Sunday 17 May 2009

Some history, - in the beginning - - -

Way back in the days of the ZX Spectrum (over 25 years ago now) I was shown the basics of programming by the teenage sons of a colleague. It occurred to me that this would be an ideal way of pricing picture frames. Upto that point we had used a 2 way table - add the horizontal and vertical measurements together, then go down a column adding in the various items. This, of course regularly produced mistakes in the addition and the customers, looking at the long list charges, often wanted to know what each item was. The new simple program for the Spectrum solved all this, after a few key presses the price appeared on the screen, and the customers said "Yes please". I think I must be one of the few people who used the Spectrum for business rather than games!

For those who don't know of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum it was about the size of today's tablet PCs. It plugged into a TV and stored its programs on a cassette tape. The weakness was its keyboard, the rubber membrane kept giving up. After I got through 3 we bit the bullet and bought a PC (about £1000 20 years ago). This meant the program was rewritten in GW Basic and then with the coming of Windows 3.1 -QBasic. With each rewrite extra features were added.
There was none of the pretty interface of today, and the mouse was superfluous. To change the parameters you edited the program code directly (not quite the problem it appears as QBasic was bundled with Windows 3.1). It did show the way, however, so when I got hold of VB6 it was a revelation - you could, with a bit of work, produce a program that looked professional, was reliable and could easily be packaged for other people's computers.

The result was what came to be the original Wessex Pricing Program (wpp1). I took the CD along to the Spring Fair to show Wessex Pictures, and the rest, as they say, was history (actually it was the start of a steep learning-curve which is still going on).
The proof of the pudding is that the program is still regularly sold by Wessex.
More recent history will be covered in another blog.

nb. There is an update for wpp1 to allow for the increase in moulding costs since the CDs were originally printed - go to

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