Word Perfect – 1988


I had been permanent at StyleWare for a few months, and we went to AppleFest, a trade show in Boston dedicated to the Apple II. We had found out a few days before we left that we had been acquired by Claris Corporation, but we were not allowed to talk about it.

The show ran Thursday through Sunday. Sunday afternoon about 3:00, I was running the booth. The show closed at 5:00, and was already winding down. The booth next to us had been playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” over and over and over again (evidently, they were a sound editing company, and were hyping the S in GS, which stood for Graphics and Sound).

So I was bored and annoyed and tired. A man in a suit nicer than mine came up to me. He was middle-aged, and cheerful. He had me show my demo.

He then said, “What’s your name?”

I told him. Then he continued,

“I’m Tim Johnson, and I work for WordPerfect.”

An aside: GSWorks, in the About… menu, displayed a dialog box with all of the developers’ names in it. Our president had managed to score a copy of WordPerfect IIGS. There were no developer names in their About Box. He did find the names, however. Programs on the IIGS were divided into segments for reasons that are too arcane for this blog. Our segments had names like “WP” (Word Processor) or “SS” (Spreadsheet), other utilitarian names like “DRIVER”. The developers for WordPerfect had hidden their names with segment names “DAVE”, “JOHN”, and “RAHUL”. Nice company, that.

I looked at him in the eye. “Oh, OK. Aren’t y’all doing a WYSIWYG version of that for the GS?”

“Yes, we are. Would you like to join us and work on it?”

Blink. Wait a minute…

“You are recruiting me for a job? Here on the show floor?”

“Well, frankly, yes!”

I paused. “Where are you located?”

“Provo, Utah”

It was hard to have a poker face. That is not a place I had ever considered living. I still am not interested in living there 30 years later.

“How many on your team?” I asked, while I tried to figure out how to say “No.”

“We have 3 now, but we just lost two, and are hoping to replace them soon. Which is why I am talking to you,” he said, smiling, while putting his hands in his pockets.

“And what is your position?”

“I am Director of Graphical Products,” he said, proudly.

I paused, trying to look thoughtful.

I said, “Well, I am hoping that after the IIGS runs its course, I can work on the Mac. I don’t really enjoy programming for the Apple II. I don’t think I want to move to Provo to work on the Apple IIGS.”

He whipped a card out of his pocket.

“Well, if you change your mind, call me and let me know.”

“OK, and thank you.”

Gotta admit; that took some guts. He must have been scouting for a while, waiting until I was alone in the booth.

Oh, and by 5:00, everybody had returned to the booth. The show closed (they announced it on the PA), and the guy with the stereo turned it up louder! The four of us programmers went over and asked the guy to turn it off. He said no! It’s a party! One of my buddies actually threatened physical violence. The guy thought it was a joke, but we all took as threatening stances as four sun-starved, shaggy, nerdy programmers could possibly take, and he finally backed down and turned the music off. Everybody around us cheered.

I still can’t listen to that song.

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