Interview with Mike Dulin

Mike DulinMike Dulin is well known amongst microISVs and shareware authors. He runs the Internet’s oldest software review site and attends many events, such as SIC, ISDEF and ESWC, to interview  industry figures for his podcast. I have turned the tables  and asked him to be the interviewee for once.

What is your background? When and how did you first get involved with the software business?

I got my first PC, a laptop with the check I got from the IRS (the US tax people) in 1994 or 95. They had come after me for back taxes.  After over a year of back and forth, we settled and they sent me money.

After I got my laptop I was left scratching my head while trying to figure out what to do with the $2,500 item. It was at this time that I discovered the Internet and the concept of Shareware.

Discovering the Internet was one thing – getting on it was another. I was at that time living half the year in Guatemala where I didn’t have a telephone – or the possibility of getting one in the near future.  So I made a deal with the next door neighbor who had a phone and we ran wires from his house to mine.

At this time Shareware was being uploaded to ftp sites – plus I was getting monthly disks of software sent to me. I saw the need for some place on the Internet for independent reviews of software.  So I started in late 1995 and early 1996.

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry in that time?

The biggest one of course is the amount of software being developed.  This worked in conjunction with the Big Three:

1. More computers
2. Faster Internet
3. Cheap storage

Have you been involved in the programming side of the business?

I was slightly  involved in programming in 1962 while serving as a Radarman in the U.S. Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.  We had the first computerized radar system in the Navy.

Do you think it easier for small software companies to make a living  now than it was when you first started?

Hard to say. Today the barriers to entry are much cheaper than they used to. However the competition is stiffer.

I understand you live between the US, Finland and Guatemala. Can you tell us a bit about your roving lifestyle?

I medically retired from being a air traffic controller at Chicago Enroute Air Traffic Control Center 1975 at age 32. Not too long after that I decided to hit the road in my 1959 VW Convertible. In August 1976 I ended up in Guatemala. Late that year I had to get out of Dodge with my new girl friend, She and I traveled around the world for 2 years and decided we wanted to settle down somewhere and we ended up back in Guatemala. And almost immediately broke up. I stayed.

I met my Finnish wife Aira in a restaurant in our village (Panajachel) in 1987. Our son Pat was born there in 1992.  The next year we bought another home in Finland. Aira and I traveled around Europe for months before Pat came along, since Pat’s birth, besides moving back and forth between Finland and Guatemala, we all have traveled extensively around the USA.

Two years ago I bought a houseboat on eBay that was in Minnesota. That summer my son and I traveled on the Mississippi River. Last year we put the boat on a lake in Wisconsin, my home State,

Can you get a reliable Internet connection in Guatemala?

Yes. In our village of about 10,000 there is Cable Internet, ADSL and my wife is there now using a new system that uses a plug in wireless card that covers most of the country.

You are currently President of the Association of Shareware Professionals. Can you tell us a bit about the ASP?

The ASP was founded in 1987 by the pioneers in our industry.  Since then it has grown to over 1,000 members from all over the world. It is the one place where developers and vendors new to the business can get help they need to make their businesses a success. This is mostly done by use of our private forums and the information gained by reading our monthly magazine ASPects. All for $100 a year, now there is a bargain!

How long have you been involved with the ASP? How has the ASP evolved in that time?

I joined the ASP in 1997. One of the big changes has been the involvement of more members worldwide. At first what was mostly an organization of people from North America has grown into a world wide group.  It has been interesting to see as the industry developed first from North America, like I said, the majority of members were from there, then when European developers and vendors got into the business our membership expanded to them. Then the Russian and old Soviet countries came on board and we got members from there.  Now we are getting Chinese members. So we have a very diverse group now.

Another thing that has happened is that some of our members have grown into mainstream businesses and also mainstream companies have joined the ASP. For example, WinZip has grown into the mainstream and Microsoft is one of our members.

The ASP pioneered the PAD format used by most download sites. Do you think PAD has been a blessing  or a curse?

Both. I have a constant running internal battle trying to get my head around it. While it has made it easier for developers to submit their software to many sites, Google has made this a case of good news, bad news. Google has made it possible for this myriad of sites to exist because of the advertising money they can get from Google – though this has diminished over the years with the increase of many more essentially link farms.

Managing programmers has been likened to herding cats. How do you get  anything done in an organization of busy, self-employed entrepreneurs?

Sometimes it can be difficult because of the differing viewpoints of people. But in the end we all are trying to work for the better of the organization.

A major role of the ASP has been to promote the try-before-you-buy model of marketing software. Do you think that battle has been won now?

Yes, of course, since almost every company now offers it.

The word ‘shareware’ is synonymous with ‘amatuerish’ to many professional developers. Do you see this as a problem for the ASP?

We are constantly fighting that fight.  It is the reason that most members won’t list that they are members on their site. Of course you can look at it another way, what difference would it make to the recruiting part of the ASP if members put up links to the ASP on their sites?  Maybe not much at all since most prospective members aren’t going to developers sites to find out what professional organization to join are they?

What benefits does the ASP offer to microISVs/Indie  developers/shareware authors today?

Big ones! Our members have the knowledge of what it takes to make it in this business and they are willing to share it and help out fellow members.

The other big benefit that most people don’t think about until after they join is the ASP’s member community. These are people who think like you, understand you and want to help you.  And not just with computer stuff…

Most of the ASP members are selling desktop software for Windows. Do  you think that it has much to offer for web, Mac and iPhone developers?

Like everyone else who stays abreast of current trends more and more of our members are looking at other ways of making a buck. This includes Mac, Web and iPhone development.

What is the next step if someone wants to join the ASP or ask a question about  joining?

Go to or email me at:

president { at }

Thanks Mike.

4 thoughts on “Interview with Mike Dulin

  1. Dan Hite

    Hey! Mike forgot to mention that he bought that houseboat on eBay using a shareware product (! I know since he got the license from me back when I owned Auction Sentry Software. :-)

    I’ve been a member of the ASP for a few years now and can testify that joining the ASP has been the single best investment I have ever made in my business. The information and encouragement I’ve gotten from other members in the ASP’s private forums has been invaluable! Also, since many ASP members offer their products to fellow members at a discount (sometimes for free) I’ve saved a fair amount of money. A couple of the products I use almost every day in the running of my business were acquired free from fellow members.

  2. Ron Burk

    Thanks for another great interview! I actually first learned about from reading the ASP newsgroups, so I guess it’s only right that I end up coming here to read an interview with our own president :-).

  3. Pingback: Mike Dulin, 1944-2010 « Successful Software

  4. Jerry Schmitt

    Mike and I worked together at Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center and Mike was my “A man” and I was working the radar on a rather busy sector,when out of the blue a pair of jet fighters came on the radio with the call sign “Talon 22”. We looked at each other inquisitively and Mike screams out “who the hell is
    Talon 22”? You could have heard a pin drop in the normal noisy area. That was our greeting every time after that over the years.

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