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.”
In the summer of 1966, I lived with Dad as an 8 year old in his temporary home in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Sort of like today where I am a transient resident of nearby Reading (except now, I am seriously older than 8!) Forget about the famous railroad company from ‘Monopoly,’ the Reading Railroad was closed years ago.
For whatever reason, I just keep coming back to the Keystone State.
One morning that year, I woke up to find, not to my surprise, that Dad had already been awake for several hours. This wasn’t unusual for him. He had bought some kind of model kit the day before for a pocket watch made out of hard blue plastic. Early that morning, while I was snoozing away, he had painstakingly detached all the pieces from the molds.
Then, carefully and slowly, Dad followed the detailed instructions to assemble the watch. All parts were made in the aforementioned blue plastic: the sprockets, cogs, case, the hour and minute hands, everything save for the spring and the clear transparent plastic cover that snapped into place over the clock face.
Once in a purple moon, we had a new hire. Like the time I had to (extremely) vet my own replacement, Paul Campo, in 1986.
Do I just train someone who was going to be taking my place and throw him to the wolves? Many of my readers would be quick to answer, “Yes!”
However, that is a sure way to run low on wolf chow. I always thought that hurling virgins into volcanos was a much better path to karma.
But I digress.
For the love of Pete, I owed it to Paul to explain or at least give him a brief warning about Dad’s “quirks,” to put it mildly. Even though I had not yet worked in many different work environments, I knew intuitively that bosses don’t typically act like my Dad did normally.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of bad bosses out there. The ones that do things behind your back, and then have the nerve to call you “sneaky.” Or the screamers. Or maybe a good boss one day turns bad the next. A good boss will always be happy to discuss anything with you — after all, information is their currency in trade. But what if they deny a meeting request to consider some changes because they “had already discussed it with you.” Really? Not so good.
By 1994, I was not only loading patent data into 3 different Patent Management Systems (“PMS”) – one for DOS, a second for Windows, and a third for Mac – and going on the road to demo them, I was also seeking ways to leverage business trends of the day to the marketing advantage of Olcott International.
However, as my readers well know, I operated under some daunting limitations – I knew that if I went out on a limb in terms of my non-existent authority, I could be subjected to painful rebukes in front of the employees. My last name offered me no protection from the boss; it merely singled me out for extra abuse. After all, the family name didn’t save anybody from getting trolled in Jamaica (Queens, not the West Indies) in the 1920s, 1930s, or afterwards. Not by a long shot.
Getting poorly paid to do little in your job is akin to a short-term stay in a shabby motel room on the outskirts of Hell. You don’t know when or to where they will move you, but you’re sure to like it less.
As discussed in the comments section last time, the problem with my Mom’s and Grandmother’s “invention” back in the late 1980s was that it wasn’t an invention. It was just an idea, which cannot be patented.
All patents start with one, of course.
Dog waste on the streets of any big city, like New York, is a very special problem in the summer time, when the city becomes a tropical “paradise,” albeit with world-class dining and entertainment, together with daily bus tours. Before the “pick up after your pooch” laws were enacted some 15 years ago, the heat could “cook” the waste, rendering the streets virtually unpassable to pedestrians. Except for real New Yorkers, of course!
As one reader, or expert, commented two weeks ago, dog waste will naturally decay into dust. But this process can take weeks, which would seem like centuries to New Yorkers. The public interest is to get rid of it instantly. It would be possible, for example, to torch it with flame throwers, but this could introduce new, stranger, potentially unsafe possibilities.
(Not necessarily in that order.)
One day in 1993, my Dad came downstairs to the “computer department” at Olcott International somewhat agitated. He was upset that a function called “Prior Art” was not included in the patent management software. There were plenty of blank looks all around. “Prior Art? What’s that?” and “Why didn’t we know about this before?” were suddenly questions that hung in the air like old party balloons.
“You dumb bastards!” Dad shouted at the programmers. “You don’t know anything about patents!” At least not like him; after all, he was a high priest, a “made” patent attorney.
Bob Gerhardt took a shot at resolving the problem. “Bern,” he grunted as he worked that wad of gum in his mouth, “We can add Prior Art information in the header text field.” Reasonable, that.
Dad shot back, “Is it labelled ‘Prior Art’?” Although his knowledge of software was surprisingly spotty, he knew full well the answer to that question.
Bob grunted again, softer this time, “no.” He was beaten, again.
Astute readers may recall my post, “A MAN OF LETTERS,” from August 2015. One of the points of the story was to explain my Dad’s preferred method of marketing Olcott International in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It wasn’t by way of a sophisticated advertising mix. After all, this wasn’t a service you could promote via highway billboards (not that that qualifies, but never mind).
The market for patent renewal servicing worldwide in countries from Nicaragua to North Korea (yes, there are a handful of foreign companies that register patents in North Korea!) was and still is not so big. It mainly consists of a tiny cadre of people working in large corporate legal (or more specifically, patent) departments. And the person calling the shots in such rarefied zones is none other than a pooh-bah called a “Chief Patent Counsel.”
That preferred marketing methodology referred to above was – wait for it – by direct snail US mail to every pooh-bah you could shake a stick at. He or she received a personally addressed letter through the miracle of mail merges via MS Word. Windows version, natch!