Bio for Alex Blok (Pi 25 39)
SEPTEMBER 27 2020
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1963 August 09
Pi 25 39
An energetic creative visionary, entrepreneur and product guy, Alex enjoys making life easier and more compelling for people through the application of thoughtful design and due process. His long term ambition is to ween people off the grid in a manner that is both economically viable and compelling. He drives an EV and has solar panels charging his gadgets but is still trying find somewhere to mount the 500 watt wind turbine!
During his youth and onwards, whilst friends read comics, Alex would digest National Geographic, Electronic Engineering Times, EDN, Scientific American and other journals to learn how things work and gain inspiration on how the latest technologies could make new product categories possible, from flexible displays to power systems.
Alex also enjoys being involved in the creation of marketing materials associated with his ventures, originally influenced by the work of David Ogilvy and Apple, Inc – blending a clear value proposition with creative branding and crafty copy writing.
As of July 2020
Until retirement, co-running YAIR ENERGY LIMITED a stealth company engaged in multidisciplinary design and engineering along with PiCosm, a unique service focused on compelling applications of user managed data and 3D graphics.
Reading: All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Learning: Guitar, flying* radio controlled EDF and scale model aircraft, video editing (Lumafusion on iPad Pro), Ableton Live, AutoDesk’s ecosystem, the principles of aerodynamics, responsive web programming.
KEY ATTRIBUTES + SKILLS
Spacial Imagination + Clarity of Vision
Product + UX + Graphic Design
Copy Writing + Slogans
Talent Spotting Engineers
Consumer/SME Business Analysis
Database Scripting (Including prototyping functioning apps in Filemaker)
2020 July 4 – Alex’s releases to friends and family initial concept renderings for POLO MARCO, his design for a space ship to tour the solar system in around 2040. The lack of confidentiality associated with this venture means it can be used by Alex’s employer to showcase their design skills and pragmatic approach to engineering problems.
2020 – Finally, a dream come true, Alex was able to attend CES in Las Vegas and meetup with key OEMs.
2019 – Alex teases ReKarry on BBC’s Radio 5 Live and LBC.
2019 – Along with some smaller ventures, Alex is managing the design, manufacturer and sale of the future of reusable smart containers and associated eco system after conceiving of the idea in California whilst on a beach cleanup in the early 1990s. Branded, ReKarry®, this is his most financially valuable venture that will radically alter the way people obtain, store and consume FMCG products with huge benefits to the environment.
2012 – Designed, took photographs and developed the code for the world’s first walk through (‘PhotoWalker’) UX for a retail store.
2010 – Triggered by the demands of restaurant owners impressed with a sophisticated online menu publishing system he had designed, Alex fast tracked the introduction of the HEYYU Digital Signage solution (above) that involved sourcing display hardware from Taiwan, hiring graphic designers and electricians and installing the HEYYU units themselves despite tight deadlines, complex logistics and impatient high street business owners.
2007 – Produced GONUMBER.COM, a unique directory that made it easy for people to access and share information on businesses. The value proposition exceeded that of indirect competitors, such as Yell, who subsequently suffered massive losses, despite receiving billions in funding from 3i. Alex worked with Alan Whiting to design a clever logo that was featured in advertising (above). Ten years on, Alex’s company rebranded GONUMBER as PiCosm to make it more convenient for people to share the unique 1 to 12 digit Pi (Presence identifier) that references each location. PiCosm is Alex’s slow burn venture to simplify all manner of every day tasks whilst handing user data management and ownership over to you!
2002 onwards – Despite the odds and obstacles, saved the life of and organised the rehabilitation of a close relative, including managing finances and diet and putting together a reliable home control / iOT (Internet Of Things) system to enable a safe, dignified and independent lifestyle. This included customising Android tablets and mobile phones.
2000 – Alex conceived of and produced early designs for the world’s first circular mobile communications device (side elevation shown above), drawing considerable demand from friends and colleagues who saw the realistic renderings created by Alex’s colleague Alan Whiting. Over 16 years later, the circular display technology is maturing (thanks to smart watches), and after several iterations of the mechanical design, Alex hopes to develop the device (codenamed ‘TUiT’) in the 2021 timeframe in conjunction with a manufacturing partner. Motorola have expressed written interest in TUiT. Space this watch!
2000 – Designed invite for party on roof of his flat in San Francisco (above).
