As technology rolled into the mid-1990s, the price of IBM-compatible machines dropped precipitously at just about the same time that big boxes graced with cow motifs began to litter the floors of Olcott International.
It was the advent of Gateway Computers!
While Yoshi still felt he could build ‘em cheaper from scratch, there was no arguing that buying from vendors like Gateway saved both time and money. In the end, Yoshi didn’t complain about giving up one of his many jobs; he had enough to do in terms of managing the patent payment system and troubleshooting hardware from whatever vendor.
Soon after I returned to Olcott International in June 1992, my work PC was updated from DOS to Windows 3.1. In my recent post “ASSEMBLY, PART 2,” I marveled at Yoshi’s ability to build clones from scratch and soon thereafter sought the secret knowledge so I could do it myself too.
We had a lot of computers lying around in the “Computer Department.” In addition to my new Widows 3.1 machine, Steve, Peggy, Bob, and of course Yoshi had their own PCs, running both DOS and Windows. I needed both Operating Systems (“OS”) as I was creating data and testing our two Patent Management Systems (“PMS”) resident in both environments.
However, there was one more desktop machine in the “Computer Department.” A shiny box with a glittering and different OS. One that made ethereal sounds when booting up with a picture of a smiling face. In fact, it was no clone at all; it was made by the same company that jealously guarded its fancy-schmancy operating system and had popularized the use of a mouse in a point-and-click type of interface.
The Apple Macintosh computer. I mentioned this cult-in-a-box in my post “CUTTING EDGE AND TOTALLY COOL.”
I’ve poked fun at the hype surrounding these devices in the past. However, as one reader pointed out, everyone in my family uses the thing. (Not my Dad, of course, who passed away in 2006.) Alright, I’ll begrudgingly admit that Macs have a reputation for quality and elegance. I’m a big fan of the iPhone, for example. Mac computers look nice and they certainly were the first to feature — on boot up — little pictures of a smiling face, or — when crashing — a sad face that looked quite ill. Cute.
So I had three operating systems to play with: DOS, Windows, and Mac. And an Olcott International Patent Management System (“OIPMS-DOS,” “OIMPS-Windows,” which was called “Visual,” and “OIMPS-Mac”) on each.
Soon OIPMS-Mac housed the same test database I had written on the other systems.
But wait! There’s more!!! Like I said, we were busy at Olcott International!!
All three systems had two distinct flavors: a system for patents on one hand and another for trade marks on the other. Technically, we had 6 systems for show, tell, and sell since patents ain’t trade marks! In fact, if you dared to confuse the two in front of an Intellectual Property professional, you would likely be greeted with smirks and suffer treatment as an uncultured rube from a former Soviet Asian Republic. Very nice!
Did I just write “very nice?” By the way, Kazakhstan is completely land-locked.
All of these systems were taken on the road to demo. We would make many sales calls to the offices of prospective customers or go for full dog-and-pony shows, complete with our trade booth, at the big industry tradeshows. The patent systems were trotted off at the American Intellectual Property Law Association (“AIPLA”) and our trade mark management system was put through its paces at the International Trade Marks Association (“INTA”).
While at INTA one year, a young patent attorney, “Mark Chapman¹,” stopped by our booth. As I did with everyone, I offered to show him our Windows system – which I liked better – but he declined, saying that he was running a DOS PC in his Washington, DC practice. The Mac system was also on display in our trade booth, but very few peeps ran that system in their offices. They had to ask for that one. (And it demoed beautifully.)
Without missing a beat, I paraded him over to the PC with the familiar DOS black screens. It wasn’t my preferred system. But as it was older and more tried and true, it was already live in many Intellectual Property departments. (In “CUTTING EDGE AND TOTALLY COOL” I mentioned that there is still one former Olcott International client out there running the DOS version to this very day!)
As Mark and I were close in age, together with the fact that he was personable, we hit it off pretty well.
After the show, I called him to follow up and we soon found ourselves engaged in a friendly back and forth sales process. Maybe our tone was too amicable. On May 31, 1994 around 4:35 PM, he called me at the office. For some reason, my Dad picked up the phone and Mark introduced himself.
Being cordial, Mark told my Dad that he was considering buying our OIPMS-DOS for trade marks. Inexplicably, Dad told him that Olcott International “was not in the trade mark management software business.” Of course, I was appalled to learn of this once Mark’s call was transferred to me.
A few days later, Mark called back to tell me that he had decided to buy OIPMS-DOS for Trade Marks! Again my Dad grabbed the phone before I could get on the line. Somehow he mistook Mark as a personal (not work) call for me. Worse, he got nasty with Mark, and in a condescending tone, told Mark not to call me again!
Mark was annoyed when he was finally patched through to me moments later. “Your Dad is senile and needs to get out of the business,” he told me curtly. I covered my face painfully with my right hand as I cradled the receiver in my left. I always knew that there was SOMETHING ABOUT DAD, and appreciated the affirmation that no, I wasn’t nuts. At least, not completely. Not yet.
But I wasn’t seeking confirmation of Dad’s mental state at that moment, I was looking for a sale! I felt sure that it was gone. A blown opportunity. Was it really true that my Dad had wantonly and brazenly sabotaged it? What the hell was I gonna do now?
But no, Mark continued talking. His voice over the receiver unexpectedly praised the header-footer design of the software; header for the trade mark, footer for the individual registrations worldwide from Kiribati to Kazahkstan.
He wanted to buy it! I was going to sell and install onsite my first system!
¹ – Not his real name.