Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Did We Come to This? Chapter 4: A Brief Time in Paradise


When The Old Goat reported to Sales Uplifting that made five in the Division.  Yes, this dinky little group was actually considered a Division.  All Things Deposited was a division and at its height it had 275 employees and occupied ninety percent of a building, but as is often said, size doesn’t matter.  Ernest Healthstriver was the Vice-President who replaced Flip Wineberry in this position (although Flip had not been a Vice-president when he was over Sales Uplifting).  Dynamic Jones was an Assistant Vice-president and her background was Personnel (Oh gee The Old Goat am so sorry The Old Goat mean Human Resources!  God forbid we call it what it is or by a name containing the word “Person”. Isn’t it funny how the term “Human Resources” actually dehumanizes the employee – just another resource, like copy machines and envelops.) Dynamic was charged with designing the modules of the Silly Pilly program and overseeing employee training.
Tilda Childspeak was administrator of an application called Giveme-Giveme.  The vendor promoted this tool as a way to ease the sales person’s burden of paperwork. It purported to make the tracking of clients’ needs, appointments, sales and etc. simple allowing the user to concentrate on selling. When you could get them to use it.  Perhaps it was too complicated to grasp or maybe there were other reasons. Some of these people resented the idea of using any new fangled gadget while others were just too lazy to learn.
Tilda came to the bank years before The Old Goat did, although she looked about twenty years old with the speaking voice of a child of ten. She was a very nice woman, who The Old Goat had first met Tilda in the early years when she was the techie who set up his PC.
The other person in the unit was Taffy, the only Indian in this tribe of Chiefs. She worked part time, did all the data entry and acted as receptionist.
As much as The Old Goat dreaded this new job, it turned out to be great (at least while it lasted).  Ernest was as easy to work with as Ross and in such a small group, The Old Goat got to work very closely with him. They both liked to try new things, to blue sky it and to get all enthused about wild ideas. In fact, everyone was this way, except perhaps Taffy who had to bring some earth-bound reality to this den of wildcats. Ernest also gave members of the group autonomy over their area; again, with the exception of Taffy who had to please us all.
As stated previously, The Old Goat’s office was very nice. He was on the Street floor of headquarters, just behind the lobby branch in an office originally designed for use by a banking officer dealing with the customer, so the office was designed to impress the public at a time when bank’s believed opulence assured people the institution was sound.
Even better, this little division was reported directly to Hobart Wazza Goodguy, the new President of WAIT. Sales Uplifting was like a royal family and could get whatever was felt necessary. When The Old Goat came, there was no PC for him yet. The Old Goat was able to write in his own ticket and he ordered and got the top of the line PC of the day, meaning by that the top in speed and memory and storage capacity, not the brand. All the bank’s PCs were Compaq. Of course in those days, Compaq was probably the top of the line brand as well. Anyway, The Old Goat had his dream-machine.
The Old Goat was a great user of blue three-ring binders as a means of organizing information for quick reference. He requested a bookcase to hold these. In all his past experience with asking for something such as a bookcase, Purchasing would rummage about in some dark and hidden storeroom for one. The Old Goat would get whatever discard they found, usually something with a lot of scratches and dings. This time an emissary from Purchasing came and handed him a thick packet. The Old Goat opened it up and inside were wood samples. What kind of wood did Mr. Goat prefer for his bookcase, what color, what style, what this and what that? Mr. Goat never was able to get use to this kind of personal attention. Mr. Goat just wanted something to hold his binders.  “Oh, and would Mr. Goat like better binders, perhaps leather bound with monogram?”
Lets digress and discuss PCs.
In the early 1980s The Old Goat was trying to persuade Ross Rollins to get some PCs. The Old Goat felt they were the future, but Craig List, the Senior Manager of Info Machine Processing, was a mainframe man. List didn’t think the PC would ever have a place in the business world. He viewed it as some kind of toy, a curiosity, more fad that practical. Still, he did set up an experimental area called Fiddle-Faddle and bought four Apples.  (Apple was really the only thing out there then.) Perhaps he felt doing this would soon show the uselessness of the blasted doodads and get idiots like The Old Goat to shut up about them.
Anyone in WAIT could use these, (around 1,900 employees in those days), but this were strictly time-share. You had to sign up to use them and were limited to small snatches of time. They had VisiCalc and WordPerfect on them, which one also had to teach one’s self using tutorials. The Old Goat was there as much as The Old Goat could get time, but it was so limiting, and everything you did had to be saved to 5 ¼ floppy disks, which really didn’t hold much.
The person put in charge of Fiddle-Faddle was Greta Regreta. She was very rigid and was certain that Apple would always be the only small computer for business. She saw Fiddle-Faddle growing to as many as a dozen such devices, but these computers never expanding beyond a timeshare arrangement. 
