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Almost Perfect by [Peterson, W.E. Pete]
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Almost Perfect Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Length: 236 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled

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Product Details

  • File Size: 489 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Publication Date: July 27, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XKNWUE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #961,416 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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By Richard Mansfield on November 29, 2011
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I don't remember now how I came across this book, but I bought it a few months ago and only got around to reading it over the past week. I admit that I was attracted to the book out of sheer nostalgia. I was one of millions of computer users whose first -significant- experience with a personal computer came through using WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS.

The book is written by a WordPerfect insider from the early days: W. E. "Pete" Peterson, who went from office manager in 1980 to executive vice president before he was essentially fired in 1992. From his own descriptions, Peterson sounds like the kind of boss that no one wants to work for. He comes across as a killjoy who is not interested in the individuality of the employee, but rather seems to desire a team of robots who will come to work, do what they're told and be loyal to the company. Of course, any boss can be a jerk. There are the Steve Jobs, who are obvious jerks, but have such vision and charisma that people wanted to work for them anyway. Peterson is not that kind of boss.

Peterson throws out sayings like "While it would have been easier to always give the customers what they wanted, I had a hard time believing "the customer is always right." In fact, I had come to the conclusion that the person who coined the phrase had actually meant to say, "the customer always gripes..." (location 2675). So, it sounds like he had a problem with both his own employees and the company's customers. Of course, to Peterson's credit, he admits near the end of the book, "I took myself and my job too seriously" (location 2828).

The book, while interesting in points--especially to anyone who used the software or kept up with WordPefect Corp. in its heyday--suffers from a lack of significant editing.
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At one time, WordPerfect dominated the world of word processing apps, and Microsoft was considered to be a pesky upstart with their Windows operating environment, which was then a graphical shell for MS-DOS. But history and management techniques can have interesting effects over time.

Author W.E. Pete Peterson's Almost Perfect is a first-person account of life at WordPerfect, from the time in the 1970s when word processing was still fairly new. It describes his rise from a $5 per hour part-time job to traveling sales manager and eventually to WordPerfect's executive vice president, from the times when the company had a handful of employees, to when it grew to command more than 50 percent of the global word processing software market, and that was on multiple computer platforms.

But mistakes were made, many of them, and the biggest of those was in not recognizing the rapid growth of the emerging Microsoft Windows operating environment. WordPerfect was in the enviable position to become the world's word processing standard, and was available on almost every hardware platform. Microsoft Word was only on two of the then-lesser ones, and mighty IBM's DisplayWrite was only available on IBM machines. Regarding the upgrade release of his company's flagship program, author Peterson wrote: "If we could get 5.0 right, we had the potential to stay on top for many years to come."

The author spent twelve years with WordPerfect before he was let go in 1992, seemingly the first victim of the company's tough battle to fend off the increasingly popular Microsoft Word.
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Almost Perfect, W. E. Peterson

W. E. Peterson joined Word Perfect in 1980 as a part-time office manager, and left as Executive VP of Sales in 1992. He says their success was based partly on luck: the right circumstances at the right time. [Luck favors the well prepared.] They depended on their own efforts and finances, not on burning up borrowed money. [Did this concentrate their efforts on success?] This book has his views on what was the most successful software company of the 1980s.

He explains why "reliability was more important than price" (p.41). A word processor is a means to an end, not an end in itself. A $1500 product can be less costly than a $500 product that breaks down, once you include the effect of lost production and schedules. He says the demise of word processing departments in the mid 1980s was unexpected (p.60). Yet this happened to key-punch departments a decade earlier when on-line terminals were adopted. [Will Internet E-mail reduce the market for word processors in turn?] The problem of printer support in WP was solved by the use of tables; but this resulted in slower printing. [Are separate executable modules more efficient?] One very important item of their success was their evaluation of their product by consulting with the secretaries who used it. This is much better than an ad-hoc committee of non-users. His evaluation of other companies (p.100) is interesting. Using a "lines of code" rule alone may result in bloated and redundant code, which can lead to higher maintenance, overhead, and support costs. The story of the "free Hawaii trip" (pp.131-2) illustrates the difference between "goals" and "objectives". A fixed cash bonus is a goal, a Hawaii trip an objective.
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