Have You Wondered How SDM Began?

SDM Foundation opened their doors in 2016. Have you wondered how SDM began and who Stuart McIntosh is? Read on!

How SDM Began

2006 – The Plan

Stuart McIntosh and Kristin Thorp worked together from 1984 until Stuart’s death in 2015. Due to their age difference, in the early 2000s they began brainstorming about what the future might look like. Stuart wanted some aspect of their work together to continue, and the idea of a nonprofit foundation was born.

2015 – The Start

Upon the death of Stuart McIntosh, a trust was created with the mission of helping non technical people to use technology. It then took a full year to settle the estate, and to file for and receive 501(c)(3) status. Once that was complete, it was just a matter of getting started.

2016 – The Year SDM Began

Kristin, as the Executive Director of SDM Foundation, had spent many hours conceiving of a plan for ways to deliver this mission. There were several guiding ideas that she knew Stuart would have shared with her.

  • Meet people one on one and in small groups as much as possible
  • Feel like a local resource that would not be intimidating
  • Help a diverse group of people from all ages and economic groups
  • Focus on patience
  • Teach people what they wanted to learn, not what you thought they should learn
  • Trained staff who are paid appropriately

Kristin has lived in Melrose since 1990, where she and her family have established deep roots. In addition, it is a great location that is easily accessible for people North of Boston, and with both MBTA bus lines and the Orange Line, it is accessible via mass transit. Stuart lived in Cambridge, but did not have a connection to the neighborhood in the same way. So the SDM organization started looking for a storefront in Melrose for their shop. As many people might guess, there were not many to choose from, and when 465 Main St became available we jumped on it. 

It took until July to get into and update the shop, and on July 11, 2016, SDM opened their doors. We had three employees and we were open from 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday. Within a few weeks, with the help of a couple articles in the local papers, we started to get busy. We have never looked back!

Later in 2016 the structure of SDM Foundation was changed from a trust to a corporation, adding a wonderful board of directors to help support the mission. 

2021 – Our new shop

SDM Foundation moved from 465 Main St to 406 Main St, enlarging our footprint. We are starting to envision all the positive changes possible as we are able to fully utilize our space. We will stay grounded in our mission of helping people learn to use technology in ways that help them accomplish their goals and dreams.

Evening picture of 406 Main St
Raj Das – ED Photography 2021

Now that you know how SDM began, who was the man behind it all?

Who Was Stuart Donald McIntosh?

The Beginning of the man who began SDM Foundation

Stuart was born in Glasgow Scotland in 1921. His father sold insurance and was a city counselor, and his mother was a seamstress. He was very bright, and excelled in school.

Both of Stuart’s parents passed away when he was still young, and he lived for several years with an older Aunt and Uncle. He stepped into his dad’s job of selling insurance, which he continued until he went to Glasgow University.

After the war, Stuart lived in several places, including South Africa, where he focused on the design and printing of business forms and Kardex systems.

It was during this time that his belief that business people should have more control over their data really took shape. Instead of fitting their business into forms that already existed, forms should be designed specifically for each business and should fit into the business practices. 

(Side note: If you haven’t ever seen a Kardex system, check out this Wikipedia article. We have several of his Kardex materials here at the shop as well.)

Stuart didn’t have siblings, and his only family were distant cousins who were much older than he was, but he had a couple of very good friends who filled that spot. Ranee and Barrie, and their daughter Jean were like family to Stuart and they lived together on and off over the years.

Computing

As the 1960s came along, Stuart could see that computers were going to be the future, and he got a job at the Stanford Research Institute in Berkeley California and moved to the US. The job didn’t pay well, and he lived at the YMCA and ate sparingly for quite some time, but he was also involved in cutting edge computing.

He met and worked with people like Doug Englebart, and even met Joan Biaz while he was out there. Eventually he moved to Cambridge for a job with MIT, where he continued to work on data base management systems. The software they created was called ADMINS and it was used to process various data sets such as census data and municipality financial data.

After several years at MIT, Stuart and his business partner, a graduate student, took Admins private and created a company, ADMINS, Inc.  ADMINS was used at the Boston Public Library and several large New York banks, but eventually they focussed on developing financial systems for cities and towns. Their niche was programming systems that financial officers could keep up and modify, without relying on an IT department. The software ran on minicomputers, specifically Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11 and later VAX. At the time it was called a 4GL, or a 4th generation programming language.

Business Focus

Even as ADMINS grew, Stuart’s main interest was in helping business people specify what they needed their computing system to do. His internal research project was called ADAAPS and was a series of digital forms and reports that walked a business person through this requirements definition stage, resulting in executable code that ran on the ADMINS system. This project was not completed by 1987, when Stuart and his partner sold ADMINS Inc and Stuart started to work independently.

The MIT Archive maintains a collection of Stuart’s documents. You can access a list of the documents by following this link to Stuart D. McIntosh in the MIT Archive.  

After Admins Inc

In 1987, our development work continued on a Mac II with a black and white monitor. At the time, this seemed wildly high tech. The computing landscape changed many times in the next 30 years. None of these changes could have been anticipated.

The Internet was only available to the businesses, governments and educational institutions that were its backbone.  When AOL came along in 1985, the Internet was suddenly available to anyone. There was no World Wide Web. Although it technically started in 1989, it took years to become recognizable as the precursor to what we see now.

Most of the early information had to be accessed through Usenet News Groups and via FTP file sharing. But it wasn’t long before the web took hold and the world changed again. In the early days, Stuart might have been the only individual member of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).

Over the years Stuart’s designs incorporated all of the SGML and XML based standards. His work explored object orientation through the OMG (no not that OMG, this was the Object Management Group), and used Apple’s HyperCard programming language. It was a varied and interesting research project!

Stuart used his own medical experiences to develop medical records. The focus was on an individual being able to use to keep track of their various experiences over time. These endeavors did not result in software products that were commercially available, but they were cutting edge in their own way.

When not Working

Stuart had a full life. He lived to the age of 93. Stuart lived in the Central Square/Inman Square area of Cambridge for nearly 50 years. He walked the neighborhoods and squares every day. He also enjoyed staying at his home on Nantucket, and he shared that love with his friends. Ed often took him back and forth to the Island which allowed him to keep traveling into his 90’s. 

He continued to work, in a fashion, all his life. Toward the end, he really enjoyed using Google Maps. We explored his old Glasgow neighborhoods and “traveled” up to Inverness to “see” places he remembered.

The gift of SDM Foundation is now being enjoyed by many more people than he might have guessed. We are confident that he would be proud of the direction SDM Foundation has taken. And we enjoy telling the story to anyone who wondered how SDM began

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