Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Secret Life of Presentation Pete

I had a golden encounter this covidious afternoon. To wit, I was out in the front yard mowing the lawn with my hand reel mower - I roll that way. I was wearing the face mask The Wife had sewn for me out of my old Hanes undershirts. Mowing was going fine...

Sidenote: I was wearing my Presentation Pete t-shirt from my old Lotus Freelance days that I had found in the box in the garage that we were going to donate to Goodwill, but that, in our covidious era, I decided actually sparked joy. I wore the shirt proudly.

Here's Presentation Pete in his glory

Presentation Pete - Leaping Pete

Here's the t-shirt. Some of my old Lotus folks will remember. This was the kickoff to the Coltrane Release where Lotus went all out to embrace the "World Wide Web". We would implement "Publish to Web" well before Powerpoint got around to it.

Presentation Pete kicks of Lotus's Graphical Products Group 1997 effort

Digression upon a digression: I have a draft of a short story somewhere titled The Secret Life of Presentation Pete. The idea has been percolating for nigh 13 years now - a high concept joint about the inner life of stock photograph characters or something.

Arrgh, it deserved neglect, let's tweet instead.

The Secret Life of Presentation Pete

I wasn't there at his conception - I believe Joanne Meirovitz might have been the mother, however, Presentation Pete had a very inauspicious debut. The scandalous toli would be chronicled by Cringely in an aside in InfoWorld (June 1 1992). Our Bob titled it "Lotus Unenlightened". Call it a youthful indiscretion.

The Adventures of Presentation Pete - Lotus Unenlightend - Cringely Infoworld June 1992

As the story goes,

"Lotus CEO Jim Manzi et al will soon make a public apology for racist images printed on a Freelance demo disk called The Adventures of Presentation Pete. The animated demo was built on an African Safari theme complete with images of white hunters and black tribesmen."

Something along these lines perhaps?

Lions attack the modern traveller

Here's the detail that gets me:

"An African American employee in the Freelance group was offended by the racist image but waited to complain until the disks were already shipping. Lotus will eat 750,000 leftover copies"
The Adventures of Presentation Pete - Lotus Unenlightend - Cringely Infoworld June 1992 (2)

I believe I know who that African American employee was, although I can't remember the name - even as he gave me much shrewd career advice - there weren't many of us darker than blue at Lotus back then (or even now in software). I loved that he waited before pouncing. I still admire the nerve.

I can only imagine the contents of the safari themed disk of The Adventures of Presentation Pete that had to be pulped. I would pay good money for a bootleg of that disk. Surely one of those 750,000 leftover copies still exists? I demand especially to see those African tribesmen.

Scratch that. Here's my artist's rendition of the African safari themed disk of The Adventures of Presentation Pete that had to be pulped. A quarter century later, I still have a copy of Freelance on my laptop.

Presentation Pete - safari pete

Digression: was it a floppy disk or a cd-rom? Freelance's PRZ file format was quite famous for being more efficient than Powerpoint's PPT format and could fit on floppies.

I now understand why there was so much trepidation 6 years later when I brought up the issues I observed when integrating clip art in the Coltrane release. Lotus had been primed for Cultural Sensitivity in Technology

I first met Presentation Pete in his prime when I joined Lotus in 1995. As noted, he had already led a storied life by that young age. He was a natty dresser

Presentation Pete - Natty Dresser Pete

Presentation Pete was passionate about office life. The title in the Freelance clip art chooser read "Hardworking Pete"

Presentation Pete - Hardworking Pete

Still, office life could sometimes be overwhelming for Presentation Pete. Cue the clip art title "Scared Pete":

Presentation Pete - Scared Pete (Office Life)

Presentation Pete was a renaissance man.

Presentation Pete - Renaissance Man Pete

In his Christmas and Santa personas, Presentation Pete was full of zest. He was a fair referee also

Presentation Pete - Santa and Referee Pete

In short, Presentation Pete was a man for all seasons

Presentation Pete - Man for all Seasons Pete

Pete's co-workers loved him. I think one of them, his office wife perhaps, was modeled on Ruth Seltzer who hired me at Lotus. Or perhaps it was her sister. Whatcha think @iustinianus ?

Presentation Pete - Pete's co-workers

Presentation Pete was all about collaboration and groupware, what we now call social software.

Presentation Pete - Collaboration Pete

Pete was a pioneer of remote screen show. You say Zoom, I say Presentation Pete

Presentation Pete - Presenting Remotely

I learned heady lessons about work-life balance under Presentation Pete's tutelage

Presentation Pete - Work Life Balance Pete

The four years we spent together collaborating were the best years of my professional life.

Pete's job was offshored to India once IBM ceded the office suite market to Microsoft circa 1999. Lotus would stagger on as a brand for another decade but the thrill was gone. The remnants of a still-profitable Lotus were finally sold off by IBM in December 2018.

Presentation Pete - Information Superhighway Pete

I helped train Presentation Pete's replacements in India before switching to work on software for the ill-fated Network Computer. Lotus eSuite, remember that? For you young ones, a precursor to Google Suite.

Presentation Pete - Really Remote Presentation Pete

Surfer Pete was one cool cat. Presentation Pete had more than 9 lives.

Presentation Pete 15 - Surfer Pete

Presentation Pete was a man in full, his legend proved to be iconic in software history. Presentation Pete Lives.

Presentation Pete - Leaping Pete

Adapted from some covidious toli

Next in Part II: A Golden Encounter

Previously: The Mosquito Principle

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