ALTON — Some people look at the world differently than others. Despite the same busy schedules as everyone else, they take the time to look at everyday items or events and imagine how they can be improved.
Bruce Robertson is one of those individuals. Over a long, successful professional career as a computer programmer and consultant, Robertson has also taken the time to step back, see items in a different light and invent solutions where they did not previously exist.
Robertson, 67, grew up in Elsah from the time he was in the fifth grade through his college years. He lives in Alton with Janet, his wife of 40 years.
After graduating with a degree in economics and fine arts from Principia College, he started a long career in computer programming by writing computer training programs in Fortran and COBOL.
After spending a year living in Hawaii, he returned to the mainland United States, working as a programmer for Conoco in Ponca City, Okla., for seven years. As his career progressed, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he and his wife lived for 25 years.
He worked for the telephone company there for five years during the telecommunications divestiture through a series of company mergers.
“I worked for AT&T, CNP Telephone, Bell Atlantic and Verizon over that time and never changed bosses,” he said.
Seeking greater challenge and advancement, Robertson moved to a company called Deltek, where he worked on programs that tracked how much money businesses spent with the government.
“Compliance with government accounting requirements is complex and these companies used our software to do it,” he says.
All the while he has pursued his professional career, Robertson has also been a lifelong inventor.
“I’ve been fascinated with inventions my entire life,” he said.
At the age of 10, he came up with an idea for inline skates.
“I never pursued it because people told me it would never work,” he said.
He was also ahead of his time in coming up with the idea of developing a computerized check-writing system.
“At the time, no one was writing checks with a computer,” he says. Businesses were reluctant to pursue the idea. Like the idea for inline skates, it was an idea that was later developed successfully by others.
He learned from these experiences that he was creative and was having insights that could be leveraged to improve existing devices and activities.
He went on to develop patents on a tempered glass corner shelf he invented.
“I was moving into a house and needed a particular type of shelf,” he said. “I realized it did not exist.”
He said obtaining a patent is a lengthy process and requires extensive documentation, which he does himself.
He is working on a design for a snow sled that allows the device to be fully steered.
“I tried it out and all of the kids who saw it wanted to ride on it,” he said.
The unique design of pulleys and cables allows the front as well as the back end of the sled to be maneuvered for a steering capability unlike any existing sled.
Robertson returned to the area after retiring from Deltek in 2009 and still works on a consulting basis performing SQL programming. He and his wife enjoy travel and have been on cruises and European vacations.
His ideas and insights continue to motivate him and he shows no sign of slowing down. Bruce Robertson is genuine proof that creativity and imagination have no age limits.