Bachmann Information Systems

I worked at Bachmann in Cambridge, MA from 1986-1987, including full-time for 8 months during a semester off from MIT during my junior year.

The company was developing a GUI-based high-level database modeling tool for SQL developers based on the revolutionary Bachmann diagram data modeling system developed by company founder Charles Bachmann.

In 1986, Macs had been around for two years, but MS Windows 1.0 was still in alpha. However, Intel-based 386 PCs generally had more raw computing power (and more open hardware) than Macs, so the company opted to develop a GUI-based tool using PCs and the newly-available 1-bit megapixel displays. Since no OS-based toolkit was available, all GUI support libraries (graphics primitives, windowing, mouse, printing, etc.) had to be developed from scratch.

Working with another engineer, I help developed the a hardware graphics driver for the displays, and also helped write the mouse driver.

The biggest challenge was figuring out how the product was going to print.

Solution: we got one of the first released Apple LaserWriters in the office — the first PostScript-based office laser printer of any kind. It had a terminal port on the back so you could hook up a PC to the port and program PostScript directly to an interactive PostScript prompt. This opened up a world of possibility, in my eyes. Before long, I had developed tools to dump PostScript programs straight to the printer and an Emacs-Lisp-based documentation formatter to convert a text-based markup language that I developed into PostScript. (This was my first electronic publishing tool.) This markup system was used to generate all technical documentation in my department.

Then I created what may have been the first PostScript printer driver for an IBM PC-based application. The driver was used by the product to do all its printing using the Apple LaserWriter, even tiled multi-page output used to create wall-sized data diagrams. The GUI and the ability to produce laser-printed PostScript output was a feature that set our product apart from its competition.