Monday, June 27, 2011

Thirty Years Of Jobbers - Chapter 1.6


Due to the limited amount of space in a typical microcomputer, when the lady from the labor board wanted to know how much overtime Joe Smith worked during the last five paychecks, you had to go digging through the paper files and pull out the stubs. Those kinds of request came more and more frequently, taxing the ability of the hardware to keep up. To an employer with 300 active convenience store employees, "Tough!" said the lady from the labor board, "You WILL provide us with that information." The only answer being, you had to store all that detail in a place where you could access it in a timely fashion. This demanded a different way of storing information, the right way, and a bigger and faster computer to store it on.

So programs had to be written to satisfy the requirements of the times, and the requirements kept changing constantly. As computers were viewed as strictly ‘a cost of running a business’, advancements in technology were pretty much prompted by visions of more frequent visits from federal and state tax collectors.

As a result, back in 1981, I also relied on the ‘yardman’ method – writing a few lines of computer code and running back and forth from my room to David's office to find out what needed to be done next. The processes for the ‘core system’ took approximately one year of 18 hour days, Saturdays and Sundays included.

In the sixth month, I was approached by an oil jobber in another state who I had met prior to my association with David. He wanted whatever computer programs I had written, and he wanted them "right now". So in the fall of 1981 I made my first sale of the new software that later became known as ‘Bill Scott's Jobber System’. By late 1981, technology had evolved to the stage where the 20 million character hard disk that had taken two people to carry, was miniaturized down to a container no larger than a shoe-box. Other than that, things remained pretty much as they were before.

Arriving at the site of my first sale, I was introduced to convenience stores. Although David and his family had no convenience stores back in Arkansas, this jobber had six of them and he wanted them addressed properly. It took three months to modify and implement the new programs to invent the convenience store module in the best way I knew how.

Early into that job, I found that even though I possessed a working core system, I had no idea how the bookkeeping functions actually worked. Even today, I marvel at how I was able to write an accounting system for jobbers without having the first inkling of bookkeeping principles. I realize now, as long as I was carrying David's brain around on a floppy disk, I didn't need to understand accounting UNTIL.....

Approximately two weeks into the installation at the new jobber's location, it became time to set up the jobber’s bookkeeping system on my computer. No problem. David had plans to come out and help me. However, he called later and told me he didn't have the time to do it right then, but he had spoken to the jobber's bookkeeper and he had promised to help me. As it turned out, the bookkeeper's job was one of making ledger entries onto a columnar pad that was turned over to a CPA at the end of each year, and the CPA was out of town for awhile. His help consisted of tossing the ledger book at me from across his desk and saying "That's all the help you're getting from me podner!" (This was Texas you understand).

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