Friday, August 11, 2006

Part II - Computers Come to Bookselling

Tandy TRS 80 Model 1

The folks that printed our first offset catalogs had just begun using a computer in their business. One night we got a demonstration of their Tandy TRS 80 Model 1. We were impressed.

Previously, we saw homebrew computers as being in the realm of the hobbyist, and neither of us were very much hobbyists of any sort. The first Apples and Commodores and Altairs seemed a bit useless to us. But that night with the Tandy sent us out looking at computers.

Heathkit - Built from a Kit

The Heathkit (which seemed to be one of the best and most powerful of this early crop of computers) was sold in kit form (for around $ 1800.00). Our Erector set days were well long gone and we just could not imagine putting together a computer from a kit. It sure did seem like an expensive hobby to us.

Osborne 1 - "Portable" Computer

It was probably the opportunity to play with the clunky Osborne 1 (the first portable computer) that made us finally decide that we NEEDED a computer.

We tried asking booksellers for recommendations. Virtually no one in the trade had a business computer yet. Dick Weatherford (later the founder of Interloc / Alibris) was the exception. He had already bought a computer !! He, of course, agreed that computers would be a great asset to bookselling. He made some suggestions about what computer to buy (the Osborne among them). We demurred.

In 1982 Dick indicated that he had found a great computer that would be perfect for us.

Morrow Micro Decision I

George Morrow was one of the first engineers to design and market a memory board for the Altair computer, and later he began to design hard disks and computers. With the MD I he produced a machine that was as good as the just introduced IBM, at one-third the price. It was also half the price of a comparable Apple system (Apple III).

It came with: a monochrome monitor; two single sided floppy drives (200 KB each) [There was no hard drive so a lot of floppy swapping was necessary]; total RAM of 64K ! ; plus excellent manuals; phone support (not toll free, but you could talk to George himself); and all the software one could wish for (at the time)...

- CP/M 2.2 operating system
- WordStar word processing from Micropro (we still often use a version of WordStar).
- Microsoft BASIC-80 programming language
- NorthStar compatible BAZIC language from Micro Mike's Inc.
- A spelling checker
- An electronic spreadsheet.
- and Pearl Database Management software

At under $2000.00 in 1982 it was a wonder.

We named her "Miss Morrow".

To Be Continued


Blogger jgodsey said...

you win, your computer was older than mine. But i learned how to program Fortran on punchcards,

7:59 PM  

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