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The History of STUREC©

Dr. Bob's Bio... (Robert Campsmith, President and Owner of MicroData Systems, Ltd.)

Well, as many of you probably already guessed, I was born at a very young age. In Chicago, as a matter of fact in 19 something or other. When my father got out of the Navy he moved the family back to Michigan, and by the time I was ready for third grade, my Dad was building a house at White Lake (in Muskegon County Michigan). I finished grade school and graduated Montague High School in 1962. The same year that Nancy Fleming was named Miss America. Yes, I took her home from a school dance -- once!

I went the obligatory two years to Muskegon Community College, majoring in, ah, something, oh well, whatever. I paid for college by working in a foundry, no fun. After a couple of years of that, I decided to move to Chicago and make my fortune. Worked in Chicago for a few years, got an advanced degree from Nortwestern then moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Got married a few times, had a few kids and by 1979 decided I better figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. So I enrolled in Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Aced all of the computer classes they had then. System 34 and 38 stuff. I thought, boy, this is neat, you get to stay clean and indoors where the air-conditioning is. By this time I was pushing 40, and nobody wanted to hire an old fudd... So, I thought, I'll show them; I'll start my own company. I bought a copy of dBASEII, license number 248, loaded it onto my dual floppy 56k CPM computer and waited for the customers to flock in.

While I was waiting, I taught myself about micro-computers. In 1981, my friend Ed Marlett who is the now retired director of Adult Education from Kalamazoo, introduced me to Ray Phillips who was the head of the newly formed "Kalamazoo County Adult Education Consortium". He asked if I could find him a program that he could use to put together a Fourth Friday Report. What's a "Fourth Friday Report" I asked, and as they say, the rest is history...

In the beginning...

In the spring of 1981, Ed Marlett the Director of the Kalamazoo Adult Education program and Ray Phillips the Director of Parchment's Adult Education program and the head of the newly formed Kalamazoo County Consortium for Adult Education approached Robert Campsmith about computerizing one of their particular challenges, the "Fourth Friday Count". At the time, Robert was helping Russ Ginter start the first software-only store in the Kalamazoo Michigan area.

Robert and Russ researched all of the catalogs and literature they had available to them, looking for anything that might help the Adult Ed folks with this "Pupil Accounting" thing, as they called it. Nothing, nada, zilch! After more talk with Ed and Ray, and more research and telephone calls around the country, everybody was getting pretty frustrated...

Remember that dual floppy CPM computer and the copy of dBASE II mentioned in Dr. Campsmith's bio? Ignorant fool that he was, he suggested to Ray Phillips "Why don't I write a Pupil Accounting program for you?" So a pact was formed, and so was MicroData Systems, Ltd.

By this time Ashton Tate had come out with its brand new dBASE III interpreter, and it was for DOS (Version 2.0). Robert acquired an AT&T 6300 microcomputer (one of the first IBM clones) with 64k of RAM, dual 360k floppies and a whopping 10 megabyte hard disk.

At first, Robert spent several days a week with Mr. Phillips and Mr. Marlett just learning what Adult Education was all about. What did they need to report, what did they need to calculate, what data did they need to capture. How would they use the reports. The first and primary goal of the group was to produce a "Fourth Friday Report". For those of you who may not know what a Fourth Friday report is, it is an alphabetical listing of all of the adult education students who you are claiming for Membership. Ok, what's membership? How do you know if you can claim them? How do you calculate how much you can claim? Man, it seems like we are getting more questions than answers.

During this time, Robert would work at home Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday then go to Mr. Phillips office on Thursday and work with him there. They defined the data elements that were needed to capture and the manipulations they needed to perform in order to have available the data necessary to create the Fourth Friday Report. As they were doing this, they noticed a phenomena happening before their very eyes. Ray or Ed Marlett or one of the other members of the Consortium would say "Wow, if you can do that, can you do this (or something else)?" Thus folks, was the birth of "feature creep", wherein the project grows way beyond its original design specs (if there were any). At this time the program they were creating was really a bunch of individual programs running under the dBASE III Interpreter. This was slow and fraught with limitations. They may not have known it at the time, but they were developing what would become known as a distributed database. One of the early limitations of the interpreted language was that you could only have two files open at one time. If you needed data from a third table (file), you had to close one of the currently open files before opening the new one.

