Phil Sonntag is the founder and architect of DATOW Software.
During the mid to late 70’s, Phil was a young electronic engineer working in the aerospace industry. During that time he had access to a “Mini-Computer” called a Wang 2200; his first computer. Its primary programming language was BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). While taking an extension course at Cal State in FORTRAN, he taught himself BASIC on the Wang. It was during the late 70’s that microprocessors came around and Tandy-Radio Shack first manufactured the TRS-80.
At that time, no software was written for this new, little computer. It’s operating system was TRS-DOS, and the programming language was a BASIC interpreter developed by a little known company called Microsoft. Yes, Bill Gates actually wrote the very first BASIC for microprocessors in 1975, and the language was used for the first 8-bit, TRS-80 in 1978-79.
Phil, already proficient in BASIC, left his hand-made business cards at all the local Radio Shacks in the Long Beach (CA) area. Don Ault of B & H Tow, located in Inglewood, California, got a hold of Phil’s card and gave him a call. The very first version of DATOW Lot Control was written & installed on a TRS-80 Model II. It was in 1980 that DATOW was born. While it wasn’t called DATOW at that time, the program migrated from TRS-DOS to CP/M (Control Program for Microprocessors), to MPM, and finally, in the beginning of 1984, to MS-DOS running on an IBM-PC. The name DATOW was born and our first joining of the California Tow Truck Association (CTTA).
In 1985, DATOW Software’s parent company, The Soft Touch, Inc., delivered its first copies of DATOW Lot Control with California Lien Sale Processing, and it’s own integrated Accounts Receivable module to Bradley’s Towing in San Diego, thanks to Bob Bradley, and to Hal & Reggie Present, owners of Goodman’s Towing in Culver City, and Crescenta Valley Tow in La Crescenta, California. A hearty thanks are given to those tow owners who gave Phil the time, expertise & support in developing DATOW for the IBM-PC. Their generosity & friendship, including providing Phil with room & board, was the main thrust of getting DATOW off the ground again.
Needing a consistent and reliable hardware source, Phil looked up an old friend he knew in the computer industry. Tony Buzzanco, who owned Buzzanco Computer Consulting Service (BCCS), officially came on the scene. ‘Buzz,’ as we affectionately knew him, became our hardware & LAN (network) expert, selling DATOW customers Kaypro computers (now extinct) and Star dot-matrix printers, and, as needed, 10base2 and MS-NET and sometimes Novell networking.
It was in 1986 that two more DATOW systems were born. Dave Pollard, software architect, started ‘Truck & Driver’ Dispatching & Truck Maintenance, and was developed & first installed by The Soft Touch (TST). Subsequently, Tony engineered our DMV electronic Printout retrieval service for Lien Sale processing using 1200 baud modems! When modems became almost obsolete, they ran in excess of 56K baud (56,000 bits per second), but never went beyond that. Goodbye modems! Now, DMV printout data is retrieved via the Internet.
The 90’s proved to be another banner decade. Phil & Tony took DATOW national. DATOW Software become the number one towing software in the US. With alphanumeric & cellular paging via the Internet, driver’s license swipe software, automatic AAA call dispatching access, deficient lien letters, DOT compatible truck expense tracking, multiple state lien sale processing, and the ‘Once-is-enough,’ simple data entry, it’s no wonder we are number 1. It was also this decade when Phil transferred the rights of DATOW Software to BCCS.
On February 18, 1995, Tony married Pamela Schoncite – his best acquisition to date! The ceremony took place on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. It was a grand affair for all who attended. It didn’t take long, for Anthony III (ASB III) was born on November 4, 1995.
The new millennium finally came. While DATOW was already “Y2k” compliant, physical challenges developed for Tony. Diagnosed with Type II diabetes, Buzz continued to make improvements on DATOW and was first to implement a wireless network design using RF towers for communication for a towing company in Torrance, California. This was long before “Wi-Fi” became popular as it is used today for laptops, smart phones, networking, and Internet access.
Tony was a good family man. To make things even better, Tony and Pam brought Anthony a new, baby sister. Lauren was born February 9th, 2001.
On April 27th, 2003, a good friend and business partner, a wonderful father and husband, passed away. Tony “Buzz” Buzzanco is survived by his wife, Pam, and his children, Anthony & Lauren. His mom and dad, Anthony Sr. & Teri, his two brothers, Joe & Ed, and his two sisters, Mary Lynn & Jo Ann, love him dearly and will always miss their son & brother.
Pam now had a decision to make. Should she sell the Number One Towing Software company in America? At this time, mind you, Pam was frustrated with computers, with little knowledge of how & why they work. She still couldn’t find on the keyboard, “Any Key!” However, with Phil back in the picture (he never really left) full time, Pam decided to carry on the family business and even make it better. Despite not having a clue about running a sophisticated software company, within months, Pam more than doubled the business. BCCS / DATOW Software was back on the charts, and in the running, within the top 5 companies in the United States.
Due to Tony’s health challenges, DATOW Software had to miss in participating with several of the annual CTTA Western States Tow Shows. But, in 2004 Pam & Phil came back and had a successful exhibit in Reno, Nevada. We were back on the map. The next stop is to create the Windows version.
“You guys need to stop draggin’ your butts! You need to get off the DOS bus, and hop on the Windows jet express,” said one of our many loyal customers. So, Pam got in the search mode. She was looking for the best way to get DATOW up and running fast in Windows. After several failed attempts she finally found the right mix. Enter her new programmer, Mike. He started in DOS but made a successful transition to Windows and is still working today. Mike and Pam got together, and with Mike’s help, the new version for Windows was finally completed.
DATOW was re-born. Although DATOW runs very well under all MS operating systems, we welcome our new DATOW Windows Version 5.0. Check it out for yourself!
The Window has been finally opened.
Buzz will be definitely missed by all. This page, on our website, is hereby dedicated to him and his massive contribution to our own computer world, CTTA, and the Towing Industry. Thank you.