Sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. For Dennis Gray, it was health problems. After nearly a decade running Xthree computers in Rotorua, the 58-year-old Gray is preparing to retire to concentrate on promoting computer keyboards he has developed, one stemming from problems he has had with his eyes. Gray will be handing the business over to long-term employee Doug Mitchell. “I’ve been battling prostate cancer for the last three years and now for health reasons I’m moving into semi retirement. I want to full time push the keyboards and I can’t do that and run a computer shop at the same time,” says Gray. Gray says that he is leaving the business in good hands. He calls Mitchell an "absolute top guy" who gets on "well with the clients". "I’ve just come back from an overseas trip and while I was away I decided that this is what I was going to do," Gray says. Gray has developed two products, the second one a Maori language keyboard. The impetus was in the cancer treatment, which started to blur his vision. “I said to myself 'why doesn’t some silly bugger make a keyboard with big letters so you can see them?' So I made the first big-type keyboard with a lighting panel," says Gray. “The big print keyboards have been going well, with the more elderly users that find at night the lighting panel underneath the keys is making it a lot easier for them to see the lettering." Gray says the idea for the Maori keyboard just "clicked" when he realised how difficult standard english keyboards made learning the language. "There wasn’t a keyboard that enabled a one-touch operation to put macrons automatically into a written document," he says. "So I decided that I had to design a keyboard that enabled that to be done. It is so easy to use the language correctly with the keyboard as opposed to having to use software and cut and paste options." Gray hopes the keyboards will make a difference to education and the language. While he has no Maori family and calls himself a Pakeha, Gray says he has a strong respect for Maori values. “I think they have a wonderful aspect of extended family and a wonderful way of sending off people when they die," Gray say. "For the country to grow, we’ve got to educate all New Zealanders better and the only way we can do it is through IT and if you have a keyboard that can use both English and type correctly in Maori off one keyboard it’s an essential part of the educational process.” Gray has been marketing his keyboards while Mitchell has been carrying on with the computer company. Gray started Xthree eight years ago after buying and rebranding the local Hays Computers shop, which had been around for about 20 years. Under Mitchell, the company is being rebranded again Advantech, with specialist skills repairing ipads, iphones, tablets and laptops. “We do small business server installation, sales service, etc as well laptop repairs and the usual guff," Gray says. While Gray says devices and smartphones have made the biggest change to the IT business over the last 30 years, they won’t replace the laptop.
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