John Medcalf grew up in New Jersey without an easily discernable Jersey accent. As the winner of several state and multi-state mathematics competitions he was able to attend Harvard and get an AB degree in mathematics. Although studies were fascinating, the industrial world was delivering an even more fascinating opportunity. This world was showing IBM that Thomas Watson’s alleged prediction that the world would only ever need five computers was wrong.
The need for programming in 1962 was already outstripping the resources. Mr. Medcalf was able to find employment in oceanography, warehouse controls, nuclear waste monitoring, compilers, over the phone electrocardiograms, computer chip fabrication, nuclear medicine, and punch card ballot counting. This last employment led to him re-writing the then popular EL80 mainframe ballot counting program for a mini-computer. Coming out of this project he purchased the rights to the program from Computer Election Systems and founded his company, VOTEC.
VOTEC has been a mainstay in the election technology market for 40 years. The company has developed innovative products throughout that period. Mr. Medcalf believes in the Steve Job approach – find something people will want even though they don’t know it yet. As Henry Ford is reputed to have said: “If I asked people what improvement they wanted in transportation they would have told me ‘faster horses’.”.
Mr. Medcalf believes the primary reasons for his success are:
- Empathizing with all user frustrations
- Knowing many ways to address them – first among them being simplicity
Of course, part of what leads to leaps in technology such as Henry Ford’s is the hard work it takes to take a leap. VOTEC’s WelcomeVoter Kiosk is such a leap, partly because of the work of Doug Towne and people he has connected VOTEC with. Providing a kiosk approach to voter check-in was a no brainer for Mr. Medcalf because it was obviously more inclusive of the voter.
Mr. Towne and some of his colleagues have shown VOTEC how the kiosk format can offer almost complete accessibility when the touch screen is programmed appropriately.
Mr. Medcalf is proud to call Doug Towne a friend and an inspiration to deliver inclusive technology. He looks forward to supporting Access Ready in its mission.