Umajin – the digital engine for creativity

Growing up in a small town in New Zealand I had the amazing experience of two parents who are both inspiring creative teachers. They embraced letterpress printmaking – using 200 year old printing presses as a way of helping students through storytelling by sharing their own ideas, writing and illustration.

John and boys with printing

I’m fascinated by the increasing pace of change in the ongoing information revolution. It starts with oral stories and songs moving to writing numbers ~9000 years ago, the first written symbols ~6000 years ago and then alphabets ~3000 years ago. Publishing began with letterpress and moveable type in the 1400’s, to movies and offset printing in the 1900’s, TV/video in the 1940’s, desktop publishing and spreadsheets in the 1980’s through to the internet in the 1990’s.


At the core of previous stages in the information revolution has been publishing material to broad communities, getting ideas, music and entertainment out there. What I believe sets this stage apart is the ease of adding interaction, the concept of play, of finding utility or enjoyment through ideas, content and experimentation. Moving from consumption to interaction.

I love creating physical things, from a very young age I was also fascinated with electronics and computers. My journey writing apps began at age five with my first commercial contract before I started high school.


I started UR/umajin while at university and after dealing with the limitations of the early web began developing Umajin as an internet based apps platform. We used this to run a export business out of NZ that delivered important software for companies like Dell, Intel, HP and Sony.

Umajin is a platform that enables anyone to create and share amazing digital experiences without having to manage the technical details that make that possible. It is the expression of a huge amount of learning and experience.


Under the hood Umajin is also a very interesting proposition for developers. It makes it possible to create and package up new capabilities and interactions for everyone else to reuse.


Inspirational software moments

Doug Engelbart : the Mother of all demos : Wow

Steve Vickers : ZX81 Basic : My first programming language

Dennis Ritchie C : a general-purpose computer programming language

Bjarne Stroustrup C++ : Highly performant language that supports OOP

Alan Kay, Adele Goldberg, Dan Ingalls, Ted Kaehler : Smalltalk : OOP language for human computer symbiosis

Bill Atkins : Hypercard : Hypermedia for content + creativity

Alan Cooper, Mark Merker, Gary Kratkin, Mike Geary, Frank Raab : Visual Basic : UX and rapid application development

Will Wright, Jeff Braun : Sim city and the Sims : Creativity and play for everyone

John Gay : Futuresplash : Flash animation and interaction for the web

John Warnock : Adobe Postscript

Donald Knuth : LaTeX

Maxim Shemanarev : Antigrain Geometry

Jim Clark, Mark Hannah : OpenGL

Gordon Romney, Ed Catmull, Jim Blinn : Polygons and shaders

Dan Bricklin, Bob Frankston : VisiCalc : Rapid prototyping and simulation

Cecil Wayne Ratliff : dBase : declarative database management

Paul Brainerd : Pagemaker : Desktop Publishing

Dan Silva : Deluxe Paint : Bitmap editing

Marty Cooper : Communications & Cellphones : The Law of Spectral Efficiency

James Baker, Janet Baker : Dragon : Voice recognition

Mary Lou Jespin : One Laptop Per Child architecture : Computing infrastructure for the world

Brad Schell, Joe Esch : Sketchup : 3D modelling made easy

Walter Bright, Andrei Alexandrescu : Dlang : A dynamic language – but compiled and safe

Roberto Ierusalimschy, Waldemar Celes, Luiz Henrique de Figueiredo : Lua : Echos of scheme, a powerful, simple syntax, interpreted scripting langauge