The man behind WP Forks


I created the WP Forks website to enable me to objectively review forks of WordPress that kept and improved on the classic version. I chose to remain anonymous to ensure that objectivity. But being treated as if I do not understand what is going on is getting to me. So I thought I would give you some idea of who I am.

I spent 20 years in the Australian Air Force (RAAF) from 1971 -1991 as an avionics technician. My first posting was in 1973, to the F-111 squadron of 24 aircraft. I was assigned to work directly with a sergeant, and the two of us looked after the mainframe computer that ran 10 test stations, which repaired all the different types of avionics equipment.

Test Station
One of the 10 test stations

In those days, televisions and even some car radios still used valves. Transistors were fairly new on the market. The F-111 equipment used integrated circuits, things that you couldn’t even buy in stores at that time.

While I am not up to speed on all the programming languages used in web development today, in 1973 that was not the case and I was very much at the cutting edge of technology.

The mainframe computer fed information to the test stations via two Ampex magnetic tape units. The software was loaded from punch tape purchased directly from General Dynamics through the USAF.

The code was in Fortran and in the form of holes in the tape. A hole was a “0” and the lack of a hole was a “1”. Each line of code was a 24-bit word. Very often there were programming errors on the tape and it cost many thousands of dollars to get patches made.

The Cenpac mainframe

We had “tech reps” from General Dynamics who were there to support us if we had problems. But they had no real hands on skills or any sense of adventure.

Between us, my sergeant and I managed to decode the software on the punch tape and narrow down the errors to each individual word, or “bunch of holes”.

We put masking tape over holes to turn 0’s into 1’s and used a centre punch to make 0’s where there was a 1 (no hole). One word at a time, we made our own software patches, saving the RAAF tens of thousands of dollars.

The tech reps couldn’t believe what we were doing and were in utter amazement. We went even further and wrote our own software to run our own tests, punching in each line of code by setting 24 switches to either on or off ( 1 or 0) and pressing the clock button to enter it, one word at a time.

I spent eight years with the F-111’s and it firmly entrenched the computer bug into my blood. Over the years since, I have learnt many other languages and moved on to making websites. At 66 years of age, I am now in retirement and too long in the tooth to learn new languages.

So, while I might not know the latest techniques, I certainly know where they came from. I can hold my own hacking PHP, CSS or HTML, but that’s about my limit when it comes to programming now. I have had my life, it’s up to the next generation to move things forward.

With age comes experience, and if you’re lucky, a little wisdom. I follow what is going on with WordPress, ClassicPress, calmPress and read posts in various places, including forums. I evaluate what I see and read, through the eyes of an oldtimer, and make allowances for the over-enthusiasm of younger people.

I can totally understand how much time and effort goes into the coding of a WP fork, and having run my own business, understand the difficulty of marketing and dealing with difficult customers. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m not an idiot who is writing articles without any idea of what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, I have a habit of saying things people don’t want to hear. Very often, my thoughts don’t come across the way I intended and I have to take a step back to see where I may have gone wrong. I also don’t have a very thick skin, which means I don’t say, or retract what I have said, to keep the peace.

Some people may think I am trying to discredit or undermine what ClassicPress or calmPress are trying to achieve. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am right behind what they are doing and use both on my sites. I even have the Alpha version of calmPress on one.

There will be times when people call me out on something I post here or on Twitter and, if necessary, I will modify what I’ve said. But I feel it is important to let users know what I am seeing, good or bad. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. The main thing is to be able to own our mistakes and take responsibility for them. That applies to both myself and the fork teams.

Taking on the responsibility of maintaining a fork is no small undertaking, and I don’t for one minute want to take away any of what that implies. So please give this old man a bit of leeway, and don’t assume I’m a total nut job. My father’s name was Frank, and he used to say, “Frank by name, frank by nature”. I seem to have inherited the same trait.

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