Brightens Old Software! #socs

You know it can’t be a good sign when I start one of these weekly entries by talking about The Three Stooges. Yet, here we are…

in 1937 Moe, Larry, and Curly created the short film “Dizzy Doctors,” in which they’re ordered by their wives to quit being lazy bums and go out and get jobs. They find work as salesmen for a product called Brighto, which they think is a cleaning solution but, after destroying the finish on a guy’s car, a man’s pair of shoes, and a policeman’s uniform with the stuff, they learn is a health tonic. In one scene, they’re in Dr. Bright’s office and he gives them a sales pep talk, after which they come up with a slogan:

Moe: Brighto! Brighto! Makes old bodies new!
Larry: We’ll sell a million bottles!

Now, with that in mind…

I spent almost twenty years working for a software company that would typically follow a really good year with a really lousy one. After the good years, they would hire a lot of new employees, and after a bad year, they’d lay all of them (and more) off and try to come up with a strategy to make up for the bad year. On one such occasion, after a huge layoff, we were told that the company was staking its reputation as the leading software company in the industry on a product called BrightView, a GUI front-end to all of our mainframe software products.

I was one of the lucky ones who received the initial training on this product, along with several friends of mine. The training consisted largely of crowding thirty full-sized adults into a classroom made for fifteen, in which there was no working air conditioning, while members of the development team tried to see how long it would take to put us to sleep. Needless to say, we were pretty punchy by the time we got to do exercises. And, of course, I got to do a lot of the hands-on part, and naturally, everytime something went wrong (which, since we were working with a pre-release version of the software, was often), I would react with Curly Howard sound effects…

And, naturally, this became our slogan…

BrightView! BrightView! Makes old software new!
We’ll sell a million copies!

I was at a flea market one weekend not long after that, and wouldn’t you know it? They had a still photo of Moe, Larry, and Curly standing beside each other brandishing bottles of Brighto. Of course, I bought it, and figured out a way to replace the labels on the bottles with the BrightView logo (remember, this was in the days before anyone knew how to do this stuff on a computer, so I was using the old-fashioned cut-and-paste that involved scissors, paper, and Scotch tape). Soon my friends from the class all had the picture, which I’m sorry to say no longer exists. (Maybe someone will find theirs and send it to me…?)

I do have to say it sold really well, at least at first, when people thought they could use it to overcome the perceived shortcomings in the mainframe products, then it stopped selling so well when word got out that no, they couldn’t, and when they discovered just what a pain in the ass it was to modify what was delivered. Still, I was one of the trainers on the product when we started training clients, as well as consultants, and we would train a classroom-full (no, not an overcrowded one) every month for about a year and a half, until they decided it was time to replace it with something just as difficult to use.

But the legacy lives on…


Linda Hill sponsors Stream of Consciousness Saturday every week, and has the rules and links to everyone else participating over at her site. And I have to thank Bee Halton (who might be a relative, for all I know) for providing the prompt, because I had a great time writing this…

7 thoughts on “Brightens Old Software! #socs

  1. Ain’t it funny? Times change, technology rolls ahead, and our cool shirts become gouche. But we’ll never grow tired of replacing something tedious with something laborious.


    1. This was both tedious and laborious. It was like the twelve trials of Hercules to get a screen that worked, because the developers were teaching themselves how to code for the PC platform as they were developing the product. There are always the questions that arise in classes like “why didn’t you…” or “why can’t we…” and the developers couldn’t explain what they did. It was a mess, and the product that replaced it was no better. There were more than a few difficult years…

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