Category Archives: ASP

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.

Profile: Tom Simondi

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?
Tom Simondi, of Computer Knowledge, joined the ASP on April 28, 1987 and is online at www.cknow.com


After college I went into the Air Force for a twenty-year career retiring at a grade of Lt. Col. Toward the end of that twenty years, Apple put out this thing called the Apple II and, being interested in technology of all kinds and having previous experience with the larger computers, I went to a local Computerland and took a look. After several times in the store, talking with the manager, I got one at a good price in return for my writing software reviews for a second company he had that published such things. Thus was born my company Computer Knowledge (how’s that for bragging?) and I started getting bunches of Apple II software, testing them, and writing reviews.
Got pretty good at it and when IBM came out with their PC the manager arranged for me to get one of the first of those and I continued doing reviews for both platforms.
About the same time I became a life member of the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) and was active in their Los Angeles chapter to the point where I eventually started a computer subgroup for the LA chapter. Since most of the financial software of the time was based on the spreadsheet I became rather good with them and that led to my first book, “What If? A Guide to Computer Modeling.” While it was an interesting job writing it, the book never really took off as the last chapter, inserted just before publishing, mentioned that a new spreadsheet was just coming onto the market: Lotus 1-2-3.
Since that program exploded onto the scene the book was quickly dated. Several other books that were nothing but collections of past reviews that had been updated followed but none of those really took off.
After the Air Force I did some teaching and was given the chance to start the microcomputer program at El Camino Junior College in the LA area. Wanting to give the students something to read on their own computer and wanting to learn some programming that did not involve rows and columns I latched onto Turbo Pascal and wrote a program that read coded data files and presented them to the user a screen at a time. The students found the program useful.
Watching the market I had noticed some software being sold on a try-before-buy model and so I put TUTOR.COM on the market using this model. (You can see how original I was by naming the program after the executable name.) It became quite popular and the 22 June 1987 issue of Info World carried a PC-Sig story that highlighted the program as number three behind PC-Write and PC-Calc. Given that this put me just behind Bob Wallace and Jim Knopf (Button) it was  something of a high for me. (Indeed, about that same time I attended a Houston meeting with those two and other shareware authors of the time and out of that meeting came the Association of Shareware Professionals, now the Association of Software Professionals.)
Over time, the minicomputer tutorial morphed into a complete DOS tutorial and, along with that, a virus tutorial was written to try to explain computer viruses to a non-computer audience. If you look hard enough in a search you can even find the original DOS versions of these programs still on some download sites.
As my day job edged out the physical software business and as I did not bother to learn Windows programming, the shareware programs turned into freeware and, eventually, the virus tutorial became a main feature on the Computer
Knowledge website.
As that website grew, one page on the site, a list of file extensions and the programs that used them along with links to those programs, became quite popular. I eventually peeled that page off the CKnow site and from that arose FILEXT.COM which grew like the proverbial weed.
Finally, after FILExt peaked I decided to sell it and retire. I still maintain the CKnow.com site and some personal sites but not actively as I’m having too much fun in retirement.