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Apr 3, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Demoer and Demoee

In my last Throwback Thursday post, I talked about the development of the very first Tool modules for Accordance 2.0. Although version 2.0 was not yet ready for release in November of 1995, we were planning to offer a preview of all the new features to attendees at the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in Philadelphia. I did not accompany my employers to ETS, since it was a smaller conference and they could manage the booth without me. I flew in to join them for the start of the larger SBL meeting. I had used that extra time at home to whip out a couple more prototype modules, so I arrived at SBL with some Accordance tools to demonstrate which my employers hadn't even seen yet.

Today when we attend a conference, we bring laptops and relatively portable flat-screen monitors. Back in 1995, laptops were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. They were expensive, and they had significant drawbacks such as tiny screens or limited speed compared to desktop computers. Fortunately, airline passengers could check more baggage back then. I had to lug my desktop Mac in one box and my 14-inch CRT monitor in another, along with my suitcase, to the airport and hope it all made it to Philadelphia without getting broken, lost, or stolen. Then I had to schlep all that stuff to the hotel and exhibit hall to get it set up. Once it was all set up, I had to be without my computer for the duration of the show.

At that time, we exhibited Accordance under the auspices of the GRAMCORD Institute, which served as the exclusive distributor of Accordance. Basically, we formed the Macintosh side of the GRAMCORD booth.

I actually found an old photo on the GRAMCORD website of Dr. Rex Koivisto, our associate Greek scholar (right), demonstrating Accordance 2.0 to Frederick Danker (the D in BDAG, center) at that very conference. If you look closely at the background, you can see me seated with my back to the camera, demonstrating Accordance to someone else. This was my very first time demoing Accordance to the public, and it was fun to be able to show scholars and students some of the cool stuff we had been working on.

Today when I demonstrate Accordance at ETS and SBL, I can only show a tiny portion of what Accordance can do. It is therefore rare that we offer a sneak peek at any not-yet-released features. Back then, however, we were the new kid on the block, doing our best to show people Accordance's potential as a Bible study platform. In those early days, we would demonstrate what the current version of Accordance could do, then offer a look at what was coming in the next version.

In the evenings, I got to be part of meetings where we would discuss new feature ideas or new resources we hoped to license, such as the massive Anchor Bible Dictionary. It was all pretty heady stuff for a young kid still in seminary.

One of the most memorable moments of this conference was when I got to tag along to a meeting with a gentleman who had high-resolution atlas data of Israel. As with laptops, such data was far less ubiquitous back then, and this gentleman was looking to establish partnerships to develop computer applications that could utilize his data. This gentleman did not have a booth in the exhibit hall. Instead, he had booked a hotel suite where he was meeting with potential partners. I remember entering his suite and seeing a Silicon Graphics workstation on the desk. Beside it was a large set of goggles. It was in this meeting that I went from the demoer to the demoee. The gentleman handed me the goggles and joked that I should be careful not to drop them, since they cost a substantial amount of money. If I remember correctly, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000. Needless to say, I was very careful not to break them!

Looking through the goggles I saw a three-dimensional image of some portion of Israel. These days I might actually recognize it, but back then it was just an unfamiliar series of hills and valleys. If I remember correctly, it was just a wireframe image, but it was at a resolution that required some serious computing power to generate. Next I was shown a simulated 3D flyover. This was done without the goggles, and I seem to recall that it used actual satellite imagery rather than a mere wireframe. This felt snappier than the wireframe image as well, but that was because it was essentially a pre-rendered animation rather than a 3D image being rendered on the fly. The downside of this was that you couldn't really navigate the flyover to go wherever you wanted; you merely went where the animator had decided to take you.

This was all very cutting-edge stuff, and I must have seemed like a kid in a candy store. Our discussions centered around how we might use this data to provide Mac users with a 3D Bible Atlas. After all, there were far more people with Macs than with graphics workstations. Apple had recently begun incorporating 3D technologies into the Mac operating system, so the possibilities were tantalizing, but we also knew it would be challenging to deliver acceptable 3D performance on a personal computer.

That meeting helped get us thinking about adding an Atlas component to Accordance, but that wouldn't actually happen until Accordance 3.5 was released in July of 1998. I'll tell you the rest of the story behind the Accordance Bible Atlas in a future Throwback Thursday post.

I returned home from that first SBL Conference exhausted but excited about the future of Accordance. At that point I was still only working for Accordance part-time, but I was now officially hooked. I was getting to be a part of the creation of something truly cutting edge, and I had seen how Accordance was changing the lives of its users. Since 1995, I have exhibited Accordance at SBL every year except 1996 (when my second son was born). To this day, I return home from SBL each year both exhausted and excited about the future.

How about you? Were any of you at the 1995 SBL or ETS meetings in Philadelphia? If so, did you stop by for a demo of Accordance?


 

Dec 3, 2013 David Lang

Thankful for my Remarkable Accordance Family

Last week, we brought our largest team ever to the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). While Accordance is based in Orlando, Florida, many key members of the Accordance team—including trainers, developers, marketing personnel, and associate scholars—are scattered across the United States and even throughout the world. These folks all telecommute really effectively, but we decided to use ETS/SBL as a pretext for getting many of them together in one place. For that reason, we actually brought more people to work the conferences than we really thought we would need.

