Born August 2, 1952, Abilene, TX
Died April 24, 2003, University of Chicago
3 May 2003— The Helix world has lost another “keeper of the flame.” Many of the current users have probably never heard of David Harmon, but his name can be found in all the secret Helix “Easter Eggs,” always at the top under the words “Created by.” Along with Daniel Cheifetz, Jonathan Schneider and Larry Atkin, he nursed this thing we all know and love to life.
I had the good fortune to get to know David while I was in Northbrook working with Odesta on the “Helix Tracker” project in 1990 and 1991. David is responsible for my learning how to draw three-dimensional looking user-friendly interfaces with really simple graphic programs. Using a subtle trick, David could do what Photoshop would eventually learn how to do using nothing more sophisticated than MacPaint. As I was soon to learn, however, this was just one of a zillion magic tricks David had up his sleeve.
David Lee Harmon was born in Abilene, Texas on August 2, 1952. In 1971, after high school, he moved to the Skokie/Evanston area. He went to work for Bell & Howell in 1972 as an audio and video technician. While working there, he met Patricia Martinak. They were married July 5, 1980.
In 1977 he went to work for Audiosette Corporation as an engineer, and later, in product development. David was a jack-of-all-trades; Audiosette president Daniel Cheifetz’s right-hand-man. It was David who delivered whenever Daniel made impossible promises. When Daniel promised to duplicate a million tape cassettes, David designed and built the equipment to put on the labels so that they could deliver before the deadline. When Daniel promised Tandy that he could mass-produce program tapes for the TRS-80 (which nobody in the world could do at that time), David put together a TRS-80, tape production equipment and wave-form generators to actually make the tapes.
In 1983 Audiosette Corp. evolved into Odesta Corp where David worked on product development, and was instrumental in designing user-friendly computer software interfaces. At Odesta, he made sure everything was working. Daniel may have had the corner office, but David had a two-room suite.
For Helix, he made sure that everything that was required for production was there — people, equipment, supplies, disks, manuals, etc., etc., etc. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he also wrote the Helix manual.
In 1992 Odesta broke up into Helix Technologies and Odesta Systems. 1995 Odesta Systems was purchased by Open Text Corp where David became senior design engineer. Most recently David was working with section 508 compliance for software products.
David had boundless curiosity and a life-long passion for the collection and appreciation of “stuff.” Boyhood enthusiasms for comic books, coin and stamp collecting, model trains and magic evolved into teenage pursuits of radio and electronics. Later his interests expanded to include tournament bridge, hi-fidelity audio, stereo photography, music, computers and more. He never really outgrew any of his interests, but like the oyster building a pearl, he kept adding layers of sophistication and cross-referencing to his knowledge of a subject.
Book collecting, also begun in his youth, seemed to coalesce all of David’s other interests, because with books you collect that finest of all wines, human ideas. His love of books is legendary. Word was he had to move out of his ancient farmhouse because there was a danger of the house collapsing due to the weight of the books, so he and Pat had to open a bookstore just to have a place to keep them. David and Pat co-founded and operated Alkahest Bookshop on Central St. in Evanston for 18 years., offering antiquarian, used, and rare books.
He is survived by his wife Patricia Martinak of Riverwoods, IL, daughter Lucy Austin Harmon, son Bram Lee Harmon; mother Lucile Gracy Harmon of Austin, Texas, and brother Chris L. Harmon of Arlington, Texas.
Special thanks to Larry Atkin and Tom Gross and the Harmon Family. We will all miss David.
“He was a quiet person; a person of the written word, with a very subtle sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye.”
— Larry Atkin
“Unusual stuff seemed to find a way to get to Dave.”
— Tom Gross
“If you even casually asked David if he knew anything about a subject, no matter how esoteric, you’d probably find a signed first edition about it under your tree the next Christmas”
— Chris Harmon