People Stories

The Great Briefcase Incident

Bob's briefcase (pre-truck)
PowerLogic Application Software series circa 1989
Product concept: PowerLogic Application Software series, circa 1989

fax about finding the briefcase
Fax from Karen Bailey to say that the briefcase had been found

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While working with a software developer on PowerLogic System Manager Software (SMS), Bob Kennedy lost—and then found—his briefcase.  It's a long story.

SMS on Windows 286 and 386

PowerLogic System Manager Software (SMS) was first released for the Microsoft operating system called Windows 3.0.  For younger readers, Win 3.0 preceded Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 10.  In fact, at the time of its development in 1989, SMS was written for a Windows version even earlier than Win 3.0!  Windows 286 and 386 were named for the Intel processors at the time, somewhat analogous to today's Windows for 32-bit and 64-bit machines.  Anyway, you get the idea.  SMS was among the first Windows applications.

A Road Trip to Knoxville

To jump-start development, Square D worked with Electrotek Concepts in Knoxville, TN, to develop the power management software for Windows.  Electrotek was well-known for their power systems expertise and also their Windows development experience.  By the end of 1989, the project was well underway, and Lee Wallis and Bob Kennedy were making the short, 3-hour drive to Knoxville to review progress and discuss specifications.  At this meeting, Bob planned to describe new functionality desired involving alarm and event reporting.  The guys started out around 6:00am, hoping for an early start and productive day in Knoxville.  Neither would happen.

A "Brief" Stop in Harriman, TN

About an hour from the destination, Lee suggested stopping to call for directions to the office.  At that time, Lee was still a smoker, so Bob suspected a ruse for a smoke break.  Either way, the pair stopped to use a pay phone in a McDonald's parking lot just off the Harriman exit.  Bob got the phone number from his briefcase, opened on the flat trunk of his Honda Civic.  Lee called, confirmed directions, and the duo were back on I-40.  The first time.

Ok, We're Here. Now Where's My Briefcase?

Arriving just after 10am Eastern Time, the guys were anxious to start an interesting meeting.  But Bob reached in the back seat for his briefcase (containing all his ideas for the meeting) and found nothing.  His mind flashed back to the briefcase's last sighting—on the trunk of his car.  No room for doubt.  New plan: return to Harriman.

Lee stayed in Knoxville for the meeting while Bob got back in the car, headed for I-40 West.  It was a lonely drive.  Perhaps an hour or so west of Knoxville, the Harriman exit seemed a long way.  When Bob finally returned to the assumed scene of the crime, he found no trace of his briefcase.  Several minutes of futile searching went unrewarded, and so Bob reluctantly drove away.  He expected to see the briefcase on the side of the road somewhere between Harriman and Knoxville.

Bob drove slowly on I-40, eyes peeled to the shoulder, hoping to spot the cherished item  That briefcase contained everything—files, product plans, specs, drawings, ideas for the new features.  It even had Bob's favorite pen and many other personal items.  All lost now.  All waiting somewhere along this road, but where?  Bob had been agonizing for over an hour when he saw a familiar sight, and not one he wanted to see.  It was the Crossville water tower.  For at least an hour, Bob had been driving in the wrong direction—farther West on I-40!

Bob found the next exit, turned around, and retraced his path back to Knoxville.  With so much time to think, Bob decided to stop again in Harriman.  He searched for an hour.  No trace of briefcase.  He finally gave up (again), and headed back (again) to Knoxville, this time in the right direction.

The Fax

Bob finally made it to Electrotek around 2:30pm.  As he entered the conference room, Bob was greeted by raucus laughter.  Guffaws maybe.  Because the group knew something Bob didn't.  (This was before cell phones.)  They had all seen the fax.  Karen Bailey (future PowerLogic hall-of-famer) had written to say that a "very nice man...from Harriman had called to say he found the briefcase...right before it was run over by a truck."  A copy of this fax is reproduced at left.

Bob got back in the car, drove to the gentleman's place of business, thanked the man with a twenty, and retrieved the briefcase—what was left of it.  At least some papers and personal items were salvaged.  The briefcase itself was marked by truck tire treads, never to be used again, not as a briefcase anyway.  Bob made it back to Electrotek by 5pm or so.  Shortly thereafter, the meeting was adjourned.

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