The story begins in the late 70s a time when change in the world was about to really accelerate.
The PC and the Fax Machine had not yet been invented … a geek called Bill Gates had just started Microsoft, Computers were called Mainframes they cost a million dollars and occupied large rooms with sophisticated air-conditioning and fire proofing.
And then IBM introduced their System/3 family of smaller computers which used 96 column punch cards
Then along came John Neller at a time when large companies outsourced Payroll calculation, reporting and management to Bureaus such as TNT and Mayne Nickless…. who were in that business because they also transported the cash in the form of pay envelopes.
John was having a beer at the Overway Hotel in Hindley St with a friendly IBM Sales Rep ( they were very friendly in those days as they earned bucket loads of money) when he learned that many IBM System/3 and System 32 customers were looking for a payroll system designed for the at times bizarre requirements of paying people in Australia.
At the time John was a leader and smart salesman in waiting, masquerading as a mild mannered accountant working at Rainsfords in Adelaide. Together with the then MIS Manger, Graham Rogers, he decided to give the development of a Australian payroll system a go. Graham did the coding while John wrote the User manual and designed the payslips and reports…. all done in 200 hours!!
The end result, owned 50/50 by the two, via a company called Systems for Management, was EMPAY
During 1976 it was sold to a number of prominent SA companies of the time inc Baulderstones, Gerrard Industries (Clipsal) and Diverse Products (the local Coca Cola Bottler). The price – $2000 with an annual maintenance fee of 15% of purchase price.
The early days of the Software Industry in Australia are filled with good and bad decisions that made or broke many of the pioneers.
After the initial flurry of sales activity Graham decided, as a techo would, that there weren’t many more sales to come and within the first year he sold his 50% to John.
Very quickly John recognising his strengths and weaknesses hired Helen Hansen a programmer from Cocoa Cola Bottlers to maintain the system and that day in mid September 1976 became the official start date.
Working from two rented rooms in a building on Greenhill Rd. Adelaide, which was becoming the computer district of Adelaide, the business was soon firing.
John hired Kym and Pru Jolly and his brother Tony and in mid 1977 the company name changed to John Neller and Associates and became known to all and sundry nationally as JNA.
A pioneer of the industry was born and growing fast.