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About Mark Callegari

Hello - my name is Mark Callegari.  Like most people, I find it difficult to talk about myself.  But some explanation is needed to understand where this crazy Christmas lighting came from.  I'm a husband, father, serial entrepreneur, computer programmer, Christmas lover, Halloween enthusiast, electronics junkie, and still a big kid.

So how did all this computerized Christmas light business begin?   To get to this moment in history there was a convergence of unlikely events along life’s path that ended in this unique Christmas display.  So follow the journey…

It all started when I was 2 years old.  For some reason I had an affinity towards lights.  My old Italian grandpa would carry me around from outlet to outlet with a little nightlight and let me plug it in.  Each time I was amazed when it turned on.  The nightlight bulb was a white C7 bulb, the same ones used as Christmas lights - before the advent of mini-lights or LEDs.

As a kid I fell in love with Christmas.  Each year I used to sneak in and sleep under the Christmas tree.  It was great laying by all my presents, smelling the pine aroma of the Christmas tree, looking at the colored lights and shiny bulbs, and playing Johnny Mathis or Frank Sinatra Christmas albums.

As a small kid I'd lay under the Christmas Tree!

In 8th grade I won the school science fair with a basic computer that could add, subtract, multiply and divide simple numbers.  It used a rotary phone dial for inputting numbers, and neon lights for displaying the results.

I was also a snappy dresser as you can see in the picture :).

At that time computers were very large and only corporations and large universities could afford one.  It wasn't until 5 years later (in 1976) that Apple introduced it's first personal computer.

First Computer at the 8th Grade Science fair.

Through high-school at Rockhurst High I continued my passion toward electronics and lighting.  Junior year I constructed the centerpiece for a dance that was a lighted “sun” that was filled with flashing Christmas lights that changed with the music of the band.  It hung on the ceiling of the gym above the dance floor.

Those of us on the committee that hung this 200 pound monster steered clear of dancing under it that night!

Rockhurst High School centerpiece with sound-activated lights.

At Rockhurst University I majored in Business Management and Computer Science.  Both would come in handy for the different technology companies I would be involved in. 

I built my first real computer in 1977.  It was not very impressive by today's standards.  There were no computer monitors back then, so I bought a small black-and-white television from a friend at Venture (remember Venture) and converted it to a video terminal.  And I purchased a surplus keyboard that had been removed from equipment taken out of service (it wasn’t in an enclosure – I just propped the raw circuit board up on two Styrofoam blocks).  The computer saved programs on a cassette tape (somewhat unreliably).  There were no hard drives in those days – or even floppy disks. 

During my senior year in college my very close friend Mike Brown and I started our first software company – Innovative Software.  It was a lot of work going to class during the day and writing software at night.  But it was also a lof of fun learning about business during the day, and applying it at the same time.  Innovative Software would go on to become a public company with $30M in revenues and 300 employees before being acquired by Informix Software. 

Original Home-Built Computer boards. Top is 8k of memory. Bottom is wire-wrapped video card.

During the Innovative Software days my love for Christmas lights and my computer science fascination combined into my first computerized Christmas display.  In 1987 I used a Commodore Amiga to animate hundreds of lights on our home in Timber Trace. 

Animated Christmas lights were very unusual in those days and we used to have bus loads of people come to watch the display.

First computerized Christmas lighting in 1987.

After founding two more software companies, I finally got around to starting a computerized Christmas lighting company called Animated Lighting.  Animated Lighting manufactured and sold lighting software and lighting controllers to make it easy to synchronize your home’s Christmas lights to music.

In 2003 Animated Lighting unveiled its promising technology when it was selected to light up Downtown Kansas City’s holiday light display featuring the Marriott hotel. 

During Christmas you will see many houses around town (as well as all parts of the world) that utilize Animated Lighting products to produce amazing animated displays of Christmas lights synchronized to music.

Downtown Marriott with Computerized LED lighting.

In 2005 we changed the name of the company to LightWild to focus on the coming LED revolution.  We sold off the Christmas portion of the business to former Animated employees.  Animated Lighting is still in business providing animated holiday shows for people around the world.

LightWild provided architectural LED lighting for large and small projects around the world.  One of the most amazing accomplishments was to light up the new O2 Stadium in Berlin.  Newer generations of the same basic technology used in the Berlin stadium is used to light up my Christmas display. 

From the humble beginnings of plugging in the nightlight came O2 Stadium and my Christmas display.

The New Berlin O2 Stadium With Computerized LED Lighting from LightWild.

But let’s not leave out Halloween, my second favorite holiday.  The same software, hardware, lighting, and other technologies are applied to my house each Halloween to create a scary but fun Haunted Graveyard.

The Annual Callegari Halloween Display.

Unfortunately I have more interests and hobbies than I have time.  A few of my favorite hobbies are...

Halloween and Haunted Houses
Animatronics and Robotics
Tesla Coils
Christmas Music
Software Design
Circuit Design
Ham Radio (Extra Class License)
Radio Control Planes/Helicopters
Really Big Fireworks
Really Big Rockets
Karate
CNC Machining
Kansas City Chiefs!

High Voltage!  My home-built Tesla Coil is capable of generating 10' Sparks!

Mark's Company History…

1980 – 1988: Innovative Software, Inc. (Merged with Informix)
1988 – 1991: Informix Software
1993 – 1996: Visual Components (Purchased by Sybase)
1998 – 2001: Tidestone Technologies (Purchased by Actuate)
2002 – 2005: Animated Lighting
2005 – 2013: LightWild L.C. (Purchased by Flextronics)