Thursday, 06 August 2020 23:01

In Reverse: The Advent of the Computer Age

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In January 1980, BYTE Magazine announced in an editorial "the era of off-the-shelf personal computers has arrived."

Tandy (RadioShack) and Apple had already been selling computers for more than a year and the soon-to-be ubiquitous IBM PC, which would set the standard for some time to come, would be introduced in August 1981. Individuals' lives and the business world at large would soon be changed forever.


Beginning around 1982, a lot of ink was spent within the collision industry trade magazines addressing computerization and how and why the industry should embrace this new medium.


One collision industry magazine noted, “As we move through the ‘80s, shop owners around the country are discovering a new tool for getting and keeping a competitive edge: computers. If you’ve never taken a look at these at these smart machines, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.” The article went on to explain the difference between hardware and the new emerging world of software.


Another trade magazine article looked at three different computer systems designed specifically for body shops. One was called Auto Repair Management Systems. One was made by Kennedy Communications and sold for $29,900; that’s $79,600 in 2019 dollars. And one was produced by Triad Systems of Sunnyvale, CA.


The magazine devoted an entire article to the ADP/Audatex estimating system and how easy and efficient it was. Another article asked “Is Your Shop Ready For A Computer System” and provided a 15-question check list to help the reader decide.


But the latest in technology came from a company called Mitchelmatix. A trade magazine article noted shop estimators loved their estimating manual but now Mitchellmatix was going to make them easier to use by inserting a bar code into the book. The bar code was then read when a computerized wand was passed over the strip by the estimator.


The mini-computer was then hooked up to a telephone line, a call made to one of 19 IBM computers spread around the country. Two and a half minutes later, the estimate printed out on a dedicated printer at the body shop.

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