Profile: Jerry Stern

The Association of Software Professionals started out in 1987. Our members invented the way that software is sold today, as pioneers in try-before-you-buy marketing.
Here’s another in our series of profiles of our members. All we asked was this: How did you get started?
Jerry Stern, of Science Translations, joined the ASP on October 18th, 1992 and his various online projects are online at www.sciencetranslations.com
 


Back in the Autumn of 1991, I had successfully escaped retail management, was working on a Masters’ Degree in Professional Writing, and was creating a database for a conference of academic journal editors at Towson University. I was asked if it was possible for me to desktop-publish a book written by an Associate Professor. They wanted a pretty complex layout for the time: two columns, lots of tables and clip art, 100 pages long, with an index and table of contents. The software available was WordPerfect 5.1 for MS-DOS running on an original IBM PC (4 MHz), and I would create camera-ready copy for the university print shop to print and bind, using the HP Laserjet (first edition, no numbers!), in the graduate school office..
The problem in assembling the book was mostly in collecting the clip art, and then having the author choose what went where in the book, in some organized way. I needed a clip art catalog, and there was no such thing for WordPerfect back in those days. I was already programming extensively on the TI-99/4a, so I looked for a programming solution. I learned the WordPerfect macro language, and wrote the basic cataloger than I needed, including options for columns and image sizes, and I gave it the obvious name of ‘Graphcat’. That made producing the book easier, and that’s how we created Teaching Strategies for Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Faculty. In those days, I also wrote occasionally for WordPerfect Magazine, and I submitted an article with the macro, but the reply came back immediately: “Oh, sorry, we did that last month; it should arrive any day now.” It did, and “it” was a spectacularly trivial piece of code.
Now, Graphcat 1.0, as sent to the magazine, was one page of program code. I decided to convert the program to a product; I added a full-screen display and error-trapping for every prompt, plus an order form, sample graphics, installation instructions, and a 20-page instruction manual. The macro code jumped to 20 pages. I released Graphcat 2.0 as shareware in October 1991. This was back in the BBS days… First sale was two weeks later, from 60 miles away. Then 300 miles, then 500, 3000, and then international.
Months pass. Public Brand Software, in Indiana, published Graphcat in their shareware catalog, and mailed me a flyer about the upcoming Summer Shareware Seminar. I drove to Indianapolis that Summer, took 30 pages of notes, heard about the ASP, and decided to join.
Two decades later. The conference is now ISVCon, owned by the ASP, and I’ve been editing the ASP’s newsletter, ASPects, since 1997. Graphcat is up to version 6.1 for WordPerfect X5 now, running in 64-bit Windows. I have many projects these days, but the beginnings of all of them was programming and publishing software back in the early ‘90s.