Hi, Hello, How are you?!
My name is Craig Chapman, and many of you will have found Digital Envy through my developer blog at http://chapmanworld.com or through my community efforts. For those of you that don’t know me already, I’m a software developer that has specialized in Delphi Pascal for over two decades. I now work as an in-house consultant at Embarcadero Technologies who make and sell the Delphi and C++ Builder compilers, and the RAD Studio IDE among their many other products.
Who was Digital Envy?
Around 20 years ago, long before I worked at Embarcadero, I was a member of a small online coding group which went by a couple of names, the later of which is Digital Envy. This coding group was responsible for a sum total of 1 product release, a freeware HTML editor which was really quite clever (for it’s time). Webfoot HTML, as it was called, was released under an earlier name for our development group, and was a success. Over 200,000 downloads in the first week, after which I genuinely lost track of the numbers, and if I recall correctly, it found it’s way onto a magazine cover disk too.
After that success, our group enthusiastically renamed to Digital Envy. Our logo was the greater-than symbol drawn to depict the letter ‘D’ in digital and the sigma character to represent the ‘E’ in envy. The idea was that ” >∑ ” mathematically reads “Greater than the sum”, and we were all feeling quite pleased with ourselves for having shipped our first product.
For my own nostalgia, here are a couple of our concept logo’s from some time in the late 90’s or early 2000. Despite the signs of their age, I’m still quite fond of them.
We had two more products lined up and already heavily into development. One was a successor to Webfoot with some understanding of DHTML for scripting, and another video game project. Between us, I was confident that we could accomplish just about anything.
Were we greater than our parts?
I am still very pleased with what a small team of people, volunteering without pay to a freeware product, were able to accomplish. Truly, if anything can be greater than it’s sum, this team was. Unfortunately, the volunteering was becoming a problem for our members. I felt it myself as I was working a full time job writing database software, and then coming home to work with the coding-group. As much fun as it was (and it really was), it was difficult to maintain. I was fortunate, our two other engineers were unemployed and our graphic artist (my brother) was recovering from injury at that time.
Of course it could not go on forever, our other engineers had to pursue employment and meet their family obligations. One of them took a position as a truck driver, making collaboration with an online group impossible. Another left us to take a position in banking. My brother and I tried to hold out and to recruit new members, but, I could no longer maintain being employed and picking up the engineering load of our two lost members.
There was never an ‘official’ ending to the group, we simply faded out and went about our lives.
Machine Learning and Video Games.
In the years that have passed, I’ve maintained my interest and passion for writing code. To this day, I work my full time hours for Embarcadero and then work on projects of my own in my free time. Now a husband and father, that free time is more scarce than ever, but I still find several hours each week to put into working on one of my two favorite coding interests. A.I (specifically ML), and Video Games.
Around three years ago, I began a series on building a basic sprite engine for Delphi on my blog. I put around seven or eight parts into the series, and got to a reasonable point in animation. At the same time, I was still working behind the scenes on my OpenGL based rendering system to be named darkGlass, and then something caught my eye. The Khronos Group, responsible for maintaining the OpenGL and OpenCL specifications, announced their new Vulkan API. Vulkan was interesting for several reasons, but suffice to say, I was concerned it might spell the end of OpenGL, and at the same time I was excited that it appeared better for parallel graphics processing and memory management.
With these concerns, and having already spent my free time for perhaps two years on writing and rewriting my darkGlass engine based around OpenGL, I decided it was time to start yet another rebuild to incorporate Vulkan.
I decided then to start over, learning from my previous efforts. Today, that game engine development is underway, and despite the fact that there is yet a mountain to climb, it makes frequent progress. However…
I have also always had an interest in Machine Learning, and at around the time that I made the decision to rebuild darkGlass, I’d also started ‘re-learning’ what I thought I knew about neural networks. I put together a short video series introducing neural networks for my blog as I studied the subject over. I’d become somewhat ‘rusty’ with regards to the subject and the math involved. I re-learned, and built a basic neural networking library, with minimal features, but capable of learning some simple tasks.
Almost immediately before deciding on the darkGlass start-over, I’d agreed to enhance this library to help someone with their own A.I. project, and that became something of a distraction for a while. Thankfully, it has begun to fruit into a useful A.I. library, and is now the basis for a second product.
I can’t do it all!
My employment comes first. I am firmly dedicated to my job, it’s what pays the bills and feeds my family, and frankly it’s one of the most enjoyable positions I’ve held. For my pay, I get to write code, engage with and support our community, and am sometimes privy to know what may be coming in new releases, all while getting paid. Most of all, my employer has given me several benefits, not least of which is the opportunity to work remotely from home. Working from home does sometimes allow me to be a little flexible with my time, but I am still kept busy.
In short, I have limited free time to work on my projects for Digital Envy Software, and yet, I feel quite dedicated to those projects also.
So can I have my cake and eat it too?
Digital Envy Software!
As my previous heading suggests, I can’t do it all, there’s simply not enough time in my day.
That means I need help.
I’ve already begun talks with some other engineers regarding contributions, but my plan runs a little deeper than simply reviving a coding group. I have decided that I should be more serious about both of these projects, and to start up a side-business. The goal of this business being to generate sufficient revenue to out-source components of the game engine and the machine learning tools.
It’s all “Coming Soon!”
Most of this website states “Coming Soon” and with good reason. First of all, neither of the primary products are even feature complete (the game engine not even close), much less ready to be sold. There’s also the initial added work-load of starting up a business. For example, I’ve spent time rolling out infrastructure for source-code control, CI and Build servers, and even this website, all done by my own hand, and there’s plenty more to do. My initial capitol will only go so-far, and so there will need to be revenue generating activities before I can even pay for out-sourced assistance, and even then, the infrastructure must be ready to accommodate those working on behalf of the products.
I am fortunate enough to have managed development projects before, including remote out-sourced projects, and that leaves me with an understanding of the huge amount of work involved just to get up and running. Once running however, I anticipate swift progress.
Stay tuned to our Latest News blog feed for more to come!