A Penny for your Thoughts
This is a strange story and it was
only after years that these things happened I was able to fit together the
pieces. My memory may have played
some small tricks on me, but I believed that the events actually did happen
as I describe below.
In 1974, I
had taken a full time job at Tektronix, in Beaverton, Oregon.
Tektronix at that time was the largest private manufacturer in the state and
was one of the big producers of electronic measuring equipment and
oscilloscopes. A few years later I started a private software
development business on the side to make ends meet.
I was also doing a lot of software work for our local Catholic parish
in Milwaukee, Oregon. It was a busy
time for me and very stressful. My
private business was mostly software contract work with local banks, and
retail establishments. This was 1977
and large-scale IBM computers dominated the computer industry.
Some mid size, or “mini” computers were around as well as the
small desktop micro computers (later to be known as PCs) but they were not
taken very seriously be the industry.
The parish I worked for had a very
energetic pastor who wanted me to develop a number of systems: name and
address, collection programs, fund raising, campaigns, all on his
"microcomputer". He got a
Radio Shack TRS-80 model II, a small workhorse of a machine that had a
rather good Basic (a computer language).
As I recall, there were only two operating systems around at that
time; one was the TRS-80 which was very friendly easy to program.
The other was CPM, which worked on a UNIX system. The CPM system was
too expensive and required a lot of specialized knowledge.
I developed several church
applications for my parish in Milwaukee using Basic, but some of the
instructions were not working as advertised.
I called the Radio Shack help line and they put me in contact with
the vendor, which turned out to be this little pee-waddle, back room company
in North Seattle. I called the number and a very pleasant young man answered
the phone. He told me his name was
Bill, and he was quite interested in what I was doing.
We actually talked for several hours, and I explained my idea of
developing a more generalized "microcomputer" product that could
be used on all small computers and could therefore be marketed and sold for
a cheep price.
Later that year the parish Pastor,
Fr, Webber and I had a falling out about the direction I was going in my
software development. I was trying to
come up with a more generic product and he wanted just his own stuff done in
his way on his microcomputer. So our
relationship ended. this occurred around
My family and I moved with to
Seattle in January 1979 and I took a job with Boeing.
It was very busy work but I kept my company “Clover Microsystems”
going. I also had several lucrative
contracts up In Everett. Again I
started to develop software on the "microcomputer" for Christ the
King, the local Catholic Church where my kids attended, and this experience
proved very satisfying and successful. I
also began working with an OBGYN doctor to help support his practice.
He needed a billing system, appointments, and Medicare reports, plus
a lot of other software. I developed
these programs on a newer TRS-80 model III, which had a system called TRSDOS,
the first real good operating system I had ever seen. Again I needed some
technical support so I called Radio Shack and they referred me to the same
backroom outfit that had provided the TRSDOS system with basic
software. I called and asked for
Bill. He came on the phone and
immediately recognized me. Again we
had a long talk and I told him about the medical system I was developing.
He said that he had moved to Albuquerque but that they would soon be
back in Seattle. He also said that I
had some great ideas and suggested that if I wanted to, I could join their
team. I politely declined.
After all I had a solid job at Boeing and a successful business
programming "minicomputers" and as far as I was concerned
"microcomputers" were still a ways from becoming anything serious.
This whole venture with microcomputers did not sound like a good
prospect anyway. It had a
questionable future and I had a wife and kids to support.
Things began to get really bad for
me over the next year--1982. I became
very stressed out. I had a breakdown.
I quit my good Boeing job and took off with the kids to California.
I finally came back but I was really a complete wreck.
It took me a good six months to regain my mental balance.
My wife promised to change her spending ways so I would not need to
work at two or three jobs. She
promised to sell our big expensive house and get a smaller one.
She promised a lot of things, none of which happened.
I stopped doing any work outside of Boeing.
I never wanted to look at another "microcomputer" again.
I shut down my business. I
forgot everything that happened over those horrible and troubling years.
Four years later in 1989 I divorced
my wife and by 1992 I was again married.
So one night about 15 years later I began recalling all the experiences that went on during those turbulent years, and wondered whatever happened to that little back-room company and that nice guy Bill what's-his-name.
I suddenly realized who he had become—the richest man in the world.
We Christians call it Devine Providence. Others may call it fate or kismet or luck or fortune or karma. I never even thought about getting fabulously rich anyway, but in just that one instant of realization I had to stand back and say----GOSH.