C.M. Howard (56-60)
Colin Howard (56-60) joined the Army from the NCP. He describes his military service as “undistinguished…the nearest I came to action was sitting in trenches in the New Territories (Hong Kong) at the time of the Red Guards.” But it was in the Army, as commander of the first anti-tank missile platooon, that he began the electronic education that became the “defining thread of my career.”
Colin left the Army in 1967 and became a network planning manager at Burmah Oil, tasked with creating a paper-based accounting system for petrol forecourts. This was later adopted worldwide by oil companies. The following year he set up a contract management company to service management requirements for the UK oil industry on petrol forecourts.
In 1969 he developed the first electronic data capture petrol dispenser – “the most original thing I have done,” he says now. “Having created a paper based system, and a business running forecourts based on it, we were buried in paper. It was the recognition that I could manage that digitally that led to my “inventing” an electronic feed to automate the management control. This was the first such application in the world. Of course, such data feeds have now been mainstream for years, but at the time I was spending hours teaching the likes of Shell what could be achieved.”
By 1976 he was developing another world first – the first online credit card transaction system for Barclaycard. This led to the development of advanced point-of-sale devices to capture retail information. In 1983, in another pioneering initiative, he installed the first digital dealing room in the world and four years later created the first electronic stockbroker service. In 1991 his company was acquired by the BT-owned Sharelink business. Colin then moved on to develop a pre-internet library subscription system across Asia, found the first business-based Internet Service Provider, work with Cisco to build the first banking firewalls. In 1997, his company was acquired by Level 3 as the base for its European expansion.
During the past 20 years Colin has remained active in the computer/digital/electronics field, creating two online commodities exchanges and the software deployed by a swaps exchange. In 2007 he won a competition to supply the Nepalese Stock Exchange with digital equipment still in use today. Three years ago he set up a specialist provider of security solutions called Satswana www.satswana.com to resolve criminality issues in commodities trading. This year he founded the DPO Centre Ltd.
“I continue to work, probably too terrified that I will get out of date to stop,” he says. As well as work, he has had a fun period in amateur motor racing (Irish Rallycross champion 1983), acquired a a pilot’s licence and a few classic cars, and now owns “a very nice boat” that he has sailed around the Med and North African coast. “That is something I would love to see shared if it is of any interest to the College.”
His “real” success in life, he concludes, “lies in still being married to Tricia after 50 years and having two children and five grandchildren reasonably nearby.”