A big failure: my poems died-1987 (42-43)

Super big opportunity finally gets a “Dear John” card 

 

In 1982, using my Osborne I microcomputer and the BASIC language, I invented and wrote a program I called “The Computer Poet.” Later it would be renamed “The Magical Poet.”

Birth of The Poet

The Poet worked by asking the user a few questions about someone in their life, including their name, their #1 and #2 traits, for example, “generous” and “sexy”, and the message to be sent, for example, “Happy Birthday” or “I want you." From these answers, The Poet would generate a customized three verse limerick for and about that person. 

A multi-millionaire investor came out of nowhere

I visited some computer clubs around the Phoenix Valley and could sell a few copies of the software. Serendipitously, I met Mansel Ocheltree at one of these clubs in a retirement village. After buying a copy of my software, he called me up and said, “This thing is great! I think I can sell this.” It turned out that Mansel was a multimillionaire, having created his fortune by revolutionizing the seed corn business in America and the world. He owned a million-plus dollar mansion in Paradise Valley, Arizona and a seven-million-dollar home on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. 

Mansel founds "The Computer Poet Corporation"

Mansel bought the rights to “The Computer Poet” from us and founded a company called “The Computer Poet Corporation.” He took off like a house a fire.

The greeting card customer could create a customized poem for another

We chose the Apple Macintosh, which had just been introduced in 1984, to be the hardware platform. We designed a kiosk to house the Macintosh along with a printer. Hundreds of different colorful greeting-card covers were available for the greeting-card store customer to choose from and then affix their custom-made printed poem inside of. 

I put myself in charge of PR

I took the lead on doing PR for The Poet. We changed its name from "The Computer Poet" to "The Magical Poet." It was easy for me to get press because it was so unique. A film crew from PBS’ New Tech Times came to our home. Louise, my wife at that time, was “the poet behind the poet.” They filmed us for half a day. Later a seven-minute spot was aired nationally on PBS’ “The New Tech Times.” I was able to get articles or snippets printed in scores of national and local publications.

The growth was unsustainable

The Poet grew fast, being placed in hundreds of greeting card shops all across America. It was even installed at a commissary on a military base in Virginia.

It probably grew too fast and it spread out all over the country. Maintenance problems. Keeping-the-stores-supplied problems. Moreover, even some software problems, which were my responsibility. After about three years and a million or so dollars poorer, Mansel Ocheltree decided he would cut his losses and return to retirement.

 

Our dream was dead

 

The Computer Poet Corporation was shut down and the rights to The Magical Poet were returned to my wife and me. Our dream of The Magical Poet becoming a sustainable national, even international sensation was dead.

The Poet writes a poem for my mother

From the screen menu on the Macintosh, we told The Magical Poet

  • What's her name: Dorothy

  • Where does she live: Tennessee

  • What's she like: friendly and hard-working

  • What's the message: congratulations

  • Title of the poem: On Your New Job!!!

  • Who's this from: Dwight and Louise

The Magical Poet then wrote and printed this poem for my mother

1987-Poet Card.png