Sometime in 1991 I got in contact with Gary and Phil. They were working on a new idea and needed some programming done.
Fax machines were extremely popular. 1990 Census data was coming available. We had contacts at The Ohio State University. Let’s mash them together.
Product 1: Small Business Reports. Working with the Chair of the Business school at OSU, we said, “If you have these data, what would you look at to determine if a market is over or under served for a given retail type.” Based on Population and Business Census data, we created 2 page reports that hit the highlights of the analysis in brief. We also had a 6 page option that was much more conversational.
The idea was these reports would be generated on the fly using rules given by our business experts. They would then be sent via fax to the buyer. Given the various business codes and regions available we had something over 50 million reports available. I contacted the large fax providers at the time and they said they could host them, we’d just need to fax them the documents and they’d deliver on demand. When I told them we needed to generate them on demand, they said that’s not possible.
I wish they had told me before I did it. The POC was on a 286 with Bigmouth board and an Intel SatisFAXtion card. I was able to write an app that answered the phone via the Bigmouth, play a message, process DTMF input and follow a process for getting all of the required info, including destination fax and CC info. After the data was captured a process was kicked off to analyse the data and create the reports. I got to create a template language so I could properly format the report without the data. The report was converted to fax format and sent to the customer. The entire process took about 45 seconds. Since the fax was never scanned, the image quality was 100%.
We eventually found a company in LA that understood the process and we started working with them. Thanks Ned. 🙂
Product 2: Similar to SBR’s, Franchise Fax was about provided uniform and comparative franchise information. We got access to a database of UFOC’s (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular) so we did the same kind of thing.
Product 3: Import/Export Index. The US Gov hosts a site for Import Export requests. You could subscribe and get a free Index of the day’s items. Call and request additional details for any of the indexed items and we’d send them along.
I got to do a lot of Pascal development a little bit of C and tons of DBF stuff. OS/2 Warp came out and I converted my system immediately.
We worked on a few other projects, but I wasn’t directly involved. Next up; Software Distribution