Our office bought an IBM XT in late 1985, to help with premium calculations (I worked for an insurance broker at the time).
At that stage all calculations were done by hand (using a tape calculator), then handwritten on A3 sheets that were taped together before being sent to the typing pool to be typed on an IBM DisplayWriter, using massive 8" floppy disks that could store 256 KB.
It would take two of us about 14 days to do three years' motor claims statistics for one client (just double-checking the figures was a major undertaking: one person would read the numbers whilst the other would add it up on the calculator - then we would switch places and repeat. More often than not the totals were different, forcing us to repeat the exercise).
Once the typing pool had finished typing it all up, we had to verify everything again, plus correct typing mistakes. Once we were happy that everything tallied up, it would be presented it to the account handler for approval.
Once he was happy, it would go to the branch manager (who would need to present to the client), who almost invariably asked for alternative calculations, using different excess amounts, et cetera, kicking off another two weeks of calculations.
Since I had done Computer Science at university, I was asked to spec a system to automate the process as far as possible, saving time and improving accuracy and, most important of all, to enable quick recalculations.
The system we eventualy bought comprised an IBM XT (running at 4.77 kHz), with an EGA Graphics card, capable of displaying 16 colours simultaneously, a massive 10 MB hard disk drive (it came standard with a 5 MB drive, but I reckoned we would fill it within the next three years or so, whilst a 10 MB drive would last forever), plus a 256 KB 5.5" floppy drive. We also upgraded RAM from 256 KB to 512 KB, soon afterwards going to 640 KB.
Software was DOS 1.0, Harvard Graphics, Lotus-123 and MultiMate, whilst output was handled by a dot-matrix printer and a four-colour plotter.
The whole lot was about 10% more expensive than a new BMW 518i (so you can imagine management's reaction when one of my colleagues suggested that everyone in our department should have one of those on our desks!). To put it into perspective, my gross annual salary was about one third of the cost.
After spending a couple of weeks to set up the spreadsheets, hiring a temp to capture all the data and then creating the necessary formulas to do the calculations, the big day finally arrived when I had to demonstrate to management how the system worked (and justify the expense. Whilst the project was approved, they still needed to see it for themselves).
It was amazing: half the office was jammed into our office to watch the show. I gave a short spiel of how it all worked, then changed a couple of key values (like rates and excesses) and pressed F9 to calculate (you could not leave autocalc on, otherwise it would take an age between entries, just to recalculate the whole thing).
In less than 5 minutes we had an answer! Two hours later I had three different scenarios printed out, plus some graphs (We used to use a dedicated plotter, printing on 2.5" wide paper, to print graphs. This was also a painfully slow process, as the machine did not have any RAM, so you had to enter the co-ordinates and colours for each graph every time. The graphs for 10 booklets, containing only 12 graphs per booklet, was a week's work, as each graph had to be cut out and glued into place as well) - a whole month's worth of work for four people!
Needless to say, when the first 286 came out, we got one and shortly afterwards a couple of 386 screamers arrived.
Paris, as she looks as if she is also wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.