Three Generations of Software Design and Architecture

My Father

My father, Robert E. Foulger (1928-2006), was a software architect before I was.  He didn't start out to be a software architect.  It just happened a lucky (in the classic opportunity meeting preparation sense) accident of being in the right place at the right time. 

His path to software architecture started in work for Pan American Airways where, in the early 1960's, he was responsible for tracking cargo shipments on Pan Am and balancing airplanes for their cargo and passeger loads.  As Pan Am started to use computers, airplane balancing and shipment tracking were early and obvious candidates for computerization, and my father quickly got the opportunity to design and build the system he proposed for such computerization.  Early on he designed systems for balancing airplanes for cargo loads that evolved into full fledged Cargo tracking systems.  His design for an end to end (receipt to release) cargo tracking system subsequently became the standard of the airline industry: 

This system, originally developed under the name PANTRAC, was designed at Pan Am, implemented by Al Italia, and was subsequently sold to and deployed at most airlines worldwide.  Indeed, my father ultimately deployed the software he had originally designed at Pan Am after they bought a working copy of the system back from Al Italia.  In later years his attention turned to customs software, and acting on behalf of Pan Am, he participated in the design of customs software implementations for Great Britain and the U.S. Customs Service.  Interestingly enough, software wasn't my fathers only architectural interest.  He also designed several churches and had the joy of seeing them built.

In the course of doing this work he traveled to every city that Pan Am flew to, frequently more than once. By today's standard that is more than half of the world's countries. He loved to travel. Its why he went to work for the airline industry to begin with, and from time to time he'd take us along.

My Oldest Son

Interestingly enough, my oldest son, Devin Foulger, is heading down the same path.  He currently designs and implements software for Oracle Systems in Waltham, MA. His current focus is on collaborative business partner planning tools that enable efficient retail supply chains. Devin is responsible for the web-based user interface of this system. Early versions of this system were building using a combination of Java, JavaScript, and other elements based on the use of both Applets and Servlets. More recently implementations have made use of the user interface capabilities of Macromedia Flash.