I started my IT career some years ago (1993/1994) with a company called “Cairo Information Systems”. This company made very smart software to optimize container haulage. Think about stuff like optimal trips (real time) for imports, exports and inland moves, covering containerized and closed-trailer equipment for cargo types. Optimizing, among others, inland container transportation (empty mileages).
Anyway, just the other day, I received an e-mail of an old colleague (Hans Rabouw). Contrary to our believe that the firm had been taken over and the software stopped to exist; It still exist. Currently a company called LINE is (still?) selling the system under the name “Paris” (once chosen after “Paris” from Greek mythology). Seeing the screens brings back a lot of good memories. The technology apparently has been upgraded. It looks like regular technical stuff nowadays, regarding the interfacing (web pages, application servers, multi-tier, etc.), although the look and feel still looks the same.
The software was based on Visual Basic 3 (later on using the first Borland Delphi software) and a minimum of 2 Oracle 7.1 distributed databases (one in inbound and one in the outbound port, f.i., Rotterdam and Ipswich). All in all we were way ahead of our time, even already thinking about web based interfaces in a time that the internet wasn’t common.
An other thing I really liked were some of those interfaces with which you could literally drag and drop containers on a train or barge. The color of those containers indicated their the status (planned, still open slot, over planned), and for instance, if something was overbooked on this train, a container would then drop off at the end of the last train wagon. Double clicking on the colored container would bring up its planning status and other information needed for the planner.
Also it had already “real time” (phone line) updates from the system to the truck driver on the road, via “mobile” phones, those big ones you sometimes still can see in old movies, displaying his next plan/route inland to pickup the next container.
Don’t forget, we talk about approx. the year 1994 / 1995. To talk in Oracle terms… I had to work with Oracle 7.0 on Windows NT 3.0…and believe me, in those days, that was an obscure environment. Combine this with the new functionality of distributed databases via database links and try to imagine the stability of the system we had to start with. I was very happy with the first updates: Oracle 7.1 and Windows NT 3.1
Despite this is cool the core of the system, of course, is the algorithm that plans and matches the optimal in- and outbound route.
I learned a lot in those days. Also I remember this as my “cowboy days”: in IT land everything was still possible. On Powerpoint sheets and a little bit of trust, multi dollar projects could be sold. Money was no issue in those days… It’s good that the IT sector became a little bit more realistic on that part.