If April showers do bring May flowers, we should be in for a
beautiful May! We know it's spring in Seattle when we can have sleet, sun, rain
and thunder all in one day. Just wait a minute, and it will change.
Change, I know, is a part of life, even though I don't do it
very easily. Next month we will celebrate our 24th Anniversary.
After twenty-four years in business, it gives me pause to ponder on the changes
I've seen, just from my vantage point of being a very small business.
Twenty-four years ago I kept my inventory records on
columnar sheets, a sheet for each artist. We would check items off as they were
sold. When I had the electricity put in, I had them put four outlet boxes in
along the window wall - I had a ten-key calculator, so I was planning for the
future - some lamps, maybe? All our orders were written out, xeroxed, one copy
mailed, the other went into a binder until we received the order. We handwrote
a sales ticket, figuring tax with the ten-key, and making change the
old-fashioned way - using our brains! And it all worked just fine.
In late 1987, I decided to buy a computer to help with some
of these tasks. My friend Kathie's brother was going to be visiting from L.A.
where they were having price wars, so he bought my computer there and then
brought it up with him on the plane. It was a state of the art Mac Plus. It had
one megabyte of RAM. Soon we had all our inventory records in a database, and
could do all sorts of reports, and print them out on the daisy printer I had
bought at the same time. About this time I began to run out of outlets, but
there were these all-important surge strips that had several outlets in each,
so it was all good!
Soon someone was spending almost their whole work shift
entering changes into the database, so I looked for a point of sale program I
could run on a Mac. Of course, I needed more memory, so I traipsed over to
Bellevue, computer and toddler in hand, to upgrade to four megs of Ram. My son
and I hung out at Bellevue Mall at the play area for a few hours while this
miracle of technology took place! It was a great program, once I was able to
import all our inventory records into it, and made things much easier.
At about this time, more and more people were asking if we
had a fax. And I realized this was the way business was being conducted, so I
bought a used one from someone who needed some newer features. It not only
required an outlet, but something for the phone line, I think it was called a
switcher, that would signal the phone to ring if it was an incoming call, or
the fax machine to receive an incoming fax. Another thing to plug in! Now the
fax machine has never ceased to amaze me, the way it seems to squeeze the words off the page. And I really like the noises
it makes, especially the one when it's all finished. So we were saving a lot of
time getting our orders to the artists, money making copies, plus the paper of
the copies - progress all around!
In the intervening years, we have added a second phone line
so two of us could make calls at the same time, or receive a fax while a phone
line was engaged, and most importantly, so we could be processing a credit card
sale. For years, I know you all remember, we would imprint the credit card with
that machine - I called it "the runner over thing". The customer would sign it,
we would have to call and get authorization from the credit card processor if
it was over $50.00, and then at the end of the day, deposit the hard copy with
the bank, and keep the middle copy with our days' paperwork. With the new machine
we could just swipe the card, have the receipt signed, and the money would be
electronically deposited. How sweet!
So over the years, we've seen so much change
technologically! I have become an "Extension Cord Queen", I now carry a laptop
to and from work, and am looking at a printer/fax/copier combo. I am not
completely convinced that all the technology has made our lives easier - I
think it has made it easier for us to work at any time, and from any place. I
think that the fact that we can generate a report makes us inclined to do so,
and then to print it, and then having printed it, we feel obligated to
disseminate it and store it. But it is here to stay, and will continue. And I
will struggle to stay relatively up-to-date, and choose to try to use technology
to work more efficiently, and not more.
To use it to work for me.
Meanwhile, I try to keep all the power cords disentangled
and to embrace change. But I still have my Mac Plus on the closet shelf in my
home office. Any takers?