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Jim Butterfield was the third of four children born to James and Nancy Butterfield; they were originally from England, but moved to Alberta to try farming there.

Jim attended the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia, but he soon realized he was more interested in the Radio Society than in the curriculum. He never finished his degree.

In 1957, Jim accepted a job in Whitehorse training technicians who maintained the new microwave system built along the Alaska Highway. From the first, he demonstrated a gift for teaching.

Jim was transferred to Toronto in 1962. Soon he had moved out of the world of microwaves and transistors and, in 1963, began work on the very large computers that were just coming into use.

Jim had also begun a second career as a writer and educator on computers. He was intrigued with the microcomputers that started to arrive in 1976 and was soon publishing programs for games and utilities for a number of models. He became a regular contributor to computer magazines and published several successful books

He left his day job in 1981: rumour has it he was fired after telling his boss that personal computers would one day wipe out the private wire teleprinter business. Before leaving, however, he made one important connection - his wife, Vicki.

Jim's first interest was in Vicki's typewriter: It was top of the line and could type the symbols used for electrical terms such as the ohm. When Vicki asked what the heck that thing was anyhow, Jim came back with a hand-drawn picture of an ohm sitting on top of a stove, which he said was "an ohm on the range." How could she resist?

Jim's life took a significant turn in 1988, when his daughter Susannah was born. Embracing fatherhood at age 52, he immensely enjoyed sharing his love of books, restaurants and travel with his young daughter.

Never stodgy, Jim enjoyed many a beer with friends at the Toronto Naval Club. He had a sense of humour - one neighbour remembers a telephone conversation in which both Jim and she remarked on how the meow of a Siamese cat had a similar sound to a bagpipe. During the course of the conversation, this eventually led to each holding their Siamese cat under their arms like a proper bagpipe and gently squeezing to produce the requisite wailed duet.

Jim was a dreamer and an entertainer, and nothing made him happier than to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with an audience - whether it was a group of machine language programmers or a curious child.

Diane McKelvey is Jim's niece.