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Cybersport hired Limitless to develop new technology so that they could see if it was possible to have online shared participation in fitness and sporting events.
Cybersport approached Limitless in early 1996 to create a proof-of-concept system against a functional specification.
Their idea was to use fitness equipment, such as rowing machines, connected to personal computers. These PCs, in turn, would somehow be organised on an ad-hoc basis over the public Internet, to allow several people to participate in a shared event, such as a rowing race. Cybersport would then provide the focal point for these events, and would offer proper fitness advice and training remotely.
In order to find out if this was technically feasible, Limitless was hired to design and build a proof-of-concept system. This involved the design and development of:
Frank Wales designed the protocol, wrote the graphical Windows client in C++ and the server software in C on Unix.
The full-scale version of Cybersport's online fitness club involved first designing a robust and efficient protocol for co-ordinating several rowing machines connected to PCs via dial-up access to the Internet. Using the lessons learned from the successful proof-of-concept system, the resultant design formed part of a successful patent application for the completed system.
Taking what was learned from the proof-of-concept system, Frank Wales wrote a detailed technical specification for the production Cybersport service. This specification formed a major part of the successful patent application that Cybersport subsequently made, which names Frank as co-inventor.
Limitless built the production racing system, which included designing an Oracle database (to hold member and race information) and a beta test web site.
Frank designed and wrote the server software at the heart of the racing system on Unix, taking into account the need to interoperate with a web site being built on Windows NT. The PC client was developed by a third-party software house with more expertise in Windows, with its data exchange interface based on the specification Frank had written.
The other kind of live testing
Among many tests the system passed was the Internet athletic challenge on BBC television's Tomorrow's World. In this, Olypmic medallist Steve Redgrave used the system to compete over the internet against other rowers in Europe, the United States and New Zealand. As is usual with Tomorrow's World, the show went out live on the BBC's main popular channel, so there were no second chances to get it right if anything went wrong.
We designed and built a web site for the various project companies. We also created three prototypes of the site structure and navigation, to show where functionality and content would be added to the site in the short-, medium- and long-term.
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