My name is Don McKenzie. I am a 78-year-old retired On-Line Electronics Business Owner-CEO, and was a Computer Senior Systems Engineer back in the late 1970s.
I started my own Internet-based Electronics and micro-controller online store (CEO and Founder of Dontronics.com) in 1993 and retired in 2018 at the age of 75. During this time, I pioneered a lot of new Internet concepts such as online payments and helped the Tax Office with the introduction of International tax rulings. I was the second Internet on-line business that was involved in Electronic Kit Design and Development. I was just beaten to the post by my friend Peter Crowcroft (ex-Tasmanian) with DIY-Electronics in Hong Kong. Sadly Peter passed away in 2006.
These days, I am completely involved with Website development for my two daughters, Sharon and Penny.
My connection to Rainbow Vic Australia is fairly deep. My father was born there (also Don McKenzie). My wife Cheryl was born there, as were my two daughters. I was married in Rainbow. I lived and worked in Rainbow for a number of years. My Grand father George McKenzie arrived in town about 1919. He had a steam engine operators license, and drove in the original piles for the Albycutya timber bridge. After that contract expired, he worked at the Rainbow flour mills, as they were steam operated. He then went onto to be a foreman for Tom Ismay, a local building contractor, a position he held for many years.
I worked for my Uncle Joe McKenzie, followed by the Yaapeet Gypsum mines, then C and D McKenzie (my uncle and father ) Don Hope, McKenzie Woodhall and Chapple, McKenzie and Woodhall, then back to Joe.
When first married we lived in the tin shed on the corner of Gray and Taverner Streets Rainbow. We had a chip heater, and a kero fridge. I remember putting in a hot water system that Len Petschel gave us. We had a pan toilet system at the back of the block, right on McKenzie Lane of course. Named after my grand father George. Today, this block is part of the sewerage treatment plant, and the block was originally owned by Jack Johns.
I had numerous jobs when I returned back to Melbourne in 1968.
I'll possibly add to this story as time permits.
1958 - 1961 Taught Ballroom Dancing.
I taught teenage classes of ballroom dancing for Bon Gibbon's Dance Academy in Buckley Street Essendon for 3 years. I even had a few shots at the Victorian State Championships at the Melbourne Town Hall. Never won anything, but gave it a shot.
1964 - McKenzie Woodhall and Chapple Electrical Contractors Rainbow Victoria.
The link below will to take you to the Rainbow Electrician's story of the 1960s, where I played a very prominent part.
1962-1968 - Rainbow Fire Brigade.
Don McKenzie Bottom right. Foreman, and hydrant man. Great memories.
Photo Gavin Brain. 1965
1968 to 1970 - Taxi Driver.
When I came back to Melbourne, I drove taxis on what we called a hungry shift. 5PM to 5AM, 7 days a week. I did that for two years. My wife Cheryl joined the very first bunch of female Taxi Drivers during this time.
1970-1972 - Radio Room Operator.
Having won over the Silver top Taxi Radio room manager, I was invited to join the staff in the radio room. I ended up working three shifts on three different jobs at one stage. Silver Top Taxis in Carlton, Yellow Cabs in South Melbourne, and City Towing in Collingwood. Now there is a long boring story about how we shuffled shifts to make this 24 hour 7 days a week rotation work, but I also managed to drive Taxis in my spare time during this period.
Up until recently, we had a Christmas lunch radio room reunion on a regular basis in the Melbourne.
I now believe I am the last man standing so to speak, so there are no more lunches. 🙁
1976 to 1999 My years with ATL-TAB
For nearly a quarter of a century, I worked for ATL, a company that was the forerunner of the TAB in Victoria. I did this write-up in 2010, but it is a patch work of jottings, and I never really finished it. I would give it 4 out of 10.
I started off as a tote machine floor mechanic and quickly gained the rank of Senior Computer Systems Engineer, responsible for computer operations at the Melbourne Cup for many years. I found Computers straightforward to learn, and after doing an RMIT course, I realised I was teaching the teacher in these pioneering years, so I got the certificate and fled the scene.
I always felt I was working for the Race Club during these years. If the tote went down, the Club suffered. I put them ahead of my Company responsibilities at times. Possibly not a good career move. Plenty of conflict when I had to change a computer power supply on Melbourne Cup day when our system went down right in the middle of heavy betting. A club rep. on one shoulder and a company rep. looking over the other. What did I do? Ask them both to leave (very nicely of course) so I could get back to what I was doing.
I really loved working for the tote in the early years, but things got strained towards the TAB end of my employment, when I just became a number, and they tried to force an inscribed long service Omega $2000 watch on me. Three or four of us thought much the same way, and told them what they could do with their Omega watches. They basically frog marched us into a special presentation just to tick their boxes. This watch now sits in the case and I wear a FitBit.
Not long after that, I found I could double my income with an Internet business, so I told them where to put their job. A bold risk at 56 years of age, but a move I never regretted. I think we got a total of 22 good years out of Dontronics.
1978 - Did Don have the first Personal Computer in Australia?
