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Abacus North: A Brief History

The End Game

One direction pursued over the final years of Abacus North was due to a disaster similar to the one we are living through as I compose this. It was the economic crash know as "The S&L Crisis".  This crisis was similar to our current "Great Recession" and was also partially a result of unsound lending practices.  It hit Alaska in a big way with lots of crashed thrifts and loans gone bad and a sudden glut of properties on the market which the government was stuck with and needed to unload. HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) was doing the marketing and we interviewed with their advertising agency, formerly Bradley Communications, now known as Brilliant Media Strategies, to see if we could help get the HUD ads out quickly.  We were successful by creating a dBase IV program in tandem with the premiere PC desktop publishing package at the time, Ventura Publisher.  By this method we were able to prepare documents for typesetting that included the required embedded icons with greater speed and accuracy than the procedure previously used. 

Jennifer in the Senior Partner's Office - by Ludwig Laab (1995)

Following the HUD work, Bradley Communications, holding a contract with the State of Alaska for producing the official annual Alaska Vacation Planner, realized we might also help with that job.  With significant coding help from John McGaw (former AN tech and then owner of Systematic Software) we developed a dBase IV program called "Tour" that allowed Bradley's staff to enter the data for Alaska's tourism vendors.  After data entry we brought the database to our shop and output "tagged text" which was loaded into Ventura.  Styles setup in Ventura would add the font and other layout information stipulated by Bradley's art directors working with the State's tourism department. It also placed the icons for vendor type, membership in Alaska Visitors Association and others required by Bradley design.  Bradley had been pasting these in by hand in previous editions. Now they could be output on an image setter for proof or on film for final layout. We also were able to output regional lodging tables showing the amenities each lodging vendor offered, which had also been time consuming in earlier editions.  Color Art Printing used their Linotronic image setting equipment to give Bradley the proofs or film needed.  All on strict deadline. This provided good revenue for us from 1989 to 1995 when the job was passed off to a Mac shop.

The dBase IV-Ventura technology was also used to successfully automate production of Alaska directories for CBG USA, Inc. in the 90s.

Matt Timken and I continued to develop skills with networking and enjoyed networking a local attorney's office, a non-profit, and of course our own office.  We always "ate our own dog food".  I used Peachtree software to do the payroll for the duration of the business, Jennifer used Great Plains accounting for other accounting on our Novell network.  I probably created too much of our own advertising when we should have spent more on an agency like Bradley.  Jennifer during this period greatly enjoyed training students in Excel and other computer skills in a University of Alaska continuing education program.  I offered training in Ventura.   Jennifer did programming and database work for an assistive technology group.

     Our most unusual job in the last couple of years involved building a networked workgroup of about 6 computers and a server running Novell for a local food broker attempting to export to the former Soviet Far East.  He needed to provide this system for a group providing security for his shipments.  It meant meeting with his Russian clients and a some shots of vodka before it was over, but Matt and I pulled it off, including Cyrillic keyboards, some Russian language utilities and software and US-Russian power converters.

We had the big pleasure of doing our last programming/typesetting job for Kurt Riemann of Surreal Studios, Alaska's answer to all who needed studio and audio work. Kurt was great to work with and the job we helped him with was very interesting. He had to produce and label a tape archive of recorded stories interviewers had obtained from Native Alaskan elders and others. For this contract we used Visual dBase and a later version of Ventura.

In spite of these "end game" efforts our revenue was not what we needed for the space we had leased. Then word came that Jennifer's mother was diagnosed with a severe illness and her father needed help caring for her.  We decided this was the time to end the show.  We had our going out business sale. There was a wonderful "Bon Voyage" party hosted by Rodger Ellis. It was the warmest and most colorful Fall season I ever saw in my 30 years in Alaska. Our friends and nature made it very hard to leave. We hit the road to Jennifer's family home loaded with memories.

Thank you friends, neighbors, customers, vendors and the great state of Alaska!

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