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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Klingon Dad September 29, 2009 9:04 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life, Evan, Family, Of Being Dad
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Sometimes parenting makes me feel like Lt. Commander Worf.

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1. Barry - September 29, 2009

All I can say is, “Q’apla!”

2. Doug McCaughan - September 29, 2009

My Klingon is a little rusty.

You know, when I worked at HyperGlot we made foreign language learning software and were eventually bought by The Learning Company. The products were Learn to Speak (Spanish, Japanese, Russian, French, Italian, German), Berlitz Think and Talk (same languages as above), Pronunciation Tutors (Spanish, French, German, Italian), and a couple of vocabulary builder products. They were full multimedia products with speech recognition and fun to work with. The pedagogy was strong.

Piece of trivia: one of my nipples is featured in one of the products. (I modeled for the body part pictures for one of the vocabulary products because no one else was willing to expose so much of themselves. I also did the emotions in mime face.)

Anyhow, the development team once pushed for Learn to Speak Klingon but couldn’t get management on board. I think it could have been a hit and good marketing for the company’s flagship products.

3. Barry - September 29, 2009

It means, “Success!” or something like that. That’s about my limit, too.

Oh, I do remember a “q’lekam” means about a kilometer or so.

Wow, why does the name “HyperGlot” seem so familiar to me? That’s strange…

4. Doug McCaughan - September 29, 2009

UT Russian Professor Martin Rice and Phil Badget formed HyperGlot to teach languages through software. Their first major sale was vaporware when they took a “screenshot” (photoshop mockup) of Think and Talk to a conference and the US government bought 200,000 units. Version 1 never existed beyond the screenshot. As a CD-ROM based product using animations, sound, video and speech recognition, Microsoft recognized the Learn to Speak Spanish product as the 6th true multimedia product to be available to Windows.

I was the 18th employee. The Learning Company purchased HyperGlot when there were 12 employees. As the Foreign Language Division of The Learning Company, operations grew quickly and realizing the cost of labor in Knoxville, The Learning Company developed its tech support and customer service call center in Knoxville. I do not know how large it grew. When the Foreign Language Division (HyperGlot) reached 35 people, I was pulled away and given the opportunity to create a new division of the company. I built an internal “3rd party” test lab from scratch meaning I wrote a plan, created a budget, visited vice-presidents from all the various development divisions of The Learning Company including the one from overseas (they came to Boston instead of me getting to fly over there), rebuilt a building, rented furniture, purchased 120 computers, then hired and trained 60 people (some employees, some from temp services) primarily from the food service industry. Then we all got laid off.

5. Barry - September 29, 2009

Wow, what a story. Talk about that late 20th century vaporware craze.

I used to work for Value-Ware Software, which was a shareware reseller, as tech support. Somewhere along the line I know I’ve crossed paths with HyperGlot and The Learning Company, but dang if I can remember why or how. Maybe we sold some of the software? I don’t remember.

Or maybe it was just one of those local-ish startups like Cyberflix that were big in the news and I just remember it from there….

It’ll come to me.

6. Doug McCaughan - September 29, 2009

I used to be the one that would layout and burn the CDs of our products which would be shipped to a plant in Huntsville for mass production. This was back when a 2x CD burner was as large as your standard PC case, took an hour to burn, each blank CD cost $30, and if you looked at the machine funny during the burn process you got a buffer underrun resulting in a bad cd.

Archival of each version of the product fell on me. Once, to avoid an SEC fine, the development team stayed up all night. At 6am, a VP asked me to drive the final CD to Huntsville. I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep on the road. The positive side, aside from negotiating the next 3 days off with pay, was that I got to tour the CD manufacturing plant. Really cool!

Anyhow, when SoftKey, who somehow got their start in cat food, bought The Learning Company, I was required to restore all the old versions of the HyperGlot/TLC (The Learning Company) software so that SoftKey could relabel the old version as value software. The newest version (say v8.0) might be a boxed edition with a manual and workbook selling for $39.99 while version 7.2 might be shrunk wrapped and sold at Staples for $19.99 and version 6.3 might be sold for $5.99 on one side of a value bin while version 5.0 might be sold for $1.99 on the other side of the value bin.

SoftKey eventually set The Learning Company up for a sell to Mattel. They sliced anything red (which is why my testing division vanished) and misrepresented the value of TLC, which at one point was moving a volume of software equivalent to Microsoft’s sales. Mattel bought TLC which was a lemon and lost a ton of money. The CEO got axed and what remained of The Learning Company in Knoxville after SoftKey’s pre-sales job was decimated. Knoxville’s remaining divisions vanished.

As for CyberFlix, our initial Mac software was written in Hypercard (a CyberFlix connection there), an old roommate of mine worked at CyberFlix, and I used to ride my bike from HyperGlot to Market Square to take ping pong breaks with the guys at CyberFlix. It was a cool shop.

7. Barry - September 29, 2009

I bet that’s it – we must have sold some of your 2-version-old $5.99 remainder bargain basement shrink wraps. I think we felt it was quite the coup at the time because until then we obtained, duplicated and packaged all our software (on 5-1/4″, 3-1/2″ and later those snazzy newfangled CD-ROM’s) ourselves. We had never resold a third party brand of software before.

Both @bigorangemichael (who took my place when I left) and @chattiekat (i.e. Tish, who worked with both of us) can attest to the great fun we had duplicating disks on those huge prefab Duplicators ™ that were always breaking down.

I always wanted to get involved with Cyberflix, but not being an actual programmer and not a marketer at that time, knew there wasn’t much of an avenue. I did know some of their actors from the popular Titanic disk, because they were local theatre folk. I had lots of playtest experience playing Doom and Quake – for some reason that didn’t translate to real world experience 🙂

It’s great to know some of your history, Doug…

8. Jennifer - October 2, 2009

Barry – to answer your initial question

Hyper = Exuberant/many
Glot = “having a tongue” or “speaking, writing in a language”

So, loosely translated “Speaking writing in many exuberant languages”

9. Doug McCaughan - October 2, 2009

Oh wow! Would that be THE Jennifer?!