and we are ...
while you're busy making other plans
The reasoning was that an 8½x11 letterhead in black ink on white 24 lb bond was neither easier nor more difficult to produce for ACME Tools than it was for Empire Builders. After a few false starts and some adjustments, what had worked for Henry Ford soon began working for us.
Now I grant you, building cars isn't the same as putting ink on paper . . . Henry didn't have to contend with hundreds of paper items in thousands of colors. But we felt the obstacles were surmountable, and by 1976 Unitac had formulated enough standard products to publish a 40-page price book.
The book was an instant hit with our customers. Not only was it now much easier to order printing - buyers no longer had to call us to find out how much it would cost - it was cheaper, too. Our price book instantly showed the most cost efficient quantity.
All that was missing was a computer to generate the prices. Recalculating each and every item by hand every year was a time-consuming chore. But missing it would have to stay, because back then even a "mini" computer would first empty your wallet and then fill an entire floor. In 1976 there were no computer stores, no boxed software, no PC's.
The door opened in 1978 when a local hobby shop began selling a home computer kit in a fancy blue metal case or plain wood. We opted for the wood. It took me two years after hours to put together that little Horizon and learn NorthStar Basic so I could write a pricing program, but by July of 1980, Unitac had produced the first computer-generated price book for printing in America. A year later, IBM introduced the PC.
After 36 years of washing up ink fountains and clearing out paper jams, we're no longer in the printing business. Our presses have been sold, and for the past ten years we've been making and selling software. True to the promise we made in 2005, we're still giving away our Free Edition, no strings attached.
Looking back, printing has made for a good life, midnight oil and all. I'm happy we're still part of the industry.
Helmut "Hal" Heindel
Theresa "Terry" Zicari
Our first Beta
The Silver Edition of Morning Flight is released as a free public beta. Four years later, after one of the longest test flights in the industry, the Silver becomes our first software product with a price tag.
Nobody reads manuals any more, and of that we're as guilty as anyone. Today most of us find it easier to learn by doing or by watching over the shoulder of a friend. Once the Silver Beta had left the gate, our top priority was to create some quick videos.
The Free Edition
Our most capable and feature-rich Print MIS sells for $495.00. That's less than a third of what other vendors are charging but still more than what some barely above the water mom-and-pop shops can afford.
While we can't give away the company store, here's a solution even the smallest printer can justify: Our Free Starter Edition. It will work where you do, in inches and millimeters, offset and digital. No charge, no phone calls, no connection to the mothership of any kind.
As with all Morning Flight software, you never have to worry that the program will self-destruct at the stroke of midnight because the license ran out.
Good software can be written, but great software gets to be that way because it is shaped and refined by the people using it. Thanks to untold contributions from our forum members, Morning Flight has come of age. For that, I am deeply grateful.
Filling the Shelves
By the time the Printfire store opened in 2009 we had six finished products on the shelf. Only two of them had been beta tested: The Silver Edition and the Gold. There was no need to test the rest: They all shared the same code base. All that separated the six editions was their capabilities and features.
Losing the Boxes
In the years that followed, the demand for user manuals dried up to where there is now precious little light at the end of the shrinkwrap tunnel. Printed manuals are totally extinct for orders we get from abroad where the advantages of downloading are overwhelming.
So a year ago, for the second time in its history, Unitac shuttered a printshop. This time the in-house production equipment stayed - there would have been little profit in selling it. Besides, I may want to use it for a book about how to price printing some day.
Opening the Store
If our software hadn't been bootstrapped by the printshop, Morning Flight would never have left the ground. The decision to sell the shop in 2006 and give up a steady income was almost as nerve-wracking as the original startup. True, there was the check from the new owner, but liquidating a printshop these days is by no stretch lucrative.
In the three years prior to having merchandise to sell we had busied ourselves making new products while giving away the Free Edition. Ordinarily, that wouldn't have been a stellar plan for making money, either. What made it work is that shortly after we closed the shop, one of my collector cars brought $1,525,000.00 at the Mecum Spring Classic auction.
Nice when that happens, when you can dive into a new adventure with pedal-to-the-metal abandon - and the security of a parachute.