My name is Tobias Erichsen and I was born and raised in Wolfsburg, Germany. Up to this day I’m still living & working here – though I had some intermediate time to take a look at a few other places in the world as well.
Below you find some info about my life up to this point…
Since early childhood I have developed a keen interest in anything technical. Even when barely able to walk, I started taking things apart (and most of the time I have even been able to put them back together 😉 with my first set of screwdrivers.
As soon as I could read, I consumed vast amounts of books about physics, technology and inventions and countless sciene-fiction-novels from the local city-library.
Early Computers & Music
Some time in 8th grade of junior-highschool I received my first computer (a TI-99/4A) and since that moment I have been pretty sure about what direction a future professional career would go to.
Ever since that time, I have spent many hours every single day devising programs – partly to the disgrace of my parents since they assumed that I would neglect my academic career 😉
At about the same time I have been introduced to diverse kinds of music by the same friend who got me in contact with computers. A keen interest for electronic music developed pretty fast. Bands like Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Yello dominated my musical taste at that time.
Due to my interest in electronical music I started getting keyboard-playing lessons and the desire for my own synthesizer grew. Unfortunately my parents decided to get an electronic organ which was no way cool enough to strive after my musical role models 😉
In math-classes I annoyed my teachers by trying to let them explain me about Fourier-transforms, which I found could be used for doing analysis and synthesis of musical signals. But being in 8th grade, my understanding of calculus and differential equations was not nearly deep enough to really grasp the details (but I also think that this complex topic probably exceeded the capabilities of most of my highschool-teachers as well 😉
Youth Exchange to the US
Fast forward two years: I had applied and been accepted for the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (Parlamentarisches Patenschaft-Programm). So in 1985/86 I went to the US for a year to live with a host-family and attend highschool.
My new home was Henning, Minnesota. A little town with a population of about 800 souls. My host-family was running a dairy-farm and I attended the same class in highschool as the oldest of my three host-siblings.
I really enjoyed the American high-school-system with the ability to steer the emphasis of courses in respect to ones interests. My computer-science-class teacher has been really supportive and provided me with much additional material allowing me to delve into languages like Logo and Lisp and topics like artifical intelligence.
Since attending a small rural high-school I had the fantastic opportunity to be part of the American Football-team. To the disapppointment of my team-members I have not been a role-model-German not having played soccer before – so a career as a kicker or punter was out of the question 😉
During my stay in the US, Commodore released the Amiga 1000 computer. I was overwhelmed by its abilities. But even though this system was much more inexpensive than the Apple Macintosh released a little bit earlier, it was still a large amount of money.
Senior-High in Germany
After I graduated from my US highschool in 1986, I returned back to Germany to conclude my German senior-high-school education with two more years to spend.
At this time, I had to make a difficult decision: Should I get the new Amiga 2000 homecomputer, or rather spent the nearly same amount on a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer? Since I could only afford one of the two, the Amiga which had some pretty good music-creation capabilities won out.
I bought my very first C-compiler and started creating software with graphical user-interface on my Amiga.
A schoolmate from my advanced math major-course in high-school visited me at home and I showed him some of the cool graphical possibilities of the Amiga.
His father owned several beauty-shops in Wolfsburg and he was interested in a computer-system developed by an American company which could simulate visually different hairstyles onto a customers head.
Since this system was pretty expensive and the Amiga was much more attractively priced, he asked if I could develop a software for the Commodore system which could do the same thing.
In my youthful enthusiasm, I said: no problem!
Together with another schoolmate who had also purchased an Amiga 2000 computer, we started to code day & night. So over fall & winter of 1987 up to my highschool-finals in February 1988 we spent every single free hour to develop this software – again to the resentment of my parents.
Unknown to us two geeks programming in our bedrooms, our classmate had contacted Commodore and told them about his plans to develop and market this software.
So to our total surprise at the turn of the year 87/88 he disclosed that we would be able to have our own sub-booth with Commodore at CeBIT 1988. So at the time we should have studied for our diploma-finals (Abitur) we worked our buts off to be ready for CeBIT in March.
CeBIT came and fortunately we had succeeded to have a barely presentable prototype running. During the days we showed off the software, at night we fixed issues that we had found during our presentation during the daytime at the exhibition.
This software was successfully sold for several years under the name ComHair
After highschool I served my mandatory army-service for 12 months in Braunschweig. I suspected this to be a total waste of time in advance and actually it surpassed my expectations in this respect.
The only positive thing I can take from that period of my life is the fact that I got to know that there is an American Football team, the Braunschweig Lions which I joined during my army-time. Since that team was in the second highest division in Germany at that time, I had the chance to get some time off my army-service to attend practice and travel to matches.
During this period I also got my first 386 based PC, running with MS-DOS. Graphically a real set-back from my Amiga, but performance-wise it was a pretty good system.
At about the same time I started getting into electronical communcations, first visiting mailboxes with an acoustic coupler, later with constantly higher-speed modems.
Technical University Braunschweig
After the conclusion of my army service I enrolled for computer-sciences at technical university of Braunschweig in 1989.
Over the Christmas holidays of 1989 I visited the yearly meeting of the Chaos-Computer-Club in Hamburg. Together with a friend of mine, we got private lodging at one of the first internet-point-of-presence in Hamburg.
There I had the chance to see my first data-communication connection using ISDN – this was such an advance over the old analog modem-speeds that I decided to get myself also an ISDN-plugin-card.
Also accomodated at this place was a famous guest of the CCC-meeting: John Draper, aka Capt’n Crunch. We talked somewhat about his experience in hacking the US telephone-system.