SBL13

I was a little worried that with so many hands on deck, we would have Accordance staff standing around our booth with nothing to do, but the Accordance booth was so consistently busy that boredom was never a problem. I did lots of demos to new Accordance customers, many of whom were Windows users excited about finally having access to Accordance without the need for an emulator. The demos I enjoy the most are the ones where a Ph.D. student comes with a specific research need, or a professor comes with a new class they're preparing to teach, and they want to see if Accordance can help them. When they see what Accordance is capable of, it is not uncommon for their jaws to drop, their eyes to light up, or even for them to laugh involuntarily.

One of my favorite things about working the Accordance booth is the way our team of demonstrators works together to meet people's needs. It is quite common for one of us to begin a demo and then get asked a very specialized question: "Can you show me the new Hebrew Masora Thesaurus?"; "Is there a way to do this search using the MT-LXX Parallel?"; "Can you teach me how to create my own custom maps with the Atlas?" If this question is one that could better be answered by someone else on our team, the demonstrator will not hesitate to ask for help. The scholar with the MT-LXX search had three of us working on his problem before we finally came up with a solution, and he left feeling very well taken care of. The thing I love about this dynamic is the complete lack of ego among our team members. No one is afraid to ask for help. No one is tempted to try to fake their way through a demo. Everyone's focus is on finding the solution the customer needs, and I think people leave our booth knowing we truly care about the work they do.

LittleItaly

On the last night of SBL, our entire team enjoyed a wonderful company dinner at a restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy. After dinner, we each said a few words about how we thought the conferences had gone. As I listened to each person's comments, I was struck by the degree to which each speaker was praising other members of the team—including team members who hadn't come to the conference. When someone mentioned that this year's brochure was really helpful, several people began praising the behind-the-scenes team members who had prepared it. When we discussed the excitement among some scholars over our new Masora Thesaurus, we were told about the remarkable scholar who had produced it, and the incredibly talented developer who had compiled the module. I never cease to be amazed at how quick my coworkers are to praise one another.

A few days later, I was back home with my family enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving. Among the things I'm most thankful for is the fact that I get to work with such amazing people who function more like a family than a mere company.


 

Nov 13, 2012 David Lang

Headed to Milwaukee and Chicago

It's that time of year again! This week the Accordance team will be converging on the cities of Milwaukee and Chicago for the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). While I'll be missing ETS for the first time in many years, I'll head to Chicago later this week to teach an Accordance training seminar and to help out at SBL.

If you'll be at those conferences or in those cities, there are several opportunities to meet Accordance staff and to learn from Accordance experts. Here's a rundown of where we'll be and what we'll be doing:

ETS Conference (Nov. 14-16): Look for us in Exhibit Hall B of the Frontier Airlines Center in Milwaukee. We'll be in booth #238.

Free Training Seminar in Chicago (Nov. 16): On Friday, while the rest of the team is breaking down the ETS booth and driving down to Chicago, I'll be teaching a seminar at Moody Bible Institute. If you're in the Chicago area and would like to attend, we'll be in room 319 of the Sweeting Building from 9 am to 5 pm. As with all our seminars, you're welcome to come and go as your schedule permits. To register for the seminar, e-mail us at seminars(at)accordancebible(dot)com. I hope to see you there.

SBL Conference (Nov. 17-20): You'll find us in Exhibit Hall F2 of the McCormick Place Convention Center’s West Building. We'll be in booth #539. As always, our booth is sure to be both large and extremely active.

The Accordance Booth at SBL 2010

Accordance Reception (Nov. 18): Want to come socialize with us in a more relaxed setting? We'll be hosting a reception in Suite 1879 of the Chicago Hilton from 7:30 to 9:30 pm on Sunday, November 18. Eager young students are finding that this is a great opportunity to network with top scholars—and just think how impressed they'll be that you're already using Accordance!

So there you have it. We have a busy week ahead of us, but it's always fun to put faces to names and help people get the most out of Accordance. If you can join us at any of these events, we look forward to seeing you!


 

Nov 29, 2010 David Lang

"Trusted by Scholars" Is More Than a Slogan

On every page of the Accordance web-site, you'll see the slogan "Designed for Mac. Trusted by Scholars. Right for You." As anyone who visited our booth at the recent annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) can attest, our claim to be "Trusted by Scholars" is anything but marketing hype.

For years now, the Accordance booth at ETS and SBL has been a hotbed of activity. In fact, we now have other exhibitors telling us they request booth space near us because they know we'll draw traffic past their own booths. We always book a large open booth and pack it with demo stations. At SBL we had no less than eight demo stations and three sales stations, yet even that was sometimes not enough to accommodate everyone.

The Accordance Booth at SBL 2010

Why is the Accordance booth always so busy? I think it's because over the years the scholars who attend those conferences have come to trust us to provide them with cutting-edge features and resources found nowhere else. It's not uncommon to have an Accordance user drag a student or colleague into the booth and tell them, "You've got to see this." Neither is it uncommon to have someone sit down for a demo and say, "I've been following you guys for years, but I've finally got a Mac so I know I need to get Accordance." The scholars and students who enter our booth at ETS and SBL don't need to be convinced of their need for Accordance; they come knowing that Accordance will save them time, advance their research, and aid them in their teaching.

"Trusted by Scholars" is more than just a marketing slogan. It's a reputation for excellence among the users whose needs are the most difficult to satisfy. Judging from the activity at this year's ETS and SBL, that trust remains strong, and we're committed to keeping it so.