AT: what can one say?

AT and Coco worked together for twenty years or so apart from a brief period when he escaped to a competitor firm, so you might think that I have a few tall tales to tell about him. Well, perhaps sadly I must say no. AT is so well behaved that it would be impossible to find even a single strange hair on his shoulder. That said however, when he was the custodian of some very fine white cats, you did have to be careful if you happened to use his chair in the office.

So then, just so that you know where I am going there are three things that Coco has to say about AT:
His coding
His language
His demeanour.


Like all young men who walked into AA’s workplace in Surrey’s fields AT was required to do many things. He proved adept at writing code. Unlike some, he would fill his code with comments explaining why he had done something, what was expected to happen and what the necessary preconditions for success were.

We all had to admit that his code worked. It would never fail, indeed it could never fail, providing you had precisely the correct starting conditions and sometimes, but not always, precisely the correct data. If there were anything unexpected in the data…..

…. you then discover that you had been relying on whether or not AT had set a particular flag in a random piece of code, which may or may not have run. Or perhaps he had defined a variable, which is so beloved of programmers, which happened to have the same name as the range that you were addressing, or perhaps he had moved your favourite cursor from the A sheet to another random location. If it were a good day you might have seen an error message which suggested what you needed to look for, on a bad day you watch the edifice come down into a mysterious heap of electronic dust.

You could say that AT’s coding and his approach to coding taught us a great deal. It also prompted the system team to provide us with additional tools to clean up after ourselves.

But AT had imagination, which he used to good effect. He always had in interest in getting different things to talk together, so we had internet data collection tools in the days when the internet was little more than an expensive toy, which were crafter lovingly by the hand of the Grand Master of ‘I can write this code, and indeed any code, to do precisely one job’. Later when we had to make it do two, he became the knight in shining armour to show us how it could have been written to do that, but as it was not, it would now have to be re-written from scratch using a completely different set of tools. As we have seem recently with the upgrade from v5 to v6 of Data Import. V5 and v6 are a world apart, but without his vision for it and his determination to make v5 work, v6 would never have seen the light of day.


Now the use of the English language by AT would put all but the most erudite of scholars to shame; that cannot have escaped your attention. How taught us how to put words together mostly in a meaningful way, so if you wish to attribute blame to anyone for the brevity of this eulogy, then it should not be to the orator, he is merely repeating, please do not misunderstand that, what he has been taught. We used to say of AT tat if something could be said in many different ways, then it is no waste of breath to use them all. At least if you take that approach you have more chance that you will get your message across, and you will have been understood at least in part, in not in the whole.

There was no sense with AT that he wasted his words. Words convey meaning; words are there to be used not to sit idly in a dictionary, so make use of them, and use as many of them as you possibly can as often as you can.

Now for some of us, that is an effort and requires generous preparation, hence an enormous bundle of paper is required to prepare for even the briefest of presentations, but the remarkable thing about AT was that he could do this without taking a breath, and as if he had been rehearsing what he was going to say for weeks even when he had just made it up on the spot.

And finally we turn to his


There is a certain humility about AT. Some people like to tell you about everything they are doing, how well it is going and what other people think about it. Some people can be full of themselves – Coco knows too well how much he suffers from this – but AT presented himself in a modest way. He is confident in his abilities, and he certainly has them. He is superbly competent! But he is more than competent. Perhaps Coco should say that if anything else is going on underneath it should be left for him to say not for others. He never speaks with a ‘look at me and what I have done’ attitude, but rather with a sense that conveys the idea that nothing at all would have been achieved if you had not also been involved. He would belittle himself in order to lift others up.

Finally, one cannot leave without remembering that it was chocolate and coffee that ensured that the wheels of his vivid, exact, far-sighted and innovative imagination ran with the utmost efficiency. In such a world, there were never any failures, only opportunities to learn, to improve and to overcome all the obstacles and hurdles that human generated data could, not to mention the detritus of only partially removed half-baked non-data, present to the unsuspecting coder.