Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    We may not have huge high tech companies here, but there's still a whole lot goin'on

    by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #358 September 3, 1996   High Tech Office  column

    Vancouver doesn't have the big motion-picture studios, but increasingly, movies and television shows are being filmed here, taking advantage of a skilled workforce and a cheap Canadian dollar. Similarly, we don't have the software megacompanies, like nearby Seattle or the towns of Silicon Valley, but smaller high tech companies here are finding projects to keep themselves busy, and, hopefully, profitable. Here are a few of them.

    * I've been watching with interest as manufacturers bring out products that can be added onto PCs via the printer port, giving users of that computer platform some of the simplicity that has long been available to Macintosh users. Mindflight has been deeply involved in this useful technology, and is now producing a range of products including CD-ROMs with integrated sound card and speaker, and backup tape drives. (

    * Even prior to the release of Microsoft's next generation NT 4.0 operating system, North Vancouver's Pivotal Software ( has upgraded its Pivotal Relationship software to work with that new software, along with the current Windows 95. Pivotal Relationship is designed to manage customer relationships and interactions, and to go beyond typical contact-management software. Everyone who works with a customer has access to a single database, recording all interactions, enterprise-wide. It's designed to be easily customizable: Pivotal even offers plug-in modules for specific industries.

    * Also for Windows 95 or NT, DSI Datotech Systems ( has developed and patented a "gesture-based software interface" called DatO Gesture, which is a wireless touch-sensitive device that can replace mouse, joystick, and keyboard with a single, pocket-sized control pad.

    * Like DSI, Maple Ridge's NTS Computer Systems ( is publicly traded. It started off selling portable computer tables to schools, primarily in the U.S., but added a line of affordable word processors called "Dream Writers" to give education purchasers something to put on their tables. $10,000 can give a school a full classroom system, complete with 30 word processors and storage.

    Many local companies are focusing their attention on the Internet boom.

    * Vancouver-designed Net Nanny software is emerging as one of the best-regarded solutions to controlling children's access to the Internet. On August 10th, the software was awarded the Outstanding Special Purpose Application Award at this year's John C. Dvorak Awards for Telecommunications Excellence ceremony in San Francisco. Check it out at The company is also working on a product called BioPassword, which adds to a user's log-on password information about how that user types, making it much more difficult for unauthorized users to access your network's information.

    * The on-line BC Yellow Pages (http:// is proving to be a useful information source for local businesses. Its developers, BBDO of Vancouver and Dominion Directory Company, claim it has become the most visited Internet site in B.C. by offering complete B.C. business listings as well as additional content ranging from stock market news to movie reviews and horoscopes to local community events.

    * Across the water in Victoria, UWI Unisoft ( has released UWI Masque Universal Forms Viewer, a customizable collection of common business forms which can be placed on a business's Web site, allowing customers to fill in information on-line, or over an internal corporate Intranet.

    * Similarly, Made by Magik Productions (http://www. offers software enabling businesses to create catalogues on-line. Browsers can search the catalogues by keywords, placing their finds in a virtual shopping basket, and proceed to an electronic checkout counter.

    * Even venerable Maximizer, a well-known made-in-Vancouver contact-management program, has added Internet links. The new version is referred to as "ver 3.0is" ("is" stands for Internet-savvy). It includes hooks to the Eagle on-line database (at, with information on 10 million North American businesses. Maximizer users may also want to check out Enterprise Automation Group's TeamMate family of Maximizer enhancers: Bridge and Comm Bridge links Maximizer with standard ODBC database information, including spreadsheets and accounting information, while Comm links the contact manager with fax and word processing software. (Contact them at 664-7573.)

    * Thinking of investing in derivatives, but afraid of the aura of mystery surrounding such esoteric investments? Surrey's Glassco Park ( has software, FinancialCAD, and an Internet site devoted to offering tools to help tame this wild beast.

    * While on the Web, take a break from all this serious business stuff and be sure to check out, Multimedia Entertainment's Cyber-Chicken site. This local company is demonstrating what it claims is the Web's first talking comic strip, and has gathered over a million hits in its first three months on-line.

    Maybe not yet Silicon Valley North, but lots of local activity, and well worth watching.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan