This is the story of my life so far: 68 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France
Improving my Pascal compiler
Byte Magazine had published a benchmark program for Pascal compilers, indicating the execution time and the size of the executable for various Pascal compiler on CP/M.
Compared to these compilers, my Pascal compiler was a lot slower, because interpreting pseudo-code is slower than executing native code.
One evening, as I was explaining the situation to Louis, my brother in law, that was living with us, I told him that "with my system, there is not much I can do to improve the execution time".
Louis replied to me than I should then change my "system". To which I replied that I could not do that.
In the middle of the night, I woke up realizing that Louis was absolutely right: if my "system" (interpreting pseudo-code) was preventing my compiler to be as efficient as other compilers that generated native code, then I have to change the "system".
So, this is what I did.
Instead of just junking the pseudo-code generator, I modified the compiler to have two modes: pseudo-code generation and native code generation.
Generating pseudo-code was fast during compilation, but slower during execution.
Generating native code was slower during compilation, but way faster during execution.
I even optimized the native code generation for the Byte Magazine benchmark, with the result that the execution time of the benchmark program was faster than for all the other Pascal compilers.
Photocopying during the night
We were two French Navy officers in Halifax. My colleague, whose name I don't remember, was in an office with two British Navy officers.
One evening, he called me and asked if I could help him photocopying a document discreetly. For reasons that I will not disclosed, he did not want to do that in a public place.
As he knew that I was using the photocopier in my work building during the night, to produce the manuals for my Pascal compiler, he knew that I have access to a photocopier.
So, we photocopied his document during the night.
How is your company doing?
As French officers in Canada, we were under the authority of the French military attaché, French air force colonel "de Beyssac", who from time to time was visiting us in Halifax.
During one of his visits, in a small cocktail party, colonel de Beyssac asked me suddenly "How is your company doing?".
I was quite surprised by his question, and I thought that I was in big trouble.
What had happened is that my colleague had gone to Ottawa with the photocopy of the document and had delivered it to the colonel, who ask him how he was able to photocopy it discreetly. And my colleague explained that I was using the photocopier during the night to make the documentation of my Pascal compiler. Eventually, he told him about my company "Scotia Software".
However, colonel de Beyssac never made any trouble and never asked me fold Scotia Software.
In fact he helped me.
As I was explaining to him that sales were slow, he asked how the price of my compiler was compared to other Pascal compilers. I replied that it was much less expensive: $69 compared to around $500.
The colonel then told me that it was too cheap and nobody would take it seriously at this price. I should have a price in the same ball park as my competitors. This was good advice, so I increase the price from $69 to $295.
Byte Magazine, August 1982
As you can see in this ad, I also published the execution time of my compiler for the Byte Magazine benchmark.
Sales started to increase and it was quite exciting.
Continue to Part 68
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