In 1979 I was trying hard to get a handle on my costs. I'd been a general contractor for only a few years, but I was already tired of late nights and blurry eyes trying to bid plans. I worried about my prices, too: I wasn't confident about the numbers I used. I found it especially hard to keep track of labor costs.

Then I met a fellow contractor at the lumberyard who started talking about his new Tandy computer. I was all ears. He invited me over to see this astounding instrument, and I left his home that night buzzing with new ideas. Not long after, I started specializing in finish carpentry, and I've been using a computer to track my costs and help me...

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