In the late 1980s and early 1990s, saying you worked in “personal computers” was akin to saying you work in genetics today. It sounded cool, but few folks completely understood it. Personal computers and their software were still not affordable for the masses; these were the days when a copy of PowerPoint, by itself, was $400.
Still, from 1987 through 1992, I moved from covering technology as a broadcaster to promoting it at two different companies. And I was doing so in a field — consumer technology marketing — for which there was no formal training and, in reality, no template as to what worked and what didn’t. It was pretty damned exciting.
After leaving KING in 1987 (still doing my Northwest Computing talk show on the station as a freelancer for another year) through 1988, I wore several hats but had only one full-time job. These four business cards are two short of the six I actually had as communications manager for the A.P.P.L.E. Co-op. The Apple PugetSound Program Library Exchange was one of the first and largest of what were called “user groups” for the Apple II and Macintosh families of computers.
(You always know an industry is cutting edge when it requires user groups; these are likeminded customers who double as hobbyists, trying to figure out how to make a product do what they’d like it to, and helping others in the process.)
The Co-op had user group meetings. It published magazines that had newsstand and subscription distribution, including Call-A.P.P.L.E. (based on a programming term) and Macintosh Horizons. It also housed the Apple Programmers and Developers Association, an Apple Computer-sanctioned distribution arm for Apple’s technical and developer products which, later, Microsoft used as a model for the Microsoft Developer Network.
The year at A.P.P.L.E./APDA ended after Apple Computer, seeing the success of APDA, decided to take it in-house and move it from the Seattle area to Cupertino. I decided to leave. But I had a great series of experiences — and a whole wad of business cards.
What I consider my first corporate job was at Egghead Discount Software. I started in 1988 as special projects supervisor (the kind of title employees usually have when they’re heading out of a company, not into one), then publications manager, and, when I left in 1992, it was product and sales promotion manager. Despite the convoluted title, I and my staff were responsible for Egghead’s product marketing efforts and developing plans for major launches such as Windows 3.1. I had three business cards in all, and Mark Brill’s whimsical Professor Egghead illustrations still make me smile.
Perhaps most telling of the sea change coming: My Egghead card was the first to have an email address. It was MCI Mail; I had to convince the company to put it on there. But it was a start.
(This essay originally appeared on Frank Catalano’s FrankCatalano.com blog.)