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Profile: Tom Simondi

April 15th, 2012

The Association of Software Professionals started out in 1987. Our members invented the way that software is sold today, as pioneers in try-before-you-buy marketing.

Here’s another in our series of profiles of our members. All we asked was this: How did you get started?

Tom Simondi, of Computer Knowledge, joined the ASP on April 28, 1987 and is online at www.cknow.com


After college I went into the Air Force for a twenty-year career retiring at a grade of Lt. Col. Toward the end of that twenty years, Apple put out this thing called the Apple II and, being interested in technology of all kinds and having previous experience with the larger computers, I went to a local Computerland and took a look. After several times in the store, talking with the manager, I got one at a good price in return for my writing software reviews for a second company he had that published such things. Thus was born my company Computer Knowledge (how’s that for bragging?) and I started getting bunches of Apple II software, testing them, and writing reviews.

Got pretty good at it and when IBM came out with their PC the manager arranged for me to get one of the first of those and I continued doing reviews for both platforms.

About the same time I became a life member of the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) and was active in their Los Angeles chapter to the point where I eventually started a computer subgroup for the LA chapter. Since most of the financial software of the time was based on the spreadsheet I became rather good with them and that led to my first book, “What If? A Guide to Computer Modeling.” While it was an interesting job writing it, the book never really took off as the last chapter, inserted just before publishing, mentioned that a new spreadsheet was just coming onto the market: Lotus 1-2-3.

Since that program exploded onto the scene the book was quickly dated. Several other books that were nothing but collections of past reviews that had been updated followed but none of those really took off.

After the Air Force I did some teaching and was given the chance to start the microcomputer program at El Camino Junior College in the LA area. Wanting to give the students something to read on their own computer and wanting to learn some programming that did not involve rows and columns I latched onto Turbo Pascal and wrote a program that read coded data files and presented them to the user a screen at a time. The students found the program useful.

Watching the market I had noticed some software being sold on a try-before-buy model and so I put TUTOR.COM on the market using this model. (You can see how original I was by naming the program after the executable name.) It became quite popular and the 22 June 1987 issue of Info World carried a PC-Sig story that highlighted the program as number three behind PC-Write and PC-Calc. Given that this put me just behind Bob Wallace and Jim Knopf (Button) it was  something of a high for me. (Indeed, about that same time I attended a Houston meeting with those two and other shareware authors of the time and out of that meeting came the Association of Shareware Professionals, now the Association of Software Professionals.)

Over time, the minicomputer tutorial morphed into a complete DOS tutorial and, along with that, a virus tutorial was written to try to explain computer viruses to a non-computer audience. If you look hard enough in a search you can even find the original DOS versions of these programs still on some download sites.

As my day job edged out the physical software business and as I did not bother to learn Windows programming, the shareware programs turned into freeware and, eventually, the virus tutorial became a main feature on the Computer
Knowledge website.

As that website grew, one page on the site, a list of file extensions and the programs that used them along with links to those programs, became quite popular. I eventually peeled that page off the CKnow site and from that arose FILEXT.COM which grew like the proverbial weed.

Finally, after FILExt peaked I decided to sell it and retire. I still maintain the CKnow.com site and some personal sites but not actively as I’m having too much fun in retirement.

 

Interviews, Uncategorized

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