I’m once again staffing the Genlighten booth at a genealogy conference… this time the Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy. It’s being held in the Harman Continuing Education Building on the campus of Brigham Young University.
I’ve been hit by frequent bouts of nostalgia this week. Twenty-six years ago, I attended a predecessor to this conference in this same building when I was an undergraduate at BYU.
At the time, I was, believe it or not, working on my first entrepreneurial venture — a genealogy startup tentatively called Elysium Software. Personal Ancestral File had yet to be developed at that early date, but several other programs existed, and I imagined that I could write one of my own — N-Gen was the name I had in mind — and build a business around it.
At that point, my programming background consisted primarily of a fair amount of BASIC (I’d been writing increasingly complex programs since 8th grade), a smattering of assembly language, and a little Turbo Pascal. My wife and I had recently married, and I convinced her to let us spend way too much of our meager savings on a Franklin PC (an Apple IIe clone). I began developing N-Gen during the summer of 1983 when I wasn’t in class or doing homework.
As I visited the conference, and looked over the vendors, it quickly became clear to me: this was way over my head. These people knew what they were doing… their programs had manuals! They had staff! What business did I have thinking I could compete with them? I quietly shelved my ambitions, and never returned to the project.
Now I’m back in this building… at the same conference… and I’m now one of those vendors. There are big, established, well-funded players here, some of whom are competitors to Genlighten. This time I’m not as intimidated. But it’s still a humbling experience.