TBB Time Travelers: December 1983—Counting on computers

Struggling to figure out how to use high-tech new tools like 3D printing and data analytics in manufacturing, or how Blockchain fits into the whole Internet of Things in Industry 4.0 (or something like that)?

Don’t fret, we’ve been here before, and we’ll figure it out again—together.

In our story “Computer provides ‘instant’ estimates” in the December 1983 edition of Trailer/Body Builders, we detailed one company’s successful attempt to integrate new software designed to quickly provide customers with quotes.

First off, check out the antiquated EDS computer in this photo gallery, which the company, Cottrell Inc, still was trying to figure out how best to utilize 35 years ago. Then remember, Microsoft didn’t release the first version of Excel until two years later.

“When an SAI salesman asked what he could do for our company that would justify a new computer system, I responded ‘I need a cost estimating machine,’” said then-controller Leland Bull. “SAI assured me that this program would be both possible and practical, although I found out later the program had not been designed or written.”

Say what?

Still, Cottrell signed on—as like in modern times, businesses couldn’t afford to be left behind in the digital revolution—and within a few months they were using a computer to track accounts payable, receivables, inventory, sales and, finally, bid estimates. And it must have worked out because Cottrell’s still thriving today.

“The machine, an EDS with 128K expandable memory, has been running 100%—we have not had a mechanical breakdown,” Bull reported. “The SAI computer package replaced an Olivetti mag card system.

“The improved performance surpassed our expectations.”

Fast forward to 2018, and many manufacturers still are trying to figure out the latest technology, and how to make it work for them—just likely we’ll probably be doing in 2053—and TBB’s still here documenting the journey.

So, climb into the ultra-high-tech TBB Time Machine, powered by the latest flux capacitor, and travel with us to December 1983—when the internet and cell phones were in their infancy—then stick around in 2019 for more exclusive content from the only magazine for producers and sellers of commercial truck bodies, trailers and truck equipment.

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