Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bank Error In Your Favor. Collect $1000.

Ok, so it wasn’t a bank error, but it was just as good. In a past life I was really in to computer programming. In my one spectacular year at college I took a one semester course on GW BASIC. Anyone remember that. GW BASIC is an almost useless programming language but I was hooked. I played around with it at home and quickly reached the limits of the language so I went out and bought Visual Basic 3.0. VB 3.0 was a step up from GW BASIC, but not by much.

At any rate, I wrote a spades card game program and uploaded it to CompuServe (The internet had not be opened to the world at this point) and in the little help file for the card game I said if you like it then send me a check for $3. I didn’t know anything about Shareware at the time, but that is apparently what is what I was doing. You give the program away, people share it with each other, and if they like it they send you money. The first month I got about 15 checks for $3 each!

I immediately set out rewriting the program, and as the years went by I wrote more, mostly little games and utilities. Slowly business picked up and after a while I was making around $500 a month with my little business called Windswept Software. I mean, I wasn’t going to quit my day job or anything, but hey, it’s $500 a month for having fun. I’ll be honest, a lot of what I do is crude by many standards, but the games are fun, and I enjoyed it, so what the hell. Occasionally I people would solicit me for licensing agreements to distribute the programs on a broader scale. Most of these never panned out. It got to the point that I wouldn’t even reply to these types of emails unless it appeared to be written by someone who knew what they were talking about.

I did have some success, though. The best one was for Coca Cola. They were sponsoring a Dominoes Tournament in Brooklyn and had hired a Texas marketing company to promote it. Somehow they found my dominoes program and wanted to give it away at the tournament. I modified the program so the tournament logo was on the program’s playing table and put the “Coca Cola” logo on the back of the dominoes. They wanted 2000 copies and I charged them $2.50 each plus labor for modifying the program. After the cost of labels and disks I made about $5,000 off that one.

The last one I did was for a company in Canada. They wanted one of my gambling programs for a DVD they were doing. The idea was that the DVD would have video to teach different casino games and then you could load programs from the DVD to practice. I don’t even remember the particulars of how much I would get but it was on a per unit basis and it wasn’t much per unit. They only way this would work is if they moved a lot of units. The checks came every three or six months – I forget - and they were pretty small. I don’t think I ever got one for more than $100. Then one month I got a statement that said the amount was too small to cover the cost of printing the check and the balance owed me would be added to the next period. After that I pretty much forgot all about it.

Then 4 or 5 years ago I moved when I bought this house. The whole programming thing sort of got sidelined as well. With so many on-line game sights like MSN The Zone sales steadily tapered off. I have just two programs that generate sales anymore, but they still bring in about $100 a month. One is the dominoes game and the other is a tool for people programming in Visual Basic 6. Yesterday, though I got an email from the Canadian company I had the license agreement with. Apparently they tried to send checks to my old address. I’m not sure why they weren’t forwarded to me. Maybe they recently tried to push the DVD again so sales picked up. I’m not sure. At any rate, the guy from the company said they have a check for me and he’s been trying to get my address. According to him, based on the last statement he saw, it is “clearly over a $1000”. Wooo Hooo!

To celebrate I went out and bought a new router. That means I can finally finish the kitchen island by installing the sink and putting a profile on the edges. So I’m now painting the house, doing major reconstruction of the porch, and I’m going to be cutting a hole in a $350 piece of marble. I’m going to be a busy little boy.


Jocelyn said...

ka-ching! good for you and spending it so sensibly too.

I was mindlessly watching "Deal or No Deal" last nite and going crazy watching people turn down 20K or 40K! I've decided the pre-requisite for the show is you have to be a gambling addict or something.

Greg said...

I know what you mean. I’ve found I actually enjoy watching them go down in flames when they try and push it to far and pick one more case. Greedy bastards. It serves them right!

Gary said...

I hope that is US $$$. If it is Canadian $$$ then you might be a little disappointed. If it is Nigerian $$$ then I think you are screwed!!!

derek said...

The Canadian dollar is stronger than it used to be, over $1000 would be over $900.

merideth said...

jackpot!! you know every one of us house-restorers could put that to good use! couldnt have happened to a better guy!

Patricia W said...

Dude. Too cool!

Kristin said...

Wow, how cool! It's like finding $20 in an old purse, except a LOT better. Congrats! Enjoy your new router!