Friday, January 14, 2011

The 4 Dimensional Success Story

Rob and Rudy were the best of friends.  Every afternoon the school bus would drop them off a couple blocks from their homes and they would start walking the rest of the way, talking about what they could do with all of their hours of freedom now that they were released from the chain link fence that enclosed the entire campus and the bumpy bus ride was complete.  The sun shone brightly, the wind was calm, life was good.

Soon enough, they arrived at Rob's house, where they quickly snarfed a snack of crackers and peanut butter, turned up some mood music, and went to work on their project.
 Games.  They loved to play games.  Didn't matter what kind.  Once a single Monopoly game lasted three weeks.  No chance could be taken that the game might be disturbed at dinner time, the daily moment when Rudy walked a couple doors down the hill to his house to do his chores, his homework, and prepare to repeat the cycle the next day.  So they would write down exactly what properties were owned, what money they had, which space the cannon and the rice car were on, and everything that would be needed to resume the game in the event that the unthinkable happened and the game was touched in their absence.

They also played cards, mostly hearts, fish, or pinochle.  Chess and backgammon found their way into the mix, as did war games.  They refought the battles of Gettysburg many times, Stratego and Risk were favorites too.  They were a good match for each other, that was for sure.

As time passed, they started experimenting with what would happen if they changed the rules of the games.  Just for the fun of it.  Then they started inventing new games.  That's when their business started, almost inperceptively at first.  There was no grand opening, just one day they decided to share one of their games with some of the other friends at school. 

There were basically two times each day they hung out with their larger circle of friends.  There was a 12 minute snack break in the morning and a 34 minute lunch break at midday.  Everything was precise at this school, right down to the minute.  One year school ended promptly at 3:01 pm daily, after all a simple 3 pm would not do.  Something to do with the bus schedule, or so the principal claimed.

Rob and Rudy liked the simple games too.  They experimented with tic tac toe.  It didn't take long for the regular version to bore them, and somewhere they found a plastic three dimensional version.  It had four spaces each direction instead of three, and four 4x4 squares layered vertically also.  You could win by getting 4 in a row, horizontal or vertical, straight or diagonal.  It was much more interesting than regular tic tac toe.

After a few more months, they got the idea that they could go to "4 dimensions" and do it on a single flat piece of 8 1/2 x 11 paper.  They started with one square with 4 spaces each direction inside it.  Then they made a row of 4 squares, simulating what they had been playing on the plastic set.  The "fourth dimension" was formed by adding 4 columns of 4 square rows.  There seemed to be virtually an infinite number of ways to win, forcing each player to be so careful in defense while plotting a way to win that the other player wouldn't notice until it was too late.

What was especially novel about the format of putting this game on a single piece of paper is that the game became easy to reproduce and it was portable so that they could take it to school and play with their friends while eating.  Soon tournaments sprung up, with winners of one game advancing to play the winners of others until champions were crowned.  Then a new tournament would begin. 

The number 4 was all over this game, so the R and R Company, as Rob and Rudy dubbed themselves, sold their first product at 4 cents a sheet.  It cost them about a penny and a half to produce the sheets, and overhead was low as you might imagine, so they were profitable from the beginning.

What I'm hoping that you my readers will tell me, is what the R and R Company has in common with Ellen Patton Photography, and what specific things helped each of these part-time businesses succeed.  I can't wait to read your comments!

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