Skip to navigation

Part 1: Lanier Business Products

I have been a manager in various capacities since grade school. Floats, fund raisers, yearbook, prom, etc. I worked two jobs while finishing high school. Without hope of a college degree on my own, I joined the United States Air Force just for the electronics training.

After leaving the Air Force I accepted a job in Detroit as a service technician for Lanier Business Products. I was rapidly promoted to Supervisor in Chicago and then Regional Manager back in Michigan. Michigan had four offices around the state. The company was a pioneer in early computer and recording equipment. Our specialty was word processors not main frames. These were the earliest years for desk top computing and prior to Windows, Apple, or even hard drives. None of our users had PhD's. It was here that I honed my software, systems logics, and sales skills. In those days, each hardware or software bug was troubleshot and repaired by the field service representative. It was all DOS, schematics, and a soldering iron for component replacement. The schools for each unit were 4-6 weeks long at a private campus in Atlanta. I attended over 2 dozen schools. We traced across huge schematics on table tops with colored pencils following the 1's and 0's of logic into and out of 8080A processors. We were tested on our ability, as an example, to trace the electronic path from key stroke to screen and then to printed paper. That was one long road.

I developed better sales skills when the first huge Winchester Hard Drive platters came on the scene. Customers had to be sold on the whole clean room concept. Negotiating influential managers out of their smoking, carpets, windows, access, and plants were plagued with resistance. I negotiated installation and service agreements that were typically one third to half the systems price.

Here is also where I learned data acquisition and exploitation. As an office, we had to spend weeks learning precisely how a client currently handled there paperwork. Only then would we know how to use the "Make them sick" then "Make them well" sales tack. We made them sick by exposing the time, energy, and resulting money it cost them for documents and forms preparation. We then made them well by exposing them to the savings our products offered. We filled out their forms at unbelievable speeds on our systems. Sales had an iron clad rule. Clients were not allowed to see the systems until they had made the purchase. Their forms marked with the time savings were included in the sales pitch quoted as a guarantee. The logic behind that rule was that not one person in a hundred could watch these sophisticated machines (computers) operate and pay attention at the same time. After ordering, we showed them how a document could be edited 20 times without retyping the whole thing. We showed them separate Legal and Medical spell check modules with Learn. This was all heady stuff in those early days. We did very well.

The company was in 52 countries and advertising on Monday night football. At one point my office had successfully marketed forty eight percent of the company's largest units into the state of Michigan alone. My staff and I won company paid vacations for service and profit excellence.

As computer knowledge quickly tuned up an exponential curve in the early eighties, "keeping up" became impossible for an individuals capacity to absorb. Multiple layer circuit boards ended field board repair. The skills, technology, and sophisticated repair stations needed to troubleshoot new circuit boards made most of them disposable. This one advancement changed everyone from technicians into board swappers practically overnight. Corporate Software engineering groups stopped field engineers from mucking around with their big picture programs just to satisfy local needs. Instead of spending hours, day or night, fixing machines and customers, we documented and sent things away. Knowing a machine well enough to hunt trouble through its virtual alleys and swamps was no longer important.

With all the spare time we started fooling around. Our units had been communicating with each other via telephone for some time. We discovered that we could book phony student times on a college's main frame via, are your ready, the telephone. Unauthorized external access was never considered by the main frame architects so security was non existent. Using our lowly word processors we searched the directories of various computer classes to find interesting things. The best were very hard to find by DOS directory names, but they were there. It was a matter of opening everything to see what interesting things might be inside. We found GAMES. They were tiny things at first. Then we found ORTR, "Oregon Trail". A student's thesis. WOW. We spent hours and days typing responses to text based perils flashed on the screen by the software. No graphics of any kind. We couldn't stop.

As the screen flashed something you had to respond to quickly:

Rider approaching fast:

We would type short responses such as:


The screen would then flash a random response or follow your train of thought:

You just killed your guide. You die three weeks from now in a snow storm:
Game over:


Low on Food and Amo:
Fort is nearby:
Divert to fort:
You are lucky, Fort occupied:
Buy food and amo:
No food, only amo:
Buy amo:
You are unsuccessful hunting this close to a fort with no food. You all starve:
Game over:

I was going nuts.

Continue on to part two...

Table of Contents

  1. Lanier Business Products
  2. Continental Coffee
  3. Quaker Oats
  4. FETCO
  5. BMG Holdings LLC