Barbara’s next up in this week’s cycle of tales from the Proposal Guys panel:
In the 1980s I worked on an RFP for a DoD (Department of Defense) contract for a state-of-the-art technical support center for the B-1 Bomber worth millions of dollars. I worked for a very large defense contractor and the different departments pursued their own contracts. We did the research, wrote an internal proposal for funds to pursue the RFP/contract, including labor to work on the RFP. It was customary to use corporate computers for your RFP and then buy all new government equipment when you won the award. Corporate computers were those little all-in-one Macintosh units. This was when the latest and greatest PC was the 80286 (cost, approx $10,000).
We won the contact with our huge set of 12, four-inch binders full of engineering reports, diagram, graphics, and beautiful page layouts using Frame Maker and Adobe Illustrator. When we won they requested we deliver all of our material in WordPerfect and AutoCAD formats. At that time there was no compatibility between Apple and PC formats. Of course our VP handed it to me and said “just do it.”
It was the most horrible experience of my life. They cleared out a conference room, filled it full of equipment, books, and a couch I could sleep on. I had eight weeks to figure out how to convert material from the Macintosh to the PC, make sure it was editable, and looked the same. For eight weeks I lived in that room with meals delivered from the cafeteria. I showered in the company gym and the drycleaner delivered my laundry.
Years later when the contract came up for re-bid one of our competitors promised a system using a brand new Microsoft Windows interface. We did not have any Windows programmers (no one did). We did not have Windows. While our programmers scrambled to learn Windows programming and figure out how the heck to move a huge Unix based system to Windows, I learned how to make a pretty Windows GUI with all the associated military logos and buttons that didn’t do anything but look pretty. We won the re-bid. I still have a framed B1B Technical Support Center logo as a reminder.