NOURISH: Five Minute Friday

Wine and Dine with a Goal

When I was employed, I had many responsibilities. Building, refining, and justifying the large information technology budget was an important part of my list of annual duties. Vendors would want to “wine and dine” me and other decision-makers at least once each year. The wanted to nourish the business relationship.

IBM 1403 Mainframe Computer High Speed Impact Printer

At Universal Foods Corporation, an employer where I worked from 1977 to 1999, I started at the bottom of the “Data Processing Department.” My job was taking care of a massive reel-to-reel tape library and decollating and bursting green bar computer printouts. It was messy, time-consuming, and noisy work. Most of our printers during that era were manufactured by IBM, including the ubiquitous IBM 1403. We did add a second printer, the STC-1500. That wasn’t an IBM printer, so I suspect IBM was displeased when they saw that brand in our computer room.

STC Impact 1500 Mainframe Computer Printer

Mainframe IBM computers, fancy disk drives, communications controllers, reel and cartridge tape drives, and impact printers all cost a bundle. Therefore, the IBM salesman (yes, they were usually men), had a desire to gain and maintain a good relationship with the persons who built the budget. It wasn’t uncommon for IBM, AT&T, Moore Business Forms, and Xerox to be generous in taking me out for lunch, or by providing special seating in a sports event. In other words, using food to nourish me, they hoped I would return the favor with hundreds of thousands of dollars for expensive hardware and software. They used the “wine and dine” approach, although our company policy caused us to avoid the wine and have some other beverage instead.

The 1403: For the Geeks

The original 1403 could print 600 lines of text per minute and the model 3 could print at up to 1400 lines per minute. The standard 1403 had 120 print positions. The characters were on a rotating print chain that spun at a very high speed. The print chain with up to 15 copies of the character set spun horizontally in front of the ribbon and paper. Hammers struck the paper from behind at exactly the right moment to print a character as it went by.

The 1403 chain or train contained 240 characters. Numerous duplications allowed a line to be printed in less than the 0.4 seconds in one full rotation. The original standard “A” chain contained 48 different characters, repeated five times each. To say it was noisy and messy would be an understatement. Paper jams could make an even bigger mess.

Xerox Printers

Although I don’t remember the model number, we moved from green bar impact printing on the IBM 1403 to a much faster, less messy, less labor-intensive, and more appreciated form of printing. I was the Operations Manager at Universal Foods and ordered a massive Xerox printer. It came with fancy software for designing custom forms like invoices or for printing payroll and accounts payable checks. My memory is foggy, but I believe the purchase price was at least $750,000. The Epson printer I use today is far more useful and didn’t cost more than about $300. Of course, it doesn’t print anywhere near as fast as that mighty Xerox laser printer. And yes, the Xerox representative wanted to nourish their relationship with Universal Foods.

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up.