MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2008 (#36)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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148 MacDirectory FEATURE VERNIER SOFTWARE AND TECHNOLOGY> THE ART OF SCIENCE EDUCATION BEAVERTON, Oregon: In 1631, Pierre Vernier, a French mathematician, discovered a way to simplify making extremely precise measurements. The concept and the resulting tool he invented paved the way for the technologies that were essential to the age of exploration as well as the scientific, industrial and technological revolutions in the centuries to follow. In the summer of 1981, Dave Vernier, a young high school physics teacher, started marketing some Apple II software he had developed to simplify the tedious process of logging and graphing the results of lab experiments. He had realized that even though his students enjoyed the labs, the lessons were getting lost in the complexity of organizing the results. Net sales only amounted to about $200 that summer. Now, the Oregon company has nearly a hundred employees and it's nearly impossible to get through a high school science curriculum without seeing the Vernier logo. Its flagship Logger Pro application, hardware interfaces and dozens of sensors have become of a staple of school science labs worldwide. It took a fair amount of time and work for the company to gain its footing, but the business started growing steadily enough for his wife, Christine, to leave her job as a legal assistant and keep the business running year round. Her roles ranged from marketing to accounting and tech support. Even though Vernier started out with software, it was its hardware offerings that enabled the company to thrive. These products started out as a simple interface box that would allow various sensors to be plugged into the computer and recorded by the company's software. At first, Vernier just included instructions on how to build the hardware for the interface and sensors. It was easy, he said, "Just go to Radio Shack and get a few parts." For one teacher, the approach provided a bit of a challenge. As Dave relates the story, "A guy from Montana called and said, 'Hey, the nearest Radio Shack is 120 miles away. Why can't you just sell me the parts?'" So Dave started buying the necessary components from the popular electronics chain (with a 10 percent bulk discount) and selling them with the software. Not long after that, another customer said that he didn't have the time to assemble the device and asked, "Can't you just build these things for me?" That led to Vernier's entry into the hardware market. Understanding the Market In spite of his years as the head of a successful high-tech outfit, Dave Vernier still gives the impression of someone who would be just as comfortable in front of a high school science class. (Succeeding in both realms takes an abundance of energy, dedication and focus.) He and his co- owner/wife are self-described "children of the sixties" and that has been the source of much of the company's direction. WORDS AND IMAGES BY RIC GETTER FOUNDER, DAVE VERNIER AND WIFE CHRISTINE > ABOVE RIGHT: SOLAR PANELS ON THE ROOF OF THE VERNIER BUILDING.

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