A Brief History of Ben (from a programming perspective)

I remember the first time I ever saw a Macintosh, back in 1984. It was running MacPaint, which was like a religious experience for me. I started developing for the Mac soon after that, and I've never looked back.

The first app I wrote that made a splash was Solarian II, one of the first games for the new color Macintosh back in 1988 (and now ported to OS X!). Solarian II was shareware, but despite stereotypes, that didn't keep it from being a big success, and I got many registrations for it. I would like to thank all the honest people who sent me their $25; you made a difference!

After Solarian II, I went to UC Berkeley for a year (don't even ask how that went), and then quit school to work for Berkeley Systems, the makers of After Dark. Much of my time at Berkeley Systems was spent on a project which was never released, but I wrote several popular screensavers in little chunks of extra time, such as Lunatic Fringe, Satori, and Rose (among others). That was a very fun and creative time for me.

Then came a period of time in which I went to school (St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico), worked on a video game that was not released (GridRunner), and went to massage school. I lived in Boston for a while, and did a little consulting for Symantec.

When I got back into programming full-time, it was working for NeXT, which eventually got swallowed up by Apple. There, I worked on WebObjects Builder, and on the HTML framework used in OS X by Mail and other applications to display HTML content (now eclipsed by WebKit).

In early 2001 I decided to quit Apple to pursue shareware (and to work towards my private pilot's license, which I now have). I missed being able to work on whatever I wanted — on frivolous, useless things, purely for my own aesthetic enjoyment. I wanted to bring back to life some of my old projects that had been dragged down by code rot, and to explore some new horizons. From that, Stick Software's renaissance.

But after a couple of years, I realized that that wasn't really satisfying to me either. While I do believe in the value of useless, beautiful things, it is also clear that the world has big problems, and I become unhappy that I wasn't doing anything to contribute to solving those problems. I have long believed that problems such as global climate change, biodiversity loss, and energy policy will require a major commitment to science by all of society. Politicians will need to start listening to scientists, and ordinary people will need to start voting politicians out if they are not willing to do so. Scientific literacy and funding is what will get us through the crises that we face in the 21st century.

So in the spring of 2005 I decided to return to school, this time to San Jose State University to pursue a degree in biology, in order to equip myself with the scientific background to better attack the problems I feel are important. I got that degree, and then I went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and got a PhD in evolutionary biology (you can read more about Ben Haller in academia if you like).

Now I'm working in various directions to try to do something toward my original goal of promoting scientific literacy and science-based policy. At present I'm working on getting an M.A.T. (a Master's of Arts in Teaching) from SUNY Cortland, with the goal of teaching biology at either the high school or college level. I'm also keeping my feet wet in scientific research, particularly by developing software tools in evolutionary biology. I'm not sure where I'll land, but the journey is fun!

A Briefer History of Ben (from a personal perspective)

Besides programming, my interests include photography (visit my photography website at www.cloudphotographic.com), reading, hiking, and generally enjoying life. It's short, you know! I love recreational mathematics, and would welcome any interesting pointers in this area. And I have a particular fondness for the music of Brian Eno and Caetano Veloso. I grew up in Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University, and after much gallivanting around the globe, that is where I now live again. I am happily married to Keewon Kang Haller (pictured at right), a chef and a wonderful life partner.

I am not looking for work in programming as such, but if you have a job offer that involves Cocoa programming and ties in evolutionary biology as well, then feel free to contact me.

A Few Random Things

For your amusement, here is a little recreational project an old friend of mine, Eli Meir, and I made, called The Hunting of the Model. I've also put up my own edition of the original poem by Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark, since I couldn't find an edition on the web that I liked. I grew up on Carroll (not to mention Doctor Who and Monty Python), so it didn't seem right to leave the web in such a precarious state of disarray. With this, I pay off my karmic debt for this month.

Some of you will remember when "not using registration codes" was part of Stick Software's vision. I changed my mind on that, towards the end of 2003, for reasons that are both complex and personal. I don't explain that decision anywhere on the rest of the website, since it isn't really public Stick Software policy; but for people who (for some reason) care, I have written an essay on registration policy.