These Christmas events triggered three things:
Together with some friends we started to develop a software to be able to use an MS-DOS-PC with soundblaster (8-bit 🙂 or adlib-soundcard for blue-boxing in the German telephone-system. This software (yabb – yet another blue-box) circulated around the net for many years afterwards.
And I was the best buddy of many guys who’s girlfriends stayed in the US as aupair, for I could keep their telephone-bills low 🙂
I also started to set up my own small usenet-hop (xfswob.han.de). With my Zyxel-modem I polled my feed in Hannover twice a day and since that time had email-connectivity and access to usenet-newsgroups. Unfortunately I do not have any records of those really old emails, but my oldest post on the newsgroups can be found here 🙂
As this CCC-meeting also generated my desire for higher connectivity-speed, I was looking for a way to also get an ISDN-plugin-board for my PC. Unfortunately such boards were horribly expensive and therefore not affordable for a student.
Luckily shortly later, a company in Berlin, TELES introduced a passive ISDN-board. And even though this board together with its software still cost around 1000 DM, I could scratch together enough funds to get such this card, an ISDN basic-rate access from my provider and an ISDN-telephone.
As all my money-reserves were depleted, I could not buy another piece of gear necessary to adapt my old analog answering machine to the new digital network I had at my student-room.
Ironically, this issue paved the way for my future career which is still going on 30 years later:
I figured that speech-signals sent through the ISDN-network were data-signals after all. And as I could use my ISDN-plugin-board to transfer data over this network, I researched ways to use this board to receive and send audio/speech-signals by software, to implement my own answering-machine application.
A couple of months later I had actually succeeded in creating such a software, called ISDNTalk – my first project done for Windows 3.1 using Borland C++. Funny enough, my previous interest in Fourier-transforms payed off, since I was able to create my own DTMF-detection-algorithm which I needed for remote retrieval of speech-messages.
My own company
The news of this software spread around the ISDN-card producing-community in Germany pretty fast and soon many businesses wanted to purchase my application. So without planning to do so, I had actually succeeded in creating a nice startup-company 😉
Some time went by and I met some guys in Wolfsburg who were also running their own business developing software applications (ironically they developed the succesor of my hairstyle simulation-software for Windows).
We decided to get together to develop all kinds of voice & fax communication applications for the ISDN-network and have done so ever since. In present years we have migrated almost all of our business over to VoIP instead of ISDN, but the general direction which started more than 25 years ago is still the same.
Late in 2001, I was introduced to a very special girl: Sonja. We were set up by a common friend of ours and we soon found ourselves to be the perfect match 🙂
Sonja who had classical vocal training and piano lessons, bewitched me amongst other things also with her beautiful voice.
The next stage of my life had started and one of the “collaterals” was that my previous interest in creating music had reawoken.
In a pretty short timeframe I got to be some kind of “gearjunkie”, getting together all that is necessary to create our own project-studio: synthesizers, stagepianos, microphones, outboard-equipment, converters, studio-monitors, mixing-consoles and a pretty decent number of musical software (like Cubase, virtual instruments, virtual effects) started to accumulate.
Sonja who was still studying to be an industrial designer in Braunschweig started up two bands, which I accompanied as roadie & mixing-engineer at concerts and studio-engineer for promo-CDs.
During that time I often found the need for computer-tools for music-production which did not exist yet. So I also created some private “pet-projects” to develop some stuff that could be used in this area.
This is the main reasons why I have created this website as a home to my private software projects. Perhaps you will find some of the tools on this site useful.
On midsummer 2008, Sonja and I got married – it was a beautiful celebration and we cherish our looks back at that day very often.
Soon afterwards we bought a house in a suburb of Wolfsburg. After a year of reconstruction, we moved in and we now have the luxury of using some rooms just for making music – and all that without disturbing any neighbours…
In late September of 2010 our daughter Lena was born. Though we could do with a little more sleep – we really do cherish every single moment with this cute little person 🙂
…fast forward two years – time really flies by…
In November 2012 our son Janis was born. Sometimes it seems like a Deja-Vu. Holding a new-born in your arms is an experience beyond comparison. And it reminds us every day that our “little” Lena is actually not so little any more 😉
…end of 2016 – once again four years have passed. Lena is now a first-grader and both she and her brother have grown so much that it is sometimes not easy to remember how small they once were.
…mid of 2020 – wow – once again four years have passed. The last four month have been rather special. Due to the lock-down during the initial phase of the Corona pandemic, both Sonja and I have been working remotely.
Having done so every now and then in the last couple of years, the change was not so big. But not meeting co-workers and customers in person for quite some time feels rather strange.
Continuously relying on my home-network was a bit of a challenge though. Even though my local city-carrier had announced to go all fiber until 2021, the deployment has unfortunately stopped due to lack of funding. But I can tell you that having concurrent VPN connections, cloud-usage & video-conferencing really is no fun if your down-link is limited to 40MBit/s
In the middle of March schools in Wolfsburg were shut down. So since that time we have been home-schooling our kids. This required changes to our daily-routine – but it was also kind of nice to spend more time together (even more so as we live in one house with my in-laws).
All-in-all our kids really cope well with the situation and not being able to meet with friends. Ok – there is the occasional case of cabin-fever, but really not too bad all things considered.
I really do appreciate that we are rather privileged in this situation by having our own separate home with a large garden, not having a negative economic impact so far and also the support we get from my parents-in-law with our kids.
We do really feel with the many others out there not doing so well currently.
…so everyone: stay safe & healthy and lets hope that everything gets going again rather soon…