Canon Buys Milestone

Around 15 years ago I received a phone call from a guy called John. John had seen my resume online, and wanted to talk.

I was met by John and Henrik in Symbion Science Park, an incubator collective in Copenhagen. We spoke for a while, and I was introduced to the team, just to see if the chemistry was right. I guess it was, because later that day (or the next) John offered me a job.

Milestone Systems consisted of no more than a handful of people, and they had rented a small space in the office building that made up the “science park”. It was a very cramped space, with a token-ring switch placed under the table and a server rack in one of the corners. Most people were ex-TenFore, and the revenue was also derived from supporting an old TenFore customer. My job was going to be to develop code for this financial information system that TenFore had created, and that Milestone was now supporting. But to test me, John and Henrik asked me to work on a little side project that they had been thinking about.

One of their old TenFore colleagues was working in Axis’ Danish branch. Axis, at the time, was selling mostly print-servers, but they had made this camera that was also IP based. It had a little web server inside, and it was very expensive. But the biggest problem was that there was no software to record the footage. So Michael Roger Jensen (Roger) suggested that Milestone write some software that could grab the frames, and let the user review them later.

I was asked to mess around, and see what I could do with it. After a short while, we had the first and very simple recorder. The database and motion detection was written mostly by Niels Ulrik, who would have his own private office. Niels liked his cigars (which is why he had his own office) almost as much as writing x86 assembly. I’d ask for some fast code, and a few hours later, Niels would emerge with a piece of paper, with assembly written on it. All I had to do was to compile it, and hopefully it would work.

Shortly after the first working prototypes were created, John and Henrik decided to invest more heavily in the surveillance software, and so Martin Andresen and Michael Hansen joined. We decided to move the camera specific code into DLL’s, each driver adhering to a generic interface. We (Michael) spent a long time trying to improve the VMD, we aimed for object tracking, but the PC’s simply didn’t have the resources to do the motion tracking reliably (the framerates were quite low).

A while later we moved to larger offices in Brøndby (a little outside of Copenhagen). A place that was deserted at night, and we suffered several burglaries, which would usually set us back a few days as we scrambled to get new hardware and re-install our development environment. I lived just a mile away, so the location – to me – was perfect. We had movie nights, and during the (soccer) world cup we’d have a TV set up showing all the matches. Roger and I would often drive to the store and fill his car with cases of soda (Milestone offered free sodas and lunch back then). The company had a very decent internet connection, so a few guys would always hang out late and play Quake.

I left Milestone and joined Linkage, a small consulting agency in the center of Copenhagen. I loved it there, but the allure of living and working in NY was an offer I could not resist, so I joined OnSSI.

Canon buying Milestone, to me, feels very strange. It’s like seeing an old girlfriend passing by on the street. The image in your mind is the same as it was 10 years ago, but suddenly you realize she has 3 kids, was divorced twice, and is now married to this wealthy banker. I expect that my contribution to Milestone has long been washed away (my silhouette was part of the logo for a while), but to me, in my conscience – Milestone is still the pieces of code that had me working long evenings and weekends.

Well done guys, and great move Canon.


One thought on “Canon Buys Milestone

  1. John says:

    It was the right phonecall… 🙂

    a guy called John

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