Jim Sloan Steps Back from TAA Productivity Tools
March 17, 2014 Alex Woodie
Jim Sloan, the one-man development dynamo who has been writing IBM i utilities since the days of the System/38, has sold his company, Jim Sloan Inc., to a new group of owners. For now, the former IBMer will stay on as consultant to the new company, which will continue to expand and sell the popular group of utilities.
The new ownership of TAA Tools was announced via a note on the company’s website. Sloan has agreed to stay on as a consultant, but the company has two new owner/developers to help build the product set: David Dykstal and Sue Luebbe.
“It has been a labor of love, but it is now time for me to hang up my keyboard and move on to the next phase of my life,” writes Sloan, who started writing the TAA Tools some 30 years ago. “I think you will like the new owners. They should be able to carry on as before and also bring some new blood and ideas into the product.”
Dykstal has worked for years at IBM‘s lab in Rochester, Minnesota, where most recently he was the team lead and architect for Rational Developer for i (not to mention the only RDi member from Rochester). Dykstal, who is a professed Mac bigot, was has been working on the midrange server for 35 years, going back to the original System/38 and AS/400 systems.
Over the past 30 years, Luebbe has worked at several local Rochester businesses, including SPSS (part of IBM for several years now), Mayo Clinic, and IBM. Her experience includes System i programming, project management, product planning, and client management, according to her bio on the TAA Tools website.
TAA Tools has retained the existing consultants that Sloan relied on. Its support staff consists of Wilson Perez, while president Ellen Wente is new to the company.
The TAA Tools suite has been adopted by thousands of IBM i shops over the years. The roots of the product go back to the 1970s, when Sloan led development of the operating system for the System/38. Sloan wrote small CL and RPG programs to solve small problems that developers and operators faced on a daily schedule. Sloan shared the code for those tools, which were dubbed TAA, during presentations at COMMON. (The TAA site says that the letters don’t mean anything and were just three letters that IBM gave to the tools. We are not sure we believe this, mainly because it is funnier to think it means something.)
Soon after IBM came out with the AS/400 in 1988, the TAA Tools were packaged up into the QUSRTOOL library. While they were packaged and shipped by IBM, the TAA Tools remained outside of the normal development cycle at Rochester, providing developers more agility and responsiveness.
When Sloan retired from IBM in 1991, he kept developing TAA Tools for the QUSRTOOL library under his new company, Jim Sloan Inc. A few years later, Sloan signed a contract that allowed him to sell his version of the tools, called TAA Productivity Tools, which included all the QUSRTOOL tools as well as the newer TAA tools. When Sloan’s business partner, Al Barsa, passed away in 2008, Barsa’s widow, Sue, worked on the distribution side of the business.
The owners of the new company, TAA Tools Inc, have a solid base of functionality to work from, considering the toolset today contains 1,900 tools and more 2,500 plus commands. The last batch of new functionality was delivered in October 2013, when more than 30 new tools and commands were added.
The new company says it will continue support for the existing tools, honor all maintenance agreements, and update the tools for future releases of the IBM i operating system. “We look forward to adding new tools on a regular basis as Jim Sloan has done,” the new owners say. “Over the years, Jim has built a great product with a loyal following and we intend to continue to build on this excellent foundation. TAA Tools Inc. is committed to a smooth transition.”
Sloan wrote a farewell to customers. “Thank you for being my customer, for the ideas and encouragement you gave me, and for your patience while I was fixing something. It has been a pleasure to serve you.”