Thane Plummer likens his passion for programming to the art of a good magic trick. Magic is all about perception and a good magician knows multiple ways to reveal a single trick. With programming, users don’t care so much about the behind-the-scenes “magic” necessary to achieve a user interface. “They just care about what they perceive when they see it. Perception is paramount. The technology underneath has to be good but without the right presentation, your software is worthless,” says Plummer.
Plummer has a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the University of California, Irvine, and is the president and one of the founders of AppVizo, a five-year-old technology company located on 12th Street in Downtown Augusta. But Plummer’s deep-rooted love for programming began decades ago in the early and mid 90’s when he was working as a freelance developer helping British Airways install entertainment systems on their airplanes (a relatively new phenomenon).
It was this project that piqued his interest in the human brain and propelled him to pursue a doctorate degree in neurobiology. Plummer spent five years working on his degree while the Internet was just taking off. After completing his Ph.D. he went back into the world of computer programming, but this time for neuroscience. “My projects changed and were more human applied,” explains Plummer.
Plummer’s first client post-doctorate was a lock-in patient who could not speak or move (except to flex a few muscles and blink his eyes). Plummer wrote a program that allowed the patient to communicate through Morse code via electrodes hooked in his arms. Plummer says this kind of work has been rewarding and fulfilling. Not only is he able to write programs, but he now has the neuroscience background that aids in studying cognitive behavior and helping patients through technology.
Raised in a military family, Plummer has lived all over, but settled down in Augusta with his wife and children 10 years ago. He has continued to work on neuroscience programming projects, some of which include designing hardware and software for memory testing for Alzheimer’s research with Augusta University, and a recent project with physical therapy patients using motion capture to measure improvement.
About five years ago, Plummer created a program for a software company that allowed them to scan millions of names on terrorist watch lists without crashing. This was the beginning of AppVizo, now an employee-owned technology company with four to six employees. AppVizo serves a valuable need by providing innovative software to help make client’s lives easier.
“We love to implement solutions like that – someone has a problem and its because of computers. Let’s use computers to solve problems instead of make problems,” says Plummer. “We have a saying: ‘better living through software.’ Far too often software makes our lives difficult. We’d like to change that so it makes our lives better.”
Plummer has given a few lectures at the Augusta Developer Meetup and says he’s “gaining an appreciation for some of the things other people do. I think it’s a wonderful group.” He’s excited about the growth and expansion taking place in Augusta and believes networking is key to staying relevant and learning new things. Plummer enjoys giving back to the community and sharing his wealth of knowledge with other programmers. He contributes to several programming sites by answering questions and helping programmers solve tough problems.
“I have answered questions because when I was stuck others helped me out, and I think it’s important to give back and help others,” he says.
From helping patients with no voice, to studying to nuances of Alzheimer’s and searching for answers, to aiding physical therapy patients gain mobility, and helping universities cull their documents and more easily navigate pages and pages of information, Plummer is devoted to using technology for the good and his past and current projects reveal the reason programming is his passion.