Let there be bytes: Software firm brings interactivity to Bible

By Erik Lacitis

The Seattle Times

Published: Saturday, March 31 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

In addition to the Bible, they had in common a love for writing computer programs.

Pritchett started when he was 8 and growing up in Cherry Hill, N.J. His dad brought home the legendary Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80, one of the first home computers, with a minuscule memory by today's standards.

But, Bob Pritchett remembers in a company history, "This was the coolest thing — a machine you could program to do anything you wanted."

By the time he was in a high school — growing up in a religious family, he was attending The King's Christian School — Pritchett was designing software and selling it to Fortune 500 companies.

By his junior year, he had earned $4,000 — enough to buy a car, and more computers.

"I read The Wall Street Journal every day. I didn't like high school. I was interested in business and entrepreneurship," Pritchett said.

It was while in high school that he also wrote a free program that searched the Bible in a computer bulletin-board system. Pritchett said his program was better than what had been used previously.

But, he said, "It was still a very simple tool. It didn't live up to my vision of a great Bible software package."

Teaming up with Reiniger allowed Pritchett to work again on a Bible program.

Back then in 1991, Pritchett and Reiniger were both single, and, well, computer geeks. They did computer stuff at their Microsoft day jobs, and then continued evenings and weekends on the Bible software.

That year they also brought in Pritchett's dad, Dale Pritchett, who had sales experience, to promote the new product. They decided to name the software Logos, a word of Greek origin, which means the word of God incarnate in Jesus.

They ran an ad in a Christian magazine, selling the software, which came in floppies, for $159. They got six orders and decided to press ahead.

They quit Microsoft, raised $120,000 and rented an 800-square-foot office in Kirkland, Wash.

First year sales in 1992 totaled $350,000, mostly through Christian book stores.

Dale Pritchett needed to move from New Jersey to Washington state to help his son with the business. His only condition was that he wasn't moving to a suburb. So Oak Harbor, Wash., it was.

But eventually, Bob Pritchett said, that little town turned out to be a little too isolated.

"Bellingham was the next closest town with a Costco," Pritchett said. That was handy, as, in the Microsoft tradition, Logos employees get for free all the Diet Coke, other sodas and bottled water they want.

Plus, Pritchett adds, Western Washington University offers a ready pool of prospective employees. He said Seattle has too many traffic problems and high housing costs.

The company touts its employee perks, such as letting most salaried employees select their own sick days, holidays and vacation time (which used to be three weeks).

Pritchett said the new vacation policy has been in effect for less than a year, and "I don't see a lot of difference" in how much time employees are taking off.

At the same time, Pritchett is also the boss who in 2006 wrote a business-advice book called "Fire Someone Today." The title refers to what sometimes a boss has to do.

Pritchett lists the kinds of people who need to go: Whiners, slackers, incompetents, troublemakers, misfits and those who are superfluous.

Would Jesus write a book titled, "Fire Someone Today"?

Pritchett answered, "It's a provocative title. But we live in the real world. That's how God set it up. Sometimes people are in the right place. Sometimes they're in the wrong place."

The market around Bibles certainly is huge, although sales figures are hard to peg because millions are given away for free. Gideons International says that since 1908, it has distributed for free more than 1.7 billion Bibles, nearly 79 million just last year.

Logos keeps finding new ways to place the Bible in social media.

Another Logos product called "Proclaim" lets parishioners tap away on their smartphones or tablets as the pastor is preaching.

The pastor, of course, has a huge screen behind him that illustrates his sermon.

"Let's say I'm referencing something in a Greek or Hebrew word that's tied to a website. I can send a 'hot link' if people want to dig a little deeper," said Pastor Rick Bulman of New Hope Foursquare Church in Bellingham. "It's pretty remarkable. It makes learning the Bible fun and interactive."

These days, Logos is in the beta phase of a new platform called "Faithlife," a kind of Facebook for connecting "with your church, friends and Christian leaders online."

Pritchett was asked for any particular Bibles passages that would be pertinent to entrepreneurs. He emailed back several, including Proverbs 22:4.

"The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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