My name is Tai L. and I joined CSI Software back in 1998. I’m going to share some of our CSI History and how the product came to be what it is currently today. I even included a timeline chart, which resembles from the one in my favorite movie:
The first CSI Software Product was written in DataFlex, which ran on the MS-DOS Operating System. Originally developed by CSI’s founder Dr. Robert Ross, the product was further developed by Randy Martin and fellow colleague Cuong Nguyen. The software featured Member Management and General Fitness Assessment (GFA), which was used by Universities Recreation Centers.
Windows 16-bits Era
CSI originally hired a 5-6 programmers to develop its first member management system for Windows using MS-Access 2.0. When I officially became a part of the team in January of 1998, the product had features such as Member Management, Prospect Management, Point of Sale (POS), Fitness, Accounting, and Grill Mode POS for touch screen monitors (Commonly known as ELO). One of my first projects, aside from current responsibilities of bug fixes, was to complete and finalize the Accounting Module, which offered A/P, Journal Entry, Balance Sheet, Profit/Loss, Cash Flow, etc. By the end of the summer when the product was stabilized, it was time to catch up to the new Windows 32-bit OS that came out in 1995 (Win95 then Win98).
Windows 32-bits Era
In the 1990’s, VB6 was the hottest platform of the decade. For CSI, here were the factors of why we did not choose to use this platform:
- VB6 development time, deployment, version control, and client update (dll hell)
- No experienced web developer, so Visual Interdev was out of the question
- On site live program debugging (Access rules)
- You could build, debug, test, and deploy (to all customers if necessary) at least 2 major reports/developer in 1 day versus 2 days developing 1 report with potential bug. Same applies to today’s .NET.
- Access 97 came with a runtime engine, therefore, installation is no different than any other ordinary Windows applications written in VB6 or any other language.
With this in mind, CSI Member Management database was completely redesigned from the previous version. The tables were separated into 6 different databases: member, transactions, fitness, grill pos, accounting, and check-in, for performance since Access was a file sharing read/write DBMS. For MS Access client, tables in the databases were treated as one since it used linked tables. A local database for local client usage to store temporary table was still the same as of previous version.
The Millennium Era
Here came the year 2000 with Windows 2000, the best Win OS ever. A must-have request from a client to build an Access 2000 version for Windows 2000. One product conversion, and one deployment, and that was it: the buck stopped here. The timeline was skewed, and we knew that we had to get back.
The SQL Server Era
The next revolutionary product from Microsoft was MS SQL Server 7. The ease of installation, development, and maintenance was far superior to other database servers in the market. Not to mention that MS SQL came at a fraction of the cost compared to the other big names at the time like Oracle and DB2.
When Virtual Private Network (VPN) became a reality in a stabilized environment, the next version of the CSI Product (Spectrum) was created. Written in Access 97 as the front-end client, Spectrum was a product that supported multi-sites in real-time. The older versions employed data upload/download mechanism from satellite sites to the main site.
The Dot Com Era
With the boom of the ‘Dot Com’ era, web applications were becoming all the rage. To stay competitive with other vendors, CSI produced a web version of our Spectrum Product called “e-Member”. Written in ASP with a VBscript product, e-Member utilized the same database schema, and offered the full functionalities of our Spectrum, sans some hardware (hand scanner, sig cap) and 3rd party integrations (Micros, Technogym) due to web limitation.
The .NET Era
When Microsoft released its next revolutionary product, .NET, CSI developed the current revolutionary member management product, Spectrum NG. Spectrum NG was re-written from the ground up, and the database was redesigned to adapt the new environment. For the first time, CSI had a true source control, versioning, and also the largest development staff in company history.
Compared to past products, there was no debate on what we needed Spectrum NG feature so we decided that the product needed to have:
- Smart client – able to control users and interact with peripherals
- True client/server application – no direct link to database tables
- ClickOnce – one click installation and automatic update on individual workstation(s)
The Big Bang Era
The next major trends in the software industries were beginning to take shape in the form of the “Cloud” and “Mobility”. CSI decided we needed to take our product to the next level.
Software as a Service (Saas) is an extension of the idea of the ASP model started from the 90’s. With that Cloud movement, CSI extended Spectrum NG to run on the in Microsoft Azure platform.
With release of the Apple iPhone and iPad, the industry shifted to mobility computing. CSI extended Spectrum NG with the development of the Vanguard API to create mobile applications for iOS and Android Platforms.
It feels like Chinese New Year when people celebrate with big bangs from firecrackers expecting a newer and better year to come. CSI, now Daxko, expects a soon-to-come new product that will make a major impact again.
The journey continues but the fun never stops.
Tai L. is a Software Engineer who likes cheese, wine & dine, and Argentina tango.