While that was going on there was this guy working over on OS/2 that was developing his own character mode help engine for the OS (the plan for both OS/2 and C6 was to reduce COGS by presenting most of the reference information online only. We were too early, people weren't ready, but it was groundbreaking.)  After a lot of arm twisting both ways, (Common File Format!!! vs. Speed!!!) we got him to take the core technology from Advisor for use in QuickHelp, hence that technology shipped therein as well. I credit Ralph [Walden] with pushing me hard on performance, and forcing me to write some of the neatest, niftiest assembly language code I ever have.
:-)

Yes, there were patents. One really, one of Microsoft's first. http://ask-leo.com/d-pat4955066 (the subsequent was just some kind of "let's extend it and see if it'll work"). It was used by Steve Allen (MS patent guy) for many years as the example patent when discussing patents with devs. (Side trivia: the patent attorney I worked with way back then is now my next-door neighbor, and still works at Seed & Berry.) It was an interesting process in which to this day I claim I lost a lot of respect for the patent process when it comes to software, but understand why companies are forced to play the patent game. My dad didn't understand what I did, but
getting a patent, that he did and was proud of (he had a few of his own).

After C6 shipped I moved to the WinHelp group, then lead by Robert Bunney. I honestly don't recall if Floyd Rogers was still around, or if he had vanished at that point. I'll let Rob chime in for himself, and I suspect he can fill in a tad more about the earlier days of *Windows*, not character mode, help. I recall a vision of putting tons of multi-media information on-line and using the WinHelp engine to do it - on CD-ROMS. I never lead the WinHelp team (The Help Crew: THC), per se, but I did lead a subset of it for a time. (Core Help Team: CHT).

We shipped WinHelp 3.1 for Windows 3.1, and which was used by the MultiMedia team to publish Cinemania 1.0.
WinHelp was an orphan team - not part of Windows at that time. We certainly felt like we got no respect :-).

Eventually the MultiMedia Viewer team and the WinHelp team merged (a rough ride, was that) and I ended up leading that for a while. WinHelp technology was used as the basis for Encarta 1.0. (This was when Rob Glaser owned the Multimedia team, and I was reporting I believe to Chris Doerr).

In '92 I moved on to Microsoft Money. (My history after that can be found here: http://ask-leo.com/resume.html)

Names, names (Rob, help me here...)

Greg Lodbell was the program manager in languages that coined the name "Advisor" after we had requests to package it up. I still have the published manual somewhere. :-) 
Randy Sykes was my tester. Dave Ball was our test lead on WinHelp when I was there.

Other WinHelp developers of that era: Larry Powelson, John Schwabacher, Neelmah Mahabadapoatro ('Maha', and you can safely assume I mangled his spelling :-) (went on to lead development on Passport), Russ Paul-Jones (followed me to Money, and is still at MS in a different role). Other faces, but no names are coming back to me. Seems we had a couple of kick-ass interns along the way that went on to great things at MS. Ah yes, Beth Fournier was one; I remember her fuzzy lion slippers.

The late Heikki Kanerva was the WinHelp program manager for some time before he moved on to Word. (I believe he was a senior program manager there before he passed away.)

I remember learning to play darts as part of THC. :-)

So like I said, Rob's another source for more history.

Hopefully this trip down memory lane's been interesting. Certainly has been for me.

Good to hear from you both!

Take care,

--
Leo
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Tech Questions:        http://ask-leo.com
Everything else:  http://leonotenboom.com
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