I recently wrote this small article for a company newsletter. The response from their clients has been quite amazing. Really I did very little, just chatted to this amazing man about his vision for the future of computers. I am posting this because of a question from a very good writer Carl (tuchy) Palmieri who asked me about how to "sell" his work. Industry, business, media NEED writers to write anything from advertising blurbs to complete books and brochures. Even annual reports and company policies need writing. I make my living from writing anything I am commissioned to write for whatever company asks me. Advice? Contact companies, email them, send them examples of your writing. It may not be the heady, glorious celebrity world of authors, but it will fund your "real" writing. Good luck and may your God bless you all. DG
WHAT IS A FUTURIST?
From a conversation with writer DORA GRAHAM
An old friend of mine, once a “hippy” publisher of a highly controversial magazine in the 1960’s is now a highly regarded “FUTURIST”. He is retained by companies to investigate and explain to them how they should gear their businesses for the future. Richard does not use a magic mirror. He does his research and takes the “next logical step”.
Many years ago I was one of the very first people in Australia to embrace the VIDEO business. The first to design what became the standard video store, with movie covers readily accessible on shelves for people to TOUCH AND FEEL. We succeeded beyond our wildest expectations, and at the age of 35 I sold out with a very nice profit, and the business went on to become CIVIC VIDEO. From a small shop in Lane Cove in Sydney, 20th Century Electrics became a leading chain of video rental stores with scores of businesses joining us to bulk buy. We changed our name to THE BIG V and rather than franchise we became a COMMUNITY BUYING GROUP under a single banner. Along with VIDEO EZY, then owned by two friends, we became one of the strongest video rental businesses in Australia.
I could never have known at that time that I was really a FUTURIST.
I can clearly remember our morning coffee time at the café down from the Lane Cove shop, when Barry, my beloved South African partner (more than 20 years my senior then), asked. “How do you see us going for the future?” Back then, a 40Mb computer for our shops cost us $10,000 and we had to hire a software company to run our databases. We were tied to them and the costs were extravagant.
When my son was nine, he built his first little computer from parts supplied by a DIY electronics company called RADIO SHACK.
When Barry asked about our future I blithely went into the land of science fiction and explained to him about computers and downloading. My vision was of video companies with no physical “stock’ but people would be able to access their movies through a computer. Well… what do you think? Futurist?
In 1999 I met my “partner” (business and otherwise). We sat by the pool in our Townsville home one evening and she asked me what I would like to do if I really could. I told her about computers. “Let’s do it!” she said, all trust evident in her face. We opened a little shop in Townsville and began a new FUTURE.
The first thing we did was to try to demystify computers. While every man and his dog and his dogs best friend was jumping (yet again) unconcerned and uninformed onto the bandwagon, we went our own way and upset a lot of computer store owners.
Why did we upset so many shop owners? Why did we occasionally go to open the shop to find that someone had thrown a potplant at our windows? Why did people call us and offer to do nasty things to us? The answer is because we began to teach.
Each evening after closing time we opened BUILD YOUR OWN COMPUTER classes. By showing people how simple it could be, we upset competitors because the MYSTERY was being taken out of the technology. People began to understand the machines they were going to use. Between the hours of 5pm and 7pm each evening we sold more parts and machines than we would sell in an entire week of ordinary opening hours.
Time went by and margins contracted. Barry taught me well. If a business is going to face a future of low margins and possible bankruptcy, cut it’s throat, take your winnings or minimize your losses, and get out.
I spent a lot of time in bed thinking about the future. While we were right, we were also wrong. With low margins, extra work, and high anxiety was it going to be worth it? Did we hang in and keep throwing money at a business that was inevitably going to be swamped by the multi-nationals? Or was it time to rethink and start over. Take a small profit and go away and regroup?
We chose to regroup after our manager thought that he could begin his own computer business using our parts. We had lost more than $50,000 before we cottoned on. We were then “absentee” owners and I was not holding the reins. Bad mistake.
I wrote to every client we could find who had been ripped off by our manager, and offered to honour all warranties no matter whether they had bought from our “manager” or legitimately from THINKTANK.
It cost us dearly, but we kept our integrity and soldiered on, looking to the future.
I was hurt, wounded, and depressed. I had let down my partner, and felt that I had let down our customers too. Fortunately we did not mortgage the house. NEVER mortgage your house to build your business unless you are absolutely certain of success. NEVER!
Electronics is what I do. I INVENT, and INNOVATE, and for a while I tinkered, fiddled, and dreamed. What of the future?
