Meet the Silicon Samurai

John McCormick's new column will look at emerging technologies, ways to expand a business, dealing with clients, hiring, and many more aspects of the IT consulting landscape.

New column, new republic, same old problems.

The Silicon Samurai will look at a variety of topics that should interest consultants in very small, especially one-person, shops as well as managers in larger consulting firms that may have dozens of staff members.

I'll be looking at emerging technologies and how you can integrate them into your present business, how to expand your business the right way, deal with clients, hire workers, size up potential clients—in short, just about every aspect of the consulting business.

Consulting and writing go hand in hand
To start off, I think I should introduce myself.

First, why Silicon Samurai? The silicon part should be obvious enough, and a samurai—more properly ronin—is the Japanese equivalent of the old Swiss mercenary who was called a Free-Lance. Essentially, I'm a hired gun.

Today, I work as a consultant and a writer, both as a freelancer. The two businesses fit together extremely well because I can write about what happens when I'm consulting, and when I'm consulting, I can make use of the latest technology information I report on in print.

I wrote my first computer program in 1963, in machine language, for an IBM 1401. It was short and simple, but it ran. By 1965, I was regularly writing COBOL and FORTRAN programs.

By 1971, I was the purchasing agent and a supervisor at a mainframe service bureau owned by Wang Labs.

I've been writing about computers since 1980. My very first review for Byte—in which I benchmarked OCRs—is listed in Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. My first book, published in 1990, covered all aspects of optical storage technology.

I also have special expertise in technology for disabled workers. I worked with Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab on a national search for new technology for the disabled, and I authored Computers and the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Manager's Guide to Adaptive Office Technology (Windcrest, 1993).

Altogether, I’ve written about 15,500 articles, columns, reviews, tutorials, and buyer's guides along with five books.

My consulting work has involved very small, one-person businesses, local government agencies, large nonprofit organizations, and some midsize companies. The work has included advising on large system purchases and contracts with resellers much larger than my own operation, reselling hardware and software, Web development, designing security systems, financial advice, configuring and installing systems, support and training, and a limited amount of custom software design.

I also have considerable experience in government procurement from the government side and for many years covered barcode and RF technologies for ID Systems. And, if you've read my Locksmith column in, you might already know that I also own and operate a small cattle and sheep ranch.

Let me hear from you
I hope you'll find that my variety of experience as well as my length of service in the computer field give me a certain understanding of many of the problems faced by other consultants every day and that you will benefit from this column.

Feedback is welcome because that's the only way I can tell if I am covering topics you find both interesting and helpful.

Because of the vast differences in the size of various consulting operations and the wide variety of clients and client problems they deal with, it's unlikely that every column will interest every reader. However, I hope you’ll keep checking back and, if I don't hit a topic that interests you in the first half-dozen issues, that you’ll let me know what your specific problems are. You may think they are unique, but I bet a lot of other people have similar problems, too. If you’ve found a unique or just interesting solution to some problem, I hope you'll share that as well.
If you have a question or suggestion for John McCormick, e-mail him at If you have a general comment, e-mail TechRepublic.

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