The Old Goat said to Ross if these computers ever caught on they would see if Apple could keep the market when the big boys like IBM jumped in. The Old Goat also still pushed to have desktop computers put to use in Ross’s division.
IBM did jump in and immediately sprained its ankle.  For some reason IBM couldn’t get a good handle on marketplace, but the box, the PC did get into the hands of others, such as Compaq. After about two years the Apples were gone and Compaqs were in at WAIT.  About six months after that Greta was gone. In a couple years Fiddle-Faddle was gone. Within a half-decade the PC dominated everywhere at WAIT.
By the time the Apples went made into sauce, The Old Goat had a Compaq PC on his desk, one of the first, if not the first employee to have such. In all those years to come, The Old Goat always had the biggest and baddest machine in WAIT, although the powers-that-be always dragged their feet on technology and always went for the least capable boxes. They never understood the potential of these machines, never grasped they would expand in capability and that every year or so the company would have to upgrade. In would have been cheaper to buy the bigger power and storage and memory capacities available, but they never thought that added space or speed would be used.
Of course, The Old Goat had an even bigger box at home.
His first home computer was an Atari. Yes, an Atari 401. It couldn’t do a lot, such as print. He had to save his work to tape cassettes, which were slow to use. There was no monitor; it hooked up to the TV. You could play Atari games on it naturally, but you could also write programs in Basic. You could get some little bookkeeping applications, too. The Old Goat taught himself Basic and wrote a couple very rudimentary games.  Then The Old Goat went out and got an Apple II.
This didn’t have a lot either, but a lot more than the Atari. It had a monitor and two disk drives using the 3-½ floppies for storage. No hard drive for storage on home computers yet. It also had an impact printer.  It came with AppleWorks software, which had a combination of word processing, spreadsheet and database. Most important of all, the thing worked well and was easy to learn. The used manual was clear and used humor. The Old Goat loved his Apple.
But the business world didn’t. The wisest and brightest minds of big business kept looking at Apple as if it were covered with brown spots. How could some gizmo put together by three geeks in a garage be trusted? When the PC appeared, they took it as the “real deal” and ended up married to the bride of Microsoft.
The Old Goat, too, eventually moved to PCs and had a series of Compaqs, but he always carried a flame in his heart for Apple. It was easy to use, and always seemed ahead of the PC world in technology and reliability, but remained rare in business and incompatible with what The Old Goat had at work, so The Old Goat ended up switching loyalties so he could do his job both at home and in the office.
Back to our story:
Sales Uplifting staff worked closely together on the Silly Pilly program. The Old Goat was sent to Access classes, although these lessons only skimmed the surface. The Old Goat really learned Access by buying the program and installing it at home.  The Old Goat then sat down and went straight through the manual.  Well, long-story-short, The Old Goat did build the Silly Pilly database, did get the data out of the old “DRAGON” dBase system, and did save Ernest Healthstriver’s rear end. More importantly, The Old Goat had a job he liked and people he enjoyed working with. Dynamic and The Old Goat became good friends and still are.
And then the world shook again and things changed; another reorganization at the top of the house. Makingit Sell was removed from the Administration Department and made its own, and named to be the first Senior Manager Makingit Sell Department Head was one Lydia Metermaid, the first female Senior Manager of We Are Independent Trust. And Sales Uplifting was removed from Hobart Wazza Goodguy and given to Lydia Metermaid.  A Makingit Sell Section called Makingit Sell Research was also now to report to Ernest Healthstriver. Ichabod Longfellow managed this section. Now Ichabod and his assistant, Horst Headless, joined the little Uplifting group at staff meetings
The Old Goat had known Ichabod for some time. The Old Goat first got to know him when The Old Goat was Project Manager over the development and institution of Do-It-Yourself-or-Else Banking. (It was his managing of that project that led to him being named Chairman of the New Products Committee by Hobart Wazza Goodguy.  Ichabod Longfellow was also a member of that committee.) Ichabod and The Old Goat developed a close acquaintanceship over the years.  They sometimes went to lunch together and discussed ethics in business.
There was irony in this new reorganization, which will be seen later.  Still, even though some things changed. (We couldn’t get things we wanted so easily anymore), The Old Goat still liked his job and working with Ichabod and Dynamic.  His Silly Pilly System was well designed, easy to use and though The Old Goat only had six months left of the eighteen months before he would be exiled to Numbing Numbers, The Old Goat was hoping Ernest could pull strings and keep him safe in his present lair.
Then on another dull and drear January day, one year after The Old Goat had left All Things Deposited, Yard Perimeter showed up at the lair door and snatched him away to Numbing Numbers, stolen away six months early.
The new hot button at We Are Independent Trust was cost and profitability.  The Old Goat had been pushing for knowing costs for fifteen years, had built an Activity Based Cost System on my own initiation that had been a success in All Things Deposited.  But as they say, no good turn goes unpunished.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Looking at those old clunkers gives me the chills. Brrrrr!