Ever since the inquisitive youngster helped his engineer dad rebuild a lawnmower engine at the age of 6, Evan Brown has loved a challenge. Whether the challenge was to design numerical models for oil recovery or develop a coordinate geometry program used to subdivide land into streets and housing lots, the computer scientist from Texas has made it happen.
Born in 1952 in Fort Worth to Robert and Cornelia Brown, Evan grew up tinkering with cars and mechanical things. While in high school, Brown and a friend rebuilt and rewired a British-made MGA. Evan also managed to keep a 1941 Ford sedan with over 250,000 miles on it running.
Brown received a B.S. in computer science in 1978 from Texas A&M University. At A&M, Evan was in great demand for his ability to find and fix programming problems. The "Computer Bug Man" was famous for staying up days at a time to research and solve problems induced by application programming bugs, operating system bugs and undocumented features of computer systems.
Programs Evan Brown wrote while in college include numerical models for oil recovery, models for 2D/3D structural analysis, subroutines for fast matrix operations in petroleum engineering, numerical models of the atmosphere of Venus, and utility programs for converting programs and data from non-IBM based computer facilities. From 1979 through 1982, Brown programmed computers at Texas Instruments in Dallas as a Facilities Engineer. In 1982, he went to work in Houston for Time Energy, where he developed microprocessor hardware and software for Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) control systems. Between leaving Time Energy and going to work for DSC, Brown worked as an independant consultant designing and building computer hardware and developing both firmware and application software.
In 1987 Brown was employed by DSC Communications in Plano, Texas, as a Senior Member Technical Staff. At DSC, a telecommunications corporation, Brown worked on the Signal Transport Point (STP) maintaining the Fault Isolation and Test subsystem software.
It was long before he went to work for DSC that Evan began working on the problem of converting old computer codes into new languages. The original problem of converting binary computer code into human readable software was first posed to Brown by a friend working in El Paso in 1975. The problem was a company mainframe computer was tied up several days a month simulating a computer that again was simulating another computer to run an old binary computer program. When Brown asked his friend why this company didn't rewrite the old software, the reply was the company didn't have the original source code and the original programmers had all left the company.
The idea Brown has is for an automated computer conversion of machine-executable binary code into portable high level programming source code. The usefulness of this "portable ... code" is to help companies that have old computer programs convert these programs to run on newer, more powerful computers. Most large businesses have computer programs that have been developed over the past 30 years and will only run on huge mainframe computers. These companies would like to run the old computer programs on new inexpensive PCs and/or workstations but do not have the resources to manually convert these old programs.
" Determined' and principled' are words that come to mind when I think of Evan Brown," says Roger Ansted, a longtime friend. "I'd hand him five thousand dollars, and I know he'd take good care of it. I appreciate the values he has."
Although Brown spends most of his time these days reading legal documents and going over the case with his attorneys, he does takes some time out to work on his farm and do a little traveling. An amateur photographer and pilot, Evan finds he has little resources right now to enjoy his hobbies.
The past president of the Dallas/Fort Worth Unix Users Group describes himself as a "computer geek in cowboy boots." Evan Brown deals with all the media attention he has generated much as he does with everything else: a dry wit and a belief that justice will prevail.
"In some ways it's quite intrusive," he remarked regarding the lawsuit.
As Evan himself quickly concedes, the family and friends he has are far more valuable than are his thoughts, and they will be there for him long after the courts have determined what will happen to the software conversion procedure that exists in his mind.