They were pushing on, were providing for student registration, enrollment into individual classes, creating class lists -- that were accurate -- and most importantly, were gathering all of the data necessary to create the infamous "Fourth Friday Report". The first time they tried it for the fall count in 1983 was on Mr. Phillips Parchment Adult Education program (about 150 students). It took them the better part of a Saturday to put it together and get it printed to their satisfaction, but they proved it could be done, and on a microcomputer, at that.

New Developments...

Later that year Ashton Tate brought out "dBASE III+" a major improvement over dBASE III. Not long after that, Nantucket, a startup company from the West Coast introduced a product called "Clipper". Clipper was a compiler. Well to a designer, programmer and to the end users, this was a major breakthrough. To run your program you no longer needed to have an interpreter loaded on your computer. The compiler would create an executable that would run all by itself. This introduction of a compiler also allowed the developer to have up to 15 files open simultaneously within the program, even multiple indexes across a single table. Wow!

We continued to flesh out the Fourth Friday program and began calling it STUREC, an abbreviation for STUdent RECords. The nickname stuck. We added support for attendance and high school completion grades and even created support for transcripts of credit. Remember our friend "feature creep"? Well, "If you can do transcripts, why don't you have the computer automatically look at the transcript and look at the graduation requirements and print a report of what the student still needs to graduate?". Thus was born STUREC©'s copyrighted Credit Analysis feature.

In the fall of 1983 when we were using the new Fourth Friday computer program to create the Fourth Friday Report, in less than a day, Mr. Marlett at Kalamazoo had been working with two assistants for nearly a month to gather, collate and calculate the necessary data for his Fourth Friday Report, then he hired five temporary secretaries for two and one half days to type the thing and, it still had errors.

By the fall of 1984, we had the STUREC© program whipped into good enough shape to have the Consortium members start using it. Ed Marlett at Kalamazoo strongly endorsed it. We made sure his people were trained in its proper use. At that time, the Kalamazoo Adult Education program consisted of around 1,500 students, half of which were high school completion and the other half were ABE and ESL students on separate floors and computers. Remember what happended last fall at Parchment. This year at Kalamazoo it took less than fours one Saturday morning to combine the data from the two computers, compile, process, calculate and print! We broke the four hour "Forth Friday Report".

For the next several years, STUREC© kept growing and improving. Some folks from the Michigan Department of Education heard about it and asked if we would like to participate in a Federal 353 grant to finish it and make it available for distribution around the state. Well, is the Pope Catholic? Of course we would like to participate. We worked with the DOE folks and defined the expected outcomes and came up with a budget. They didn't have enough money in their budget to match our budget. Being something of a gambler, we compromised. With the state's knowledge and permission, we completed the project then charged each school district that wanted to use the new Student Record keeping software a modest $99 to cover the cost of printing, duplication and distribution. Thus was born STUREC©.

The Michigan Legislature...

Whether you are from Arkansas or Wyoming, New Jersey or Alaska, you know that your state legislature has an uncontrollable urge to tinker with the Adult Education funding and rules. Michigan is no different, and in the late eighties they decided to flex their collective muscle and add a bunch of new requirements on Adult Ed. Of course these new requirements meant more work for the LEAs. Users in the field started asking, nay, demanding that STUREC© do this new stuff for them. So with the help of a couple people at the Michigan DOE, we wrote a small grant to upgrade the program to accommodate these new reporting requirements. They were distributed without charge to all registered users and became known as STUREC© Version 4.

Talk about Hillbillies...

In the spring of 1989, we went to a conference in Atlantic City (the one in New Jersey) and rented a display booth to show off our new STUREC© Pupil Accounting software for microcomputers. We were flooded with two visitors, both of which took a brochure and grunted a couple times.

That fall, we received a phone call from a fellow in Arkansas named Archie Musselman. He told us that "some guy from the university gave me a brochure he picked up in Atlantic City, he says you have just what we need." Well, you see, Mr. Musselman was ahead of his time. He knew that microcomputers were here to stay. He knew that he had just been given this job to find out what Adult Education was really doing in the state of Arkansas. And he knew that he didn't know what they were doing out in the field. Archie asked "Why don't you'all come on down here to Little Rock and tell us all about your STUREC©." Well, does a bear do it in the woods? Of course we'd like to tell you'all all about STUREC©).

