Ronnie Barker has been building software programmes since he was 13, today he's still pushing buttons; its just that they're somewhat bigger. Meet the man behind the Millennium London Eye laser show and find out what it means to develop a communications system for the European Space Agency (ESA)
Ronnie Barker shares much more than a name with a comedy legend even though he readily admits: "It's handy in business because everyone remembers me." Behind this name is an astute brain that is constantly crafting solutions to clients' software problems. It is one that's been taking things apart and rebuilding them for different companies with different sets of needs for almost 15 years. And one thats programmed, amongst other things, the millennium eve London Eye laser show and the communications system for ESA's German control room.
"I suppose the eye is my most famous work, on the 1st January the picture of the wheel with all the lasers coming through it was on the front page of a lot of the UK papers."
At the time Ronnie was working for his brother-in-law's company; family has remained a consistent thread throughout his career: "I see that time working with my brother-in-law as quite defining in my entrepreneurship; I got opportunities and was put into situations that I wouldn't have gone into normally. The company had a long history of employing family and we had to perform and work much longer hours but that dynamism was good and I do have to attribute a lot of my good traits to working there."
Ronnie was somewhat of a teenage star in the software world: he sold his first product at 13 and then re-wrote it and sold it back to the same company at 16.
"My father helped me: a friend of his down the road, an estate agent, needed something because there wasn't an application on the market. He basically sent me down there and I sat in their office and learnt what they wanted and programmed their system."
"I believe in developing the relationship with the customer more than the particular project. Its really a moral thing - it's about trust and it also means I can sleep at night."
Ronnie believes that by empowering the client to drive and steer the project he's offering something unique, something that, as he learnt from his experience working on other projects, contracts dont allow for.
"Everybody thinks what I do is scientific when it's actually creative - the biggest part is understanding what the customer needs. Quite a lot of software used to be built in layers with the user interface on the end. Im passionate about doing things in a vertical stripe so our clients can see something usable right at the beginning."