"Wait a sec," an Apple Computer rep said, halting right in the middle of his sales presentation, "this is actually a functional CAD application? And you developed it all on your own? That's incredible! You really need to market and sell this thing."

The Professor had never really thought about it before, but compared to all the commercially available CAD software, his FORTRAN-based program developed was pretty impressive. Not only did it have all sorts of whiz-bang features, its GUI was very intuitive (not an easy task for something as difficult to navigate as 3D drawings) and it was able to run perfectly fine without the need for one of those several-thousand dollar, fancy-schmancy 8-MB video cards. After scouting around for a few months, the professor finally found a company with a "proven track record" and "expertise" in taking programs like his and bringing them to market. They were blown away by The Processor's application and proposed a simple, three-step plan that would make everyone rich: 1) Tweak & Clean-Up; 2) Brand and Market; and, of course, 3) Profit. How anything go wrong with that?

Step 1 -- Tweak & Clean-Up
Though The Professor's CAD program was working and debugged, it was never designed nor intended to be a commercial application. It started off as a sample project for his graduate students and, over the semesters, evolved into a functional CAD program. Things like tool-tips, help buttons, friendly menus, and grammatically correct messages would need to be added in to make the program commercially viable.

However, The Professor was very protective of his work and did not want the program to be "substantially altered." The company had no problem with that and even made sure that their contract included that stipulation. And like that, the first phase of the plan began.

To make these minor tweaks, the company assigned five C++ programmers to the job. Since they had little-to-no experience in FORTRAN programming, they decided that their "polishing process" would include converting the entire program to C++. Despite kicking and screaming all the way, The Professor simply could not convince the company that moving from FORTRAN to C++ was not a "minor change." He eventually conceded, mostly because lawyer was a bit more than he could afford at the time.

Nine months later, the company was very satisfied with their Version 1.0. The Professor wasn't too happy with the "tweaked" program -- it ran incredibly slow and crashed half the time -- but the company assured him that this is perfectly acceptable for a first release, and they'd definitely have all the kinks worked out by the second. It was time to move on to the second step.

Step 2 -- Brand and Market
The company knew that the best possible way to market this new CAD software was with a short video presentation that they show off to prospective retailers and design firms. They laid out big bucks for a five-minute video with all sorts of eye-catching graphics, flying and turning diagrams, architects (literally) running from computer to computer, super-fast zoom-ins, and all sorts of other dizzying effects. Each scene lasted no more than a second and a half, and the product itself was shown in one, maybe two, scenes. Watching it was like getting punched in the face repeatedly while riding front-car in a rickety wooden roller coaster, only worse.

In those days, professional CAD programs were sold on retail shelves, and the company wanted The Professor's CAD program to stand out from all others. They hired an exclusive design boutique to create novel packaging and ended up going with their $58-per-box concept that was crafted to attract "green" and "recycling-inclined" architects. It looked like someone turned a real software program's box inside out and wrote "CAD Softwar" on the front with a crayon. It was apparently the perfect way to introduce their already far-below-market-price product.

Step 3 -- Profit
Having effectively created the GoBots of the CAD Software world, this step didn't quite work out as the company had initially planned. They did to manage to land a few sales but, unfortunately, the sales all seemed to be from the editors of Architect and CAD trade publications. I say "unfortunately" because those editors then wrote reviews of the product. That didn't turn out so well.

Less than a year later, the company announced that they were canceling the second version and would be dropping the product altogether. The Professor, having traveled cross-country over thirty times to meet with the company, was shipped binders-full of C++ source code and a few cases of unsold software. In a symbolic gesture, he opted to refuse the packages with a "return to sender" note and, after the sender refused to pay return shipping, the packages ended up getting sealed away in a US Post Office warehouse somewhere. Who knows, they might even be there to this day ...

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