We worked with Mr. Musselman and others, including Mary Ann Crabtree at the Department of Education. Since they do things a little differently in Arkansas than we do here in Michigan, we needed to make a few changes. For instance, in Arkansas the GED is the primary engine that drives Adult Education. And they trusted their teachers to record attendance when the student came to study, and turn it in once a month. And in Arkansas, they don't have a "Fourth Friday Report" -- nooo, they have " E & E" which stands for Effective and Efficient. What a novel idea. Not only was Mr. Musselman ahead of his time in 1990 when he chose STUREC© as the data collection tool for the state, but the whole state was ahead of its time in the way it evaluated and funded Adult Education. Some other famous guy came from Arkansas too, now... who was that?

Where is Down East?

In early 1991 we received a call from Mr. Randy Kanter of Morris Hills, New Jersey. He had been at that convention in Atlantic City, and was the other person we gave a brochure. Mr. Kanter is not necessarily a slow reader, he didn't have a computer yet. His Adult High School was growing, his Adult Basic Education and English as Second Language programs were growing and the book work was growing unmanageable. He asked us, "will your student record keeping software work for me here in New Jersey? Well is the Michigan governor a little short guy? Of course it will work in New Jersey.

Now they do things a little differently in New Jersey than in other parts of this great country. Of course, doesn't everybody? We worked with Mr. Kanter back and forth over the phone, on the fax and even the mail (before E-Mail). We came up with a slightly altered version of STUREC©, specifically altered to accommodate the good folks in the Garden state. They have a thing called the "Register", a concept not used in Michigan or Arkansas. They also have the infamous "Quarterly Report" instead of the "Fourth Friday Report".

Is New York state Down East or Up East, or not East at all. Where is North Carolina and South Carolina? Is Louisiana Down South, is Nebraska out West, where is Kentucky? We have STURECers in all of those states now. Thanks to a couple of visionaries in the early eighties that believed computers were here to stay.

Speaking of South Carolina, we have worked with some fine folks down there to put in a couple of "South Carolina Specific" features to help them with a couple of reports that they need.

So, what have you done lately?

We try to keep up with the times. We have seen operating systems go from 8 bit CPM, DOS versions 1.0 thru 6.22, a brief stop at something called Windows and now a full fledged 32 bit graphical interface operating system. Man, what's next? Watch out, Windows 98 is here! Watch out, STUREC© Version 5 is coming for Windows 95/98.

STUREC© Version 6 series came out in August of 2003. We have seen the advent of MAERS and SRSD. The folks in Lansing who created the Single Record Student Database (SRSD) process involved the vendors and end-users from the beginning. They wanted to create a process by which individual districts would report certain student data electronically. Those vendors who wanted their software to be part of this process pitched in and added that capability. Now the Michigan Adult Education Reporting System (MAERS) did not follow this model. They thought they could do it all without consulting any vendors or even the end-user districts they expected to supply them with data. They created a messy on-line system (Internet) and begrudgingly created a half-hearted method to transfer large amounts of data electronically via a "batch" process.

We are happy to say that the SRSD process seems to be working well, the MAERS process, not so well. The SRSD process seems to be managed by professionals, we have no idea who is managing the MAERS.

STUREC© Version 7 series, which is a 32bit Windows XP program (as a console application) is in testing right now and will be available to all users for the 2007-2008 school year. Currently in design and early development phase is STUREC© for Windows XP+ which is a true Windows 32 bit program.

Where are we today?

In the summer of 2009 the folks at CEPI (Center for Educational Performance Information) decided that they could no longer use the old-fashioned 'flat file' format of the SRSD data exchange file system. They decided that instead they could only use files in the new world wide recognized XML (Xtensible Markup Language) style. Well, we at MicroData Systems, Ltd. did not like that idea. We were comfortable with the old 'flat file' format of the old SRSD system and STUREC© handled it without incident.

Since we don't get to make those kind of decisions, by August of 2009 STUREC© Version 9 series was prepared to gather and deliver the required data for the new MSDS (Michigan Student Data System) in the desired XML style. We are proud to say that the process is alive and well and working fine. Of course, in the meantime the folks at MAERS, not to be left out, introduced (by stealth) a number of 'new' rules and report formats. As the STUREC© users around the state notified us of these changes (remember the MAERS does not communicate with vendors) we put them into the program as quickly and painlessly as possible.

The software concept known as STUREC© has been growing and accommodating change for more than 25 years an will be around for a while longer. As long as there are Adult Educators who need help with their record-keeping responsibilities we will be there to help.