What Infocom was to games, Beagle Bros software was to productivity/utility/development software for the Apple II. Beagle Bros is fondly remembered for not only clever, useful utilities like BeagleWrite (a word processor) and Macroworks (a macro add on to the popular AppleWorks) but for their clever ads and their reputation for being a company that was not only attentive to customer needs but made sure the customer was having as much fun with the product as the developers were having working at Beagle Bros.

Beagle Bros was formed in 1980 by Bert Kersey and his wife Sharon in San Diego. The company began with one Apple II on a kitchen table and a quarter page ad in Creative Computing for a computer game Bert wrote. Technically the company began with a TRS-80 but the machine broke down so many times, living up to its nickname “the Trash-80”, that Kersey returned it and bought an Apple II on a friend’s recommendation.

The company’s name was chosen to reflect the Kerseys’ desire to set themselves apart from other software companies in all aspects of the business. In the early days of the microcomputer industry, small companies gave themselves fancy high tech names with words like “Soft”, “Data”, “Micro”, “Digital”, etc. in their title. The market was becoming saturated with these sound-alike names. For whatever reason, the Kerseys were taken with the Disney Beagle Boys gang (a bunch of gangstah dogs) and based the name on that.

The company logo featured two Edwardian looking gentleman in high celluloid collars and handlebar mustaches. Their image also adorned a small warranty certificate included with each product. The “Statement of quality” certificate promised “Our programs are FUN to use. Our instructions are CLEAR and complete.” Much loved was their parody of floppy disk warning icons that were typically found on the back of floppy envelopes. You know: don’t bend, don’t staple, don’t run a magnet along the disk, etc. The Beagle Bros floppy warnings included icons that implied one shouldn’t load the disks into two-slice toasters, fold them into paper airplanes, use them as kites, play ring toss with them, or attempt to feed them to alligators.

Kersey’s initial game, Text-Train, was nothing for the history books. It was a game that simulated a train switching yard. You were an engineer and you had to hook up the trains. The trains were made out of text characters. Kersey, who was quite thrilled with all the hidden and undocumented features of his Apple he kept stumbling on, included in his initial ad a promise that if you bought his game you got a free booklet detailing tips and tricks for the Apple II along with a command chart.

That little offer was an inspired move. Much like how Infocom grew its reputation partially based on the cool extras it threw in every software box, Beagle Bros software became known as a company that helped the Apple II faithful to squeak out extras out of their hardware. Many of their ads would include small clever AppleSoft BASIC program listings. You never knew what it would do until you punched in the 3 or 4 lines of code and went “wow, not only did I not know the Apple could do that, but I didn’t know you could do that in 4 lines of BASIC!” I believe the joke was a Beagle Bros employee named Uncle Louie who would answer user questions had an Apple II with 0.5K of memory, so all his programs had to be rather small. The name Uncle Louie itself might have been a play on the fact Apple computers always had a "U.L. Approved" label on it. The joke being U.L. stood for Uncle Louie and not Underwriters Laboratories.

Many people are still amazed today that Beagle Bros discovered, and revealed, that you could make your Apple moo -- yes moo like a cow -- using the machine language “$3D9.....985......CALL -64551” subroutine.

Beagle Bros borrowed (or maybe stumbled on) a concept that helped Apple acquire market share in the early days. They looked larger than they were. When Apple showed up at early hobbyist-driven trade shows, they were always the slickest, most professional booth on the floor. They looked like a 2,000 person company although they were only a 20 person company working out of a small industrial mall warehouse. For several years, the Beagle Bros were purely a husband-and-wife operation, despite the fact they were shipping 200 software packages a day. They eventually hired Mark Simonsen to take technical support calls and program in his spare time.

To parody their small time operation and their bigger than reality image, Beagle Bros would include photos of its extensive mythical staff and give them funny names like Al Gorithm, Flo Chart, Max Files, and Minnie Assembler.

Simonsen, employee number 3, eventually left the company and started his own software company called The Software Touch .In 1987 Simonsen’s company bought Beagle Bros from Kersey. Beagle Bros eventually went belly up when it invested heavily in development support for the Apple IIGS, misreading the popularity of Macintosh. Simonsen has recently made much of the company’s software available on the net as freeware (though not pubic domain).

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.