Paul Rennie says he never imagined, when he started out in his original trade, that he would one day enter the world of technology.
It has been almost a lifetime since his humble beginning as a carpenter, and this IT veteran has seen it all, with roots in computer assisted drafting.
Rennie lives in Ngahare on the South Island’s West Coast. He started out working with his hands, but got introduced to IT with an early computer system used to store roof-truss deisgns, a technology that was transforming the manufacturing process of pre-framed timber houses.
Decades later, Rennie runs his Camkyl Computer Service from home, a general IT business with a focus on setting up new PCs.
“I’ve got enough to keep me going," he says.
Rennie apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner in 1961. A decade later, Rennie says he worked for a factory that built aluminium windows and trusses.
"They brought in two computers, and wrote the software and because I was on the floor, I was the guinea pig, designing and manufacturing trusses with this brand new programme," he says. "This thing had two five-and-a-quarter inch drives and a four-inch screen. It was like a sewing machine. They were way ahead of their time. I did a couple of courses at night school, but I had to give that up because the computer I was using was far ahead of what the school was doing.”
But Rennie's experience put him in a good position.
“By 1986, I’d had a lot of enquiries about computers, so I decided to set up a separate company dealing with them," he says. "My first clients were from the building trade, who saw what I was doing with the computer, and the only other people who had computers at that time were banks. So we had plumbers and electricians and we set up early accounting programs and spreadsheets.”
Business grew, and Rennie opened an office in Greymouth central, where he worked from until last year. Today, Rennie works from home, 20 minutes north of Greymouth, where he concentrates on sales support and service.
Rennie says the key to keeping his geographically dispersed, and "fairly loyal database of customers" happy is to take the worry away from them.
“Every new machine that I sell always goes out fully set up. I don’t sell boxes," he says. "All my clients get a machine...and whatever requirements completely installed and ready to go. That way I know I can cover the support because I know everything that’s gone on with that machine after it leaves here."
Mose of Rennie's work is migrating applications and data from old to new machines.
Rennie prefers to deal with Dove Electronics for a majority of his customers’ needs. “Most of my main stock comes from them and the other supplier I use is JDI in Auckland. Most of my machines are built for me 90 percent. I order exactly what I want.”
He says an i5 is his favourite machine at the moment. “With a minimum of 500 GB and a really good power supply. We have a lot of fluctuation in power.”
Rennie says the bulk of his laptop sales are HP with a few Asus and Acer. His supply of Acer machines comes through Dove electronics and the preferred accounting software is Infusion and NZAGold.
Rennie sells a lot of machines destined for accounting but still keeps a keen knowledge of CAD software and the machines that can run it, but he says one of his biggest sellers is the anti virus program Nod32. “That keeps me ticking along. I think I’ve done three renews today already."
He says the progress of IT is not always synchronised. “The machines are getting faster and faster, and the software, when you’re talking about Windows 8, it’s fine for home users but the businesses don’t like it. I've got a lot of clients who don’t want to go to Windows 8, they’re sticking with Windows 7 Pro or even XP.”
On a personal note Rennie is a keen cook with baking as his speciality. He’s also the reporter and scorer at the Grey Valley Swimming Pool. Meanwhile he says you can’t beat a West Coast pub for a good after work Friday drink. “Oh they’re brilliant. We have a fine selection of local hotels around the area. My local is about half a click up the road.”