Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thing 4, or I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on this one

I had a PC in the 1970s. Who didn't? It was a Radio Shack Model 1, but that was before there was a model II, so it was called the TRS-80. But that's not what this blog is about. This is about Max, Bert and the contact list.

A friend from college (Bert) and I met up after going separate ways after a long strange trip in 1976 (a long blog series on that one day). He started a non-profit organization called Nuclear Free America (IRS 501 C3 qualified!), and I became the volunteer information technology department. To get a mailing list going, he was using a for-hire CP/M computer (a DEC Rainbow - how appropriate) at $1 an hour or something like that. This was somewhere around 1982. I convinced him that the well-meaning proprietors of Federal Hill Software, or whatever they called themselves ("Community Computing" maybe?) were locking him into a dead end architecture with their home built database software. dBASE II was the way to go, boy.

The only place that had an accessible, legal copy of dBASE was DHMH, the State Health Department. But I knew the good doctor who procured the TRS-80 Model II, with the 8-inch floppy disks, and knew she'd look the other way if some nice young people used her office computer after hours. Enter Max.

Max is now pretty well known in anti-war circles (also known as the Peace Movement), but at the time Max was not quite up to speed on the latest technology. Bert and I needed to get him to say NOOK-LEE-AR, not NOOK-YOU-LER, if you catch my drift. Max recruited a helper, I built the database specs, and off we went keying in hundreds of names from typewritten and handwritten sheets into the great magnetic media in the sky.

We spent time editing the newsletter, The New Abolitionist, and sticking labels on them for bulk mailing. Can't survive without a bulk mailing permit. Also can't survive without well-endowed sons of corporate America inheriting Daddy's trust fund, thank you very much.

After Bert got a computer for his office (a Chameleon, among others), I worked on setting up extended record attributes to track personal donor attributes, moving the data from 8-inch to 5-1/4 inch and presumably eventually a hard disk. Bert went on to start a few more semi-non-profits ("Eco-Works - 95 watt light bulbs!"; "MCS Resources" - Multiple Chemical Sensitivities), Max went on to be arrested from one end of the country to another ("first risked arrest at the NSA on July 4, 1996").

And me, I'm still driving the taxi.

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