Many years ago, I set up a page and a challenge, to test if I was the first person in Australia (March 1978) to own what is considered today, A Personal Computer (PC). Check out my findings.
1980 - Computerized Morse Code Generator for the Australian Department Of Communications
I eventually had to tell DOC that I wanted to drop this contract, as the repetitive nature of the input strings really drove me mad. It was around the time they shifted headquarters from Melbourne to Canberra, so I suggested they get some one to re-write the software on a 80286 AT-PC, as the TRS-80 was getting very dated, and I was involved in too many other projects of my own at the time.
1980- 1990s - Wrote many articles in Electronics Australia, Silicon Chip Magazines and many others.
I was involved with several computer user groups, and pioneered many on the internet when it came of age. Just two of them in this image.
To drum up traffic in these days, I held a Dontronics Electronics Logo design contest as follows: First Prize $500USD, Second Prize $250USD, Third Prize $100USD
It was a different world, and I held the cards. Unfortunately everybody caught up with me. The equivalent is eBay these days, and every man and his dog is in the competition.
Here are just some of the boring highlights for technical people:
A few years into the TRS-80, I designed a printer buffer based on the Z80. Printers of the day had no memory, so when you went to print a large document, your PC was completely tied up during the print. PBUFF was a printer buffer that could be configured from 8K to 4Mb of DRAM. Hardware memory interfacing was done with only a single 74LS00 and a 74LS04. The magic was achieved with software and no hardware multiplexing was used. To my knowledge, I am the only person that was able to achieve this result. We actually tested the design with 64Mb of memory, but the printer design world had caught up with me, and it became obsolete.
PBUFF sold over 4000 units world wide, well before the internet was known.
Electronics Australia Magazine Apr-94
Silicon Chip Magazine Oct-89
Australian Electronics Jan-88 (PBUFF memory secrets revealed.)
Australian Electronics Mar-87
This was a development board based on PBUFF, that allowed a fast download of assembled Z80 machine code to the target board. Required no EPROM burning, and started instantly. Similar development systems of the day, started at several hundred dollars.
Reference: Electronics Australia Magazine Apr-94
I recompiled 8080 Tiny Basic into Z80 code, then added the I/O routines to make it tick on my ZLOAD development board. Meant you could write a Basic language program, test it, then burn it into an EPROM when completed.
TRI-colour LED moving message board.
Silicon Chip Magazine Mar-89 Part 1, Silicon Chip Magazine Apr-89 Part 2,
Silicon Chip Magazine May-89 Part 3, Silicon Chip Magazine Jun-89 Part 4
1993 - First On-line Transactions CBA Bank.
After applying to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to be a merchant, we started selling with a manual credit card system in 1993.
I spoke with the CBA about an on-line system, as I had seen some overseas merchants with these facilities. They had no idea what I was talking about at this point. It took maybe another 12 months, and a lot of pushing before we were truly an on-line shopping cart.
We had four different shopping carts over the years, so it was always evolving, as we had to keep ahead of security and software version updates.
2000 - Australian Taxation Office. What are you doing Don?
Australia was about to introduce a new "Goods and Services Tax" (GST) in July of 2000, and I was constantly on the phone to the "Australian Tax Office" trying to get tax rulings clarified for my business.
I told them I was selling software, which is nothing physical. It is basically a file, that is distributed over the internet, and I may be sourcing it in Romania, and selling it in the Antarctic.
Then I may buy physical hardware goods in Hong Kong, and sell them in the UK.
And of course there is a mixture of these goods sent from, or arriving in Australia, that could be either hardware or software, or both.
They had so much trouble understanding the transaction types involved, that we agreed to a meeting at my home in February of 2000, so we could look at the range of transactions that could take place on the internet, and how GST may be applied. They sent out two officers from their GST department.
After a lot of mutual head nodding, and agreement, they went back to the office, and eventually sent me back a copy of the Tax Rulings that would be applied to my business, and what they were moving forward with under the new GST rulings.
Of course, even these rules are still evolving with 10% GST now being applied to some imports. Glad I don't have to keep up with it now.
2018 - Melbourne Cup November 2018
This year will be the last time, as next year they will be using new terminals with a completely new system.
Thanks for the feedback Viv and Mick. Nice to know something I designed 25 years ago, was still being used 19 years after I retired.
See the picture of Donmon in action at the Melbourne Cup 2018. Running under DOS before Windows was ever thought of, and written in 8088 Machine Code. Unbelievable.
2021 - August Covid-19 escape to Darwin.
I consider we have been very lucky this year. While Covid runs rampant in the southern states, we have been lucky enough to escape to the Northern Territory in Australia, where we have a daughter and two grand sons. We managed if for the month of January, and now again in August. Two months out of lock-down. No masks, no social distancing.
Found a Latin-American coffee spot in Mitchell street. that do a really good coffee at a great price.
Yes, I have been dropping weigh, but feeling good. Not sure about going back home to Melbourne right now. We could stay a little longer, but I guess we will have to bite the bullet and hope that things get better down south.