The Color Computer 2: Uses in a Chicago-area Bank in the 1980s:
 
   My name is Jeff Gerhardt, and if you lived in the greater Chicago
area during the first half of the 80's, you may have purchased your
CoCo from me. The truth is, I went to work for Tandy "because of" the
CoCo. I purchased one right at the time they were released, and fell
in love with the little thing, even with the funky keys. It was not
long after that I was selling so many CoCos just by being an advocate
to friends and fellow hobbyists, that my wife said I should go to
work for Tandy. So it went -- I worked part time for Tandy until
December 29th, 1986. I was one of perhaps 4 or 5 employees for Tandy
in this entire metro area that had a clue about computing. I am sure
that you all have your set of horror stories about Tandy and their
computer sales staff that probably averaged 17 years old. Being a
programmer and network guy, I actually had experience. I could
actually tell people the truth when they asked me a question.
Thus, they (Radio Shack) made my job to float between Radio Shacks
to do demos and close sales. FYI, the main stores where I worked
was Lombard, Oakbrook and Stratford Square, but I did go all over
the metro area.
   Of all the computers that Tandy ever made, my favorite was the CoCo.
I was supposed to sell the Tandy "business systems," but it is
surprising how many people I directed to the CoCo instead. It was
amazing how impressed people would be with a great CoCo application
like the "VIP Library."
   Even after the release of the MAC and the IBM PC, I often would
surprise my friends in the computer industry with the capabilities of
the CoCo. I took great glee in showing off "CoCo Max" and its near
identical MAC GUI to a friend shortly after the MAC was released.
I continued to use VIP Writer as my primary word processor until I was
on my second PC compatible (probably well into 1986). I pull it out
from time to time to show new programmers what can be done with
really "tight" code. IMHO, the guys at Softlaw were some of the best
programmers I have ever met.

   My favorite story about the CoCo is about a very large bank
corporation that owned several banks in the Midwest, until they were
purchased by First National Bank of Chicago. Way back then, they
were running IBM 5110's, 350's and 360's. If you are familiar with 
IBM of the early 80's, this was some heavy duty hardware. They were
running applications in UNIX and BASIC. I proved to them how they
could dramatically reduce software development costs by developing
with the CoCo2 (rather than the 5110's, which were basically $50,000
64K Micros) as a platform. BASIC was BASIC back then, and a simple
matter of making global input/output device tag changes to port over.
If you were smart and wrote applet-based structured BASIC, this was
real easy. Plus, OS9 was pretty portable straight into a Unix box as
well (again, if you kept device control out of the structured code).
This made it practical for them to hire a large in-house programming
staff. The result was an explosion of automation of this bank. It made
them the fastest growing bank in the Midwest.
   For those that doubt this as possible, we moved the data from system
to system with modems and acoustic couplers as raw text files. It was
really that simple. It was only a short step for them to begin to do
light duty applications directly on the CoCos. IBM was so "ticked off"
by this, they ended up giving the bank IBM PC's when they became available.
It was a major embarrassment to IBM.

   I am now part of the Internet industry, and have become a user of
SPARC, dual Pentium and RISC systems.  But I still love my old CoCos.
From time to time, I will pull out "Real Talker" and write votrex
script for a party. Because you can use the old "on inkey" trick,
you can program in several canned word segments that allow you to do
near real-time conversations. It is a smash at parties still today.
This was the first really good "Talking Head" computer output to
screen application, and was way before TV's Max Headroom.

   I still have a great deal of CoCo software (lots of VIP stuff) and
hardware...and consider my CoCo stuff as a valued part of my life and
industry history.

Jeff Gerhardt (jeff@xnet.com  or  jeff@gerhardt.org)

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