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They rather saw it as a place to about the things they were doing on their micros: a place to trade tips, rumors, and ideas with one another.They were, in other words, less interested in writing programs on Compu Serve’s big computers than they were in using them as a communications tool — as a way of learning how to write better programs on the TRS-80s and Apple IIs sitting right in front of them.The consumer online service was now known simply as Compu Serve, all the former reticence about mixing corporate and consumer business in the same organization shoved aside.Many people within the company remained unhappy about the push into the consumer marketplace, but Wilkins dealt with the developing culture clash by isolating his small team of consumer-service developers in an office of their own, far from the jeering of their colleagues.Users groups were springing up all over the country for much the same purpose, but, valuable as they were, they were bound by all the constraints geography imposed on what was still a very small hobby in a very big country.What did you do between the monthly meetings of your users group?

Wilkins had seen that computers were entering homes for the first time, but, raised on the big iron of institutional computing as he was, he couldn’t help but observe how absurdly primitive these new microcomputers really were.Helping his cause immensely was the fact that Sandy Trevor, who had replaced John Goltz as the company’s chief technical architect, was himself an enthusiastic supporter of the consumer service, sending the skunk-works group many of his keenest technical minds.With him leading the way, almost all of the technical staff came around in fairly short order, and in time the rest of the staff would follow — especially as the consumer service started making the company real money.Wilkins himself believed that the potential of the consumer service was a major motivating factor — if not major factor — prompting H&R Block to make the deal.He told one interviewer at the time that he believed H&R Block wanted “to put themselves in a marketplace that is growing faster than the tax markets.” Needless to say, such a description no longer applied to corporate time-sharing services, now a stagnant rather than an exploding market.

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