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In July of 1982 while working at an electric utility in the Northwest USA with substantial knowledge, experience and interest in residential energy management, I contacted TI to discuss a possible joint venture in home energy management.  I and another manager and two V.P.s were invited to the Dallas headquarters.  During the introductory part of the meeting with 5 or 6 representatives of TI including Bill Turner and Don Bynum, the TI 99/4a came up.  I stated this was a doggy little machine and you would have to pay me to buy it, not $10, not $50 dollars, but if you paid me a $100 dollars I might buy it.  If you mailed me a $100 rebate you would know my name and address and could then advertise directly to me and sell me software and peripherals at a pretty good profit.The TI guys were offended at my remarks, we broke for coffee and to calm down.  When the meeting resumed we began to discuss a possible home energy management system.

 

i have forgotten the name of the TI V.P. who authorized the meeting but he was the VP in charge of future development at TI.  
 

September 1, 1982 the $100 rebate was announced.  The 99/4A’s began flying off of retailer’s shelves.  This began the micro-computer price war with Commodore.  I was told that there were 20 clerical workers sending out rebate checks.  TI paid out

$50 Million in rebates through the end of the year.  Software and Peripherals were in two other, separate divisions.  Because of different chains of command with conflicting management objectives the mail order marketing program never got off the ground.

 

 After the Christmas Season the retailers started balking because they were buying the machines as if they were a $300 machine.  Bill Turner did away with the $100 rebate and reduced the retail price to $200.  The retail sales stopped and then the price was reduced to $150.  The first that TI knew of the problem was when a Lubbock forklift driver called his supervisor and stated that there was no more room in the warehouse for any more 99/4A’s.

 

The two top officers of TI (Shepard and Busey) went to Lubbock and kicked ass and took names in very rough terms, many on the receiving end broke down in tears.  The Board of Directors retired or fired both top guys for their rough behavior.  Junkins took over the top slot.  TI had their biggest write off ever in 1983.  TI dumped 99/4A’s in a street and ran Cat D-9’s over them and then dumped the scraps into a landfill. 
 

The objective of the TI engineers became to get a transfer to Dallas so that TI would buy their Lubbock home and then they could quit TI and move on to another position.  
 

Don Bynum went on to run Datapoint Computers.  Bill Turner became top dog at ADP and lead it to great success. I heard Lubbock went into a severe real estate downturn that lasted for 10 or more years.

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/12/2024 at 4:34 PM, NWguy said:

Bill Turner did away with the $100 rebate and reduced the retail price to $200.  The retail sales stopped and then the price was reduced to $150.

A former customer of mine ran a Ben Franklin Crafts here in town.  It sat nestled into the corner of a shopping center anchored by a WalMart.  For Christmas, she sold the exact same Christmas trees as WalMart but $10 less.  Even with enough margin to make stocking the Christmas trees worthwhile, she still came in less than WalMart's price but they would not sell.  Even with huge pops in the windows, they wound up getting put away after the season.  Her daughter, her store manager, told her that she needed to mark them up higher and then slap a large discount on them.  After some cajoling, she did so, begrudgingly; she marked them up around 200% and then offered a 50% discount (even numbers for demonstration, but ultimately they sold for exactly the same price,) and she could not keep them in stock.

 

On 6/12/2024 at 4:34 PM, NWguy said:

The first that TI knew of the problem was when a Lubbock forklift driver called his supervisor and stated that there was no more room in the warehouse for any more 99/4A’s.

Imagine a huge warehouse filled to the brim with 99/4As!

 

On 6/12/2024 at 4:34 PM, NWguy said:

TI dumped 99/4A’s in a street and ran Cat D-9’s over them and then dumped the scraps into a landfill.

Everyone talks about the E.T. cartridges Atari dumped in the desert, but no one talks about this.  The thought of what companies do with stock they cannot sell still shocks me to this day.

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On 6/12/2024 at 3:34 PM, NWguy said:

In July of 1982 while working at an electric utility in the Northwest USA with substantial knowledge, experience and interest in residential energy management, I contacted TI to discuss a possible joint venture in home energy management.  I and another manager and two V.P.s were invited to the Dallas headquarters.  

 

I'm a little surprised at your stories.  But you were on the inside that day in 1982...


I know from the TI Records archive, at SMU, that Home Computer folk had been touting home energy management on the Home Computer since 1978 at least.  It's in the Dimension 4 concept from 1977.   (see CB Wilson papers in this forum.)  Since they had so far done nothing with it, they might have been eager to hear your proposal.  

 

The idea had been in the master plan by Granville Ott, the "architect of the Home Computer program" in the Office of Strategy & Tactics (reporting to the C-suite.)  Other higher-ups in OST would have been Bernie List and maybe C.B. Wilson.   I think the idea was dead -- did they expect owners to leave their computer on just to run the thermostat and lights?

 

I have a public speech and 72 slides: "The Future of Electronics in the 1980s".  It repeats the Home Energy Management promise  with a story about energy prices going up 10% per year, plus gasoline becoming scarce which will force people to work from home.   So consumers would want their Home Computer to turn off lights, or adjust temperature zones when no one is around.

 

Stephen Shaw interviewed Don Bynum (as recently as 2019?).   Bynum was the engineering manager who got the 99/4 to ship, and who stayed on til the end in 1983.  Bynum told Shaw that Home Computer managers were always giving overly positive presentations to please higher-ups. 

 

A marketing paper and sales training in the archive both over-promise glorious applications of Home Computer: Finance, Education, Household Budget and Record Keeping,  Online Information Services, Home Energy Management,  and lastly Entertainment with... Football.   In 1980, Shaw says only 20,000 99/4s were sold to distribution channels.  That agrees with a channel report I found in the TI Records archive.

 

(I don't have my Records catalog citations handy...)

 


 

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