2000 – Contracted by Sun Microsystems to produce artist’s impressions of how Java may be used out in a real world future.
1998 – Produced FONE427, a system for delivering voicemail messages to users of the ICQ instant messaging service. Designed the web UX (above).
1997 – Artwalker wins Sony and Yahoo site of the year awards.
1996 – Logitech gave Alex one of the world’s first digital cameras to use for an experimental project to create a ‘photowalk’ through Palo Alto, California via a series of hyperlinked street scenes. (Way before Google’s Street View.) This inspired the creation of The Artwalker Project – Art To Explore(tm), where fine art fans navigate through scenic locations via a series of interconnected paintings or drawings that they can admire and purchase. Back then, Artwalker was hand built, with no CMS (Content Management System), so today, Alex is managing the development of a custom smart CMS to speed up the generation of ‘artwalks’ and will relaunch Artwalker in due course or sell it to an online gallery.
1995 – Alex and his colleague Brian Christman (who went on to design the UX for TiVO) used Alex’s design concepts to win the contract to create the logo and visual identity for Macworld Online. Alex designed the above ONLINE logo that you may have seen on t-shirts and baseball caps.
1993 – Designed and project managed the development of the Sonovista BiT BOPPER (above), the world’s first and only turnkey audio reactive video effects system. Connected to video projectors or displays, Sonovista added unique music animated dynamic visuals to the dancefloors in nightclubs across North America, Asia and aboard some cruise liners. Still a cult product today thanks to retro visuals and tactile keyboard driven UX and iCue Macros that allow any combination of custom visuals to be recalled on demand by the VJ.
1992 – Conceived PiN, The People’s Interactive Network. Supported by Apple. More details to follow. A fascinating project that was killed off by the introduction of a minor global venture known as the world-wide web.
1992 – Alex was contracted by Books That Work to design the UX for a ground breaking series of CD-ROM based multimedia DIY guides.
1991 – Initially for a 5 week break, Alex flew to the USA to see some family friends and explore Silicon Valley. Loved it all so much, remained there for just under 10 years.
1990 – Classic BiT BOPPER featured live on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World, drawing an audience of 17 million viewers. (Verified.)
1987 – Originally conceived for the Commodore Amiga, designed and began development of intuitive Jenesis real time 4D ‘Imagination Processor’ on the Acorn Archimedes. Acorn kindly supplied Alex with the hardware following the success of AMX Pagemaker on the Acorn BBC Micro. Jenesis was designed to make the creation of 3D objects and worlds using the same usability concepts as tangible workshop tools, such as a lathe and milling machine. Alas, the project proved too difficult to engineer and was abandoned. The real time graphics routines were used instead in Alex’s only white elephant, the Classic BiT BOPPER. Jenesis was re-started and supported by NeXT, but that platform was abandoned so Jenesis died again. Much sadness. Alex may re-awaken Jenesis now that virtual and augmented reality is a thing, although there exists much competition today from Microsoft Hololens, Google Daydream and Autodesk 360.
1987 – Surprised that the Amiga was not being given an opportunity to show its full potential, Alex approached Commodore with an offer to develop software for dealers to demonstrate the machine’s remarkable audio visual and multitasking capabilities. Commodore accepted and Alex expanded his software development team to produce AmigaMagic, a remarkable mashup of ahead of their time UX concepts and true multi-tasking technology.
1987 – Designed and project managed development of PCW Stop Press, the world’s first ‘designer’ desktop publishing application featuring a unique single control panel UX (above) that allowed specific features to be activated with an icon grid reference, such as H5 for the line tool. Won multiple awards and lead to the collapse of all competitors. Alex considers PCW Stop Press as the best product he has ever designed.
1986 – Using a mix of BBC Basic and 6502 Arm machine code on his Acorn BBC Micro, Alex wrote prototype software for audio reactive visualiser. (Footage is on 8mm video cassette in a wooden box.)
1985 – Developed D.O.R.I.S. Morse Code Word Processor for polio victim. Organised donations of equipment from various suppliers. Praised by both the recipient and the charity that organised the venture. Featured in the press during the public unveiling of the system by Countess Mountbatten of Burma.
1985 – Formed Tecnation (Technology + Imagination), that made a profit in it’s first year of operation.
