My PUF Ad Campaign 33 Years Ago


Steve Jobs and Woz, Jimmy Carter, Lipstick, and a PUF ad campaign.

Today in Fortnightly

It was 1981. Steve Jobs and Woz (aka Steve Wozniak) started selling what were called micro-computers. These were micro enough for a small business like mine to buy and figure out how to use.

We were pumped. Before long, we coded programs to perform system planning, cost of service, and revenue requirement analyses for utilities.  It was incredible these could be done on an Apple II. 

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Awkward though. As when users had to continuously switch between the five and a quarter inch diskettes for the programs and data, in the external disk drive.

By 1983 we were going strong, selling the programs to utilities and proselytizing about computers on peoples' desks. That's when a company started buying up promising software firms, including ours and one owned by a son of former President Jimmy Carter.

We had placed a couple of ads in Public Utilities Fortnightly. Looking back, they were laughably amateurish. But effective perhaps, since sales were strong.

The company that bought us wanted more professional and aggressive marketing. I was told in no uncertain terms that selling our highly-technical programs to utilities was no different than selling lipstick.  

Yet they funded an ad campaign in PUF that year, thirty-three years ago. We had the back cover, for three months. Awesome. Our ad shouted out: The First Utility Models for Micro-Computers. 

The ad's pretty retro. Our logo featured five and a quarter inch diskettes. The pic looked down on a user typing away on an IBM PC, with a monochrome monitor the size of a microwave oven.  

The lead article of the July 7, 1983 issue of PUF, when the ad first appeared, was entitled "How Competitive Marketing Can Rebuild Electricity Growth." It was clearly a different time.

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A couple of months ago, I committed to leading this same institution, that so long ago I used to boost sales of my utility regulation and policy programs. Who'd have thunk it?  

I suppose PUF ads work.

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Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly
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