Hi everyone, let’s start a cycle of interviews of the main characters that operate or have worked in the world of QL.
Today we have with us Jochen Merz, a character who really does not need any presentation since it has for thirty years been one of the main points of reference of our environment.
GG: Hi Jochen, welcome and thank you for accepting our interview. All QL users know very well your name and your work in the QL world but would like to know something about Jochen Merz, the man.
Can you tell us something about you, like your age, your job, or whatever you want to share with us?
JM: Hi Giorgio, well, I’m 51 now, still self-employed and do all sorts of things, mainly handle support for some local companies or lawyers (PCs, network, telephones, VoIP etc.). I also sell model train stuff on Ebay – kind of turn the hobby into part of the job. Which does not leave much time for actually building a model train wonderland myself … maybe in 20 years, still collecting…
Still very much into riding roller coasters – one of the other things which I loved “to do” when visiting the US.
And still too much migraine, which, unfortunately, has a lot of impact on my time and health situation in general.
GG: How did your first “meeting” with Sinclair QL? how old were you?
JM: I started with the ZX80, ZX81, ZX Spectrum, and when the QL was announced I knew I had to have it. I cannot remember where I actually bought my first QL from, but I remember well than, when I got it, it immediately turned into my main interest. I must have been 18 or 19 years old at that time.
GG: What were your first jobs on this platform?
JM: Again, I cannot remember exactly but I think one of the first things I did was programming GigaChrome for ABC-Electronis in Bielefeld. I really liked doing this, as it used the ABC-Mouse. It was really enjoyable, and the fill algorithm I used for this program was one of the harder things to program. At this time, I also programmed some games, but I don’t really know the order, which came first.
GG: The German QL community has always been one of the most active, second only to the English one.
What did you remember about that time, were you in many? Was there any kind of organizational structure? As were “the environment” and “the atmosphere”.
JM: There has been the German QL Club … at some time several thousand members. For a while, I was part of the editorial team. But all this is very very long ago. It started nice, but when it got larger, all the
“usual” problems appeared, legal stuff got more problematic and money disappeared. There was trouble when the head of the club changed …
but I don’t remember any details anymore.
GG: Do you remember some anecdotes (maybe funny or curious) in particular?
JM: There have been som many trips I did together with friends to the UK and to many other countries. There are several trips I will never forget, but one of them was a trip to Croatia in deepest winter. Tony Firshman and Roy Wood came to pick me up (after Tony’s car had been hit in Belgium by a lorry on black ice, losing the left mirror). We carried on to pick up Marcel and drove to Croatia. Well, partially slid, as Tony did not have any winter tyres. It was rather dangerous (and thinking about it, very stupid). And on the way back the was another accident, which damaged a tyre. Needsless to say, next to no customers there, not only because of the weather situation … but an “experience”.
Trips to Sweden, many to the US, even more to the UK were great as well – mainly because it was a nice social event most of the time and we met many friends.
GG: What was the most beautiful (or important) moment of your QL life?
JM: When my first QL started to work and showed its first screen on the TV.
GG: Can you tell us what configurations you used?
JM: Plain QL first, later SuperQBoard … then ATARI with QL emulator.
GG: Do you still use QL today? With what configuration?
JM: QPC. Every day.
GG: As a developer, you are known as one of the major retailers. I imagine that today’s activity is extremely reduced, with the small number of active users remaining, what can you tell us about it.
JM: Not very much, I’m afraid. After I gave up QL Today some years ago, I half way dropped out of taking notice of what’s going on.
It’s a time issue. I really miss programming, and I also miss QL Today.
GG: Today the situation is very different, hardware development has stopped for more than 10 years in favor of emulation; The number of users has dropped drastically, although the world of QL is still alive, the operating system is still being developed, in practice QL does not want to die or become a reminder.
What advice would you give the QL community to help survive?
JM: Can’t think of any. If I had had one a long time ago, I’d taken the opportunity to keep it more alive. However, I feel that QPC has been most important to keep it going for such a long time. As I said: I still use it myself every day for my daily work.
GG: You said you use QL every day for your work. Can you tell us something more? For example what software you use, and what you use them for.
JM: Yes, I use the Accounting/Management program every day which I started to write in 1987 and updated it whenever it was necessary.
Written in SBASIC, it does many things for me: it converts currencies for me block-wise so that they are ready-formatted to be used somewhere else. It fills all sorts of forms for printing for me (address labels etc.). I use it to write invoices. I also use it to process all sorts of Ebay orders (I sell model train stuff on ebay, commercially).
GG: What are the three programs that the QL does not have and which would you need more?
JM: As I use QPC on a PC, there’s more or less all I need to have available.
I think a browser and an email client would be two of the most important things for a stand-alone QL, but as these two have become so complex over the years, I doubt very much that it would be possible, let alone feasible.
GG: Jochen I thank you very much for your availability, our blog is always at your disposal and you are always welcome.
JM: And I thank you, Giorgio, for this interesting chat interview which brought back some great memories related to the QL.
In general, a great time which played part for many years in my life, which I wouldn’t want to miss – together with the friends I made during this time.