1984 – Invented, designed and produced Europe’s if not the world’s first Desktop Publishing application, AMX Pagemaker. Engineered by Alex’s good friend, Neil Lee, AMX Pagemaker went on to win multiple awards and ignited the consumer and SME electronic publishing revolution. Alex sketched out the designs for AMX Pagemaker within a few hours on a notepad. It took a year to develop. The screen print above is of the font designer – the only component of the app that Alex also had a hand in coding – a horrible experience and what made him abandon software development and focus on UX design!
1984 – Alex’s first commercial product Artsystematic was published – A basic CAD application for the BBC Microcomputer featuring a unique ‘perspective aid’ to help with drawing 3D shapes. Used by British Airways to create some presentation content.
1984 – Reluctantly quit Quantel/Micro Consultants, Newbury, England, where over 5 years Alex progressed from trainee technician through to an electronics test engineer. Whilst testing PCBs for it, he became fascinated by the world famous Quantel Paintbox, triggering an interest in computer graphics and UX design.
1984 – At 3am during a major thunderstorm, Alex’s parent’s home was hit by lightning that destroyed all of his gadgets, including a Sinclair Spectrum. With the insurance payout, Alex purchased a BBC Microcomputer, allowing much more sophisticated software to be developed. So one could say it was an act of God that lead to the formation of Alex’s first company, Tecnation.
1984 – Whilst on holiday in France, Alex wrote a submarine hunter video game on IBM PC to help teach a friend (above) to program. Hard copy of software is to right of the PC above the printer.
1982 – Alex wins International competition to design a computer of the future. The prize of a Sinclair ZX Spectrum was awarded by Sir Clive Sinclair himself, who went on to hire Alex to put together some conceptual industrial and functional design ideas for what became the One Per Desk.
1981 – As a college project, Alex wrote a tank battle game on the Sinclair ZX-81 (above in his Lego case) and received 100% for the work.
1977/8 – Won school photographic competition two years in a row.
During his childhood, Alex spent most of the time outdoors making things, such as go carts (with winter ski attachment!) and even a three story tree house in the depths of the great Penwood. He and his friends would sometimes camp overnight in the tree house before doing battle against the ‘naughty’ boys from the housing estate opposite using hand made cross bows designed and built by Alex.
Various project management tasks covered elsewhere in this bio
As captain of paintball team in Sacramento Valley, California, lead team to two capture the flag victories in 95 degree central valley heat!
Treasurer + Chairman of Newbury Computer Club
School house captain (Alex’s house won in sports that year)
Cox of a rowing four
Alex takes an interest in the following organisations for the reasons given:
Amazon.com – Superb use of hypertext concepts since the day their book store went live all the way through to today. Kindle + Whispersync are a mix of hassle free technology and a predictable consumer friendly business model.
Apple – Highly effective marketing and copy writing. Attention to detail, such as the sound and visual effects that accompany deleting a file or other action in MacOS and Apple’s more recent mobile OSes.
Dyson – Robust design and engineering. Not listed on the stock market, so able to focus on products and staff wellbeing – not share holders.
Greenpeace – Highly effective and apolitical, therefore the only such charity Alex donates to.
John Lewis – Consumer and staff friendly business thanks to good training and profit sharing, and like Dyson, do not have to cater to share holders.
Quora – Fascinating, thought provoking & educational.
Tesla/Space-X/Solar City – Prime example of how engineering lead management leads to ground breaking technology that works reliably after robust iterative development, including exploding rockets.
INTERESTS + HOBBIES
A clean sustainable economy
Aircraft + Aerospace
Blogging, with a focus on fighting dystopia + unnatural toxic social engineering
Building + Flying* radio controlled electric aircraft
Garden Cities + National Infrastructure
Video gaming, with a bias towards Battlefield + Battlezone + Rocket League
Intelligent + Slapstick movies/TV
Inline + Ice hockey
Music theory + Practice (Keyboards)
Photography (Videography only now)
The effects of technology on society
Writing short stories
“Alex has a superb insight into product conception & execution”
– Lowell Fowler (CEO High End Systems, Austin, Texas)
“A unique (spacial) imagination”
– Mr Tabor (Social studies, General Studies, English lecturer and early mentor)
Online portfolio of creative work
Press coverage is extensive and available in company archives
*Unplanned ‘landings’ and disassembly have been known to occur…