It all started because I was a big Apple Mac fan in the mid to late Nineties. Back then Apple were in trouble, rapidly losing market share and churning out a baffling range of beige boxes running what was becoming a dying operating system. The world was walking down the dimly lit Windows path and Jonathan Ive hadn't yet started making Apple trendy. Despite the unpopularity of the platform, I stubbornly stuck to my guns and launched a website c1998 offering Apple support to the masses on my own time under the name of MacMan.

MacMan


This was a short lived venture and I don't remember how much work I did but it can't have been a lot. The above graphic knocked up in ClarisDraw is from when the site was closed and redirected and is about all that remains of MacMan (I can't even remember what the URL was for it - something on Freeserve I think).

When my then employer removed my Quadra 840AV from my desk and replaced it with a Dell Optiplex GXa running Windows NT, I jumped ship and went to work for the University of Warwick to provide IT support to a department that was still Apple based.

Unfortunately, Warwick Uni sucked. The departmental staff network was covered by one tech, the student network by another. Neither wanted me treading on their toes so all I got were the odd shitty scraps they didn't want to touch meaning I spent most of my day with absolutely nothing to do.

Sounds great right - being paid to do nothing?? Wrong. It was mind numbingly boring. I found myself killing time day in, day out. Ten minutes for a cup of tea, twenty minutes to wander around the campus, an hour at lunch, ten minutes for a cup of tea, a five minute dogshit job nobody else wanted, ten minutes for a cup of tea...

The trouble was I had to be seen to be at my desk for the majority of the day even though my boss knew there wasn't enough work to go around. This was 1999 and back then the Internet didn't offer such wonderful diversions as YouTube and Twitter so each day felt like a whole week and a waste of my life as it dragged slowly by. I wasn't learning anything and it wasn't going to help my career so after eight months I jacked it in and returned to Cable and Wireless in a non-IT technical role. I had however used my boring eight months at the University to start building up my own business so that I wouldn't find myself in a similar position again and would always have something to fall back on, as well as providing myself with a learning curve thanks to work I had brought in for myself.

And so SmallNet was born - the idea being to provide simple websites to small businesses.

Actually, the idea was that one day I would be rich and sitting on a yacht with a laptop and mobile phone directing work to a group of lackeys, however as I'm sure most self employed people will attest, that rarely happens!

There were other sideline projects such as computer sales/repairs and even computer rental. Generally there wasn't much work though - at least nothing that generated much cash, but this wasn't an official company, just a means of me testing the water and building up some customer contacts.

SmallNet


SmallNet ran from 1999 to 2000 at smallnet.co.uk. These days someone else has that domain because in 2001 I dropped the idea of knocking up websites (wasn't much good at it anyway), and I left Cable and Wireless to start up the official company of R3UK limited, a.k.a. "Radioactive3".


R3 2001



Why Radioactive3?? Couldn't think of a better name at the time (and I've regretted using such a daft and random choice ever since!) So on 21st March 2001, R3UK Limited was officially live and registered and this website was born (despite the EST 1999 lies quoted in the screenshot above which actually related to the unofficial operations of SmallNet previously).

R3 2002


By 2002 the big silly logo had gone and most of the business involved me sticking my principles up my ass by providing Windows support as that was the platform the business world was using. As my background had been Apple (and more specifically System 7 to OS9), Windows was a learning curve I had to get on top of rather quickly.


R3 2003


By 2003 the 'Radioactive3' moniker was dropped as it was a bit daft and customers were becoming confused between the Radioactive3 operational name and R3UK Limited company name. It's in this incarnation that the Tech Tips section was started with the first article written to detail the disassembly of the stupidly over complicated casing of the Apple Performa 6200. This was written more as an aide memoir for myself as replacing power supplies on this monster was becoming something of a common occurrence. The second article covering repair of the Apple Pro Mouse was listed on MacFixIt shortly afterwards quickly becoming the most popular page on this site at that time which got me thinking that the Tech Tips section was a good way of coaxing people in as well as being a useful reference for myself.

R3 2004


By 2004 the website and the business had gotten more professional. Nigel was now on board -not that he's professional ;-) Still, he knew Linux inside out, I knew legacy Apple inside out and we both had to conform with Windows and occasionally join forces on jobs involving OSX as neither of us were using that much (in fact, Windows was now my primary OS). The website was still HTML based at this point and then Nige started to get clever with a CMS called Mambo...

R3 2005


By 2005 the site was on a Mambo back end. This mock-up isn't quite right - the menu buttons down the left side were different (I think they were rounded) but I've lost the graphic so I've had to fake that bit. Still, this was something of a heyday with plenty of business coming our way.

The trouble is, it was an awful lot of work and wasn't making us rich. We were making a living but working every waking hour. By day there was 9-5 contract work and in the evening we'd do residential call outs or the never ending paperwork for the accounting, marketing, site documentation, etc. There was enough money to keep our heads above water but not enough to outsource or employ further help. At the end of 2005 we pulled the residential support as it had always been a lot of work without much financial reward. Dealing with the public is no fun as the buggers don't want to pay much and their computers are the worst to have to repair as they download and install all kinds of viral crap onto cheap store-brand hardware. The only good bit about the residential work was that getting up to our elbows in a wide variety of hardware, software and support issues all added up to a lot of valuable experience even though most of it was a pain in the arse at the time.

I *never* want to go back to residential IT work!

By the spring of 2006 Nigel and I had both taken permanent jobs in the public sector and we were winding down the business. Taking permanent jobs again was like a breath of fresh air. We were paid for our 9-5 hours with sick pay and pension and when five o'clock came it was time to punch out and go home. No more working all day plus a further five hours in the evening to catch up with paperwork or go and visit some residential loner on a dodgy council estate who wanted us to retrieve his accidentally deleted porn collection but wasn't prepared to pay out for the home visit when presented with the invoice!

Once the commercial side of the business was closed by summer 2006, this website existed only for the Tech Tips. Commercial pages were removed and a new template gave the site a funkier look. By the autumn of 2006 Linux had replaced Windoze as my OS of choice and Mambo had been changed out for Joomla.

R3 2007


The site existed in this guise until February 2008 when Joomla was upgraded on a new hardware platform and the site template was found to be incompatible, hence the change in template to today's site.

And so we continue with the website striding onwards in my private ownership while the company won't make it to a ninth anniversary... well... assuming the accountant actually does close the thing this year! The function of the website remains the same as when the first tech tip was written in 2003 - I put this information here as an aid to myself so I know how I fixed or built something and can quickly access that information from wherever I am via the Internet. Even if this site received no visitors I would continue to contribute to it as I often need to recall the information for myself.

I don't regret running the business as, despite the hard work and odd awkward customer, it was great experience and I got to play in area's I wouldn't have been exposed to as a straight techie such as marketing and accounting. I wouldn't want to go back to it though - better to do a days work on someone else's dollar... or win the Euro Millions and get that yacht for real...

...at least, that's the current plan.