Futurism as an occupation is a relatively new concept, but without futurists we would not even be making flint arrowheads. Think of Leonardo Da Vinci, Alexander Bell and Thomas Edison. Today we routinely use products and concepts without giving it a second thought.
THINK TANK IMPORTS finally came about in 2000. I desperately wanted to be the first person in Australia to market a non Mac ALL IN ONE PERSONAL COMPUTER. With no bunches of cables to fall over, pull out or mess with. I figured that if Apple/Mac could do it, then we could too.
We supported the development by going to China and beginning to import LOW TECH products. We imported silk, jewellery, fashion products and decided that rather than open a retail shop, we would wholesale only, and use the profits from the Low Tech to finance the High Tech. At some point in my depressed fiddling I had seen the future of computers and technology. There would be NO BOXES, NO CABLES, no great hulking, hot and noisy fansburring about. In the future (which is almost the present) we will encompass all our functionality in a single, attractive piece of “furniture”.
The ALL IN ONE COMPUTER is only an infant… but what an infant! In five years the ALL IN ONE COMPUTER will be as ubiquitous as the mobile phone is now. Its uses will expand astronomically, and in ten years a new generation will use their all in one computer as if they existed forever.
Youngsters will laugh at our old boxes and cables. My son, now 33 cannot imagine a time when we had no television, no mobile phones, no home telephones, and most of all, no computers! He, like me is a futurist. We have ideas, and innovations and inventions, some of which WE will never create or participate in, but they WILL happen. The secret is to think not of WHAT IS, but of WHAT WILL BE.
I am sure that in the next few years the all in one computer will sadly become solid state like the transistor radio or the mobile phone. There will be ‘NO SERVICEABLE PARTS” as the saying on so many labels reads.
Rather than get annoyed at that view of the future, I will keep considering new futures, new avenues, new ventures. It’s true that we have invested a huge amount of money into this new future, and without the loyalty and trust of my partner it would not have happened. She said “go for it”. I did, and we have provided by innovation, research, and development, a whole new concept in computers. We sell a range of all in one computer now and the great hurrah is that we are building a great distribution network. Actually, may I? … I just want to mention Helen at BOSS HOG COMPUTERS in Gladstone in Queensland, Brenden at COMMERICALITSOLUTIONS in Prospect SA, Mark at INTEGRATED TECHNOLOGY in Mildura Victoria and Jackie at CTC Tambar Springs in NSW. I would actually like to mention the hundreds of others too, the likes of Dr Paul, Lena from SIBA SHOES in Townsville, and the Osborns.. no not Ozzie!
So far, we have brought the ALL IN ONE COMPUTER to hundreds of Australians, and there are other companies now selling all in one piece units. Seeing the future is one thing. Acting on it is another. THINK TANK IMPORTS is happy to have the competition. We know we do it better than the rest because before we release a new product, we make sure we are ahead of the rest and NEVER more expensive EVER. On a level playing field, component for component THINK TANK IMPORTS is ahead of the rest in quality, and price. Our new ALUMINIUM CASE ALL IN ONE COMPUTER made in Korea is an example of the absolute highest quality available at a price that BEATS all others without a doubt.
Our new machine , in 2007 was awarded a prize at the DIGITAL INNOVATION AWARDS.
I like being a futurist. People who sell and distribute our ALL IN ONE COMPUTERS are no less futurists… they can see far enough ahead to be leaders in their field. They don’t fear change. They innovate, adopt and adapt.
The creators of WHOLESALE 4U are futurists. Violetta and her husband saw the need for a business to business all Australian network and they went out and made it happen.
You know, anyone can be a futurist. You don’t have to be a great techie, or an inventor or even that smart. All you have to do is think, not about WHAT IS, but about WHAT WILL BE. When you begin to do that the whole world will change. That is a beginning. The end is so far out of sight, and there are so many trails and avenues to explore, that soon you will begin to CREATE the future.
Have a look at some of my products. I don’t “invent” them. Initially the technology is already there. It is about how you construct it, how you use it, how you visualize it. That’s what makes you a futurist.
I want as many people as possible to sell my product and for them to sell my product, so that anyone can easily use it.
Graham THINK TANK IMPORTS from a conversation with DORA GRAHAM.
The full and unabridged article will be posted on DORA GRAHAM’s website soon. Dora Graham is a writer on media, nutrition and marketing. She is heard on more than 40 radio stations worldwide promoting healthy living and nutrition. She also writes humour articles, and fiction.
Businesses may contact DORA GRAHAM through her website, (or just Google her name Dora Graham).She is available to write brochures, handbooks, articles for business and individuals. Email Dora at doragraham.authorsden.com