It was September 1986 and I was settling into my job as the microcomputer manager at the Pasadena corporate headquarters of Avery International (maker of binders, office supplies, colorful stick-on dots). The office was appropriately opulent for a Fortune 500 company; artwork on the walls, floors of marble and chestnut.
Most of my day involved showing people how to do things in software (WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Harvard Graphics), replenishing supplies (I had cabinets full of dot-matrix ribbons, some toner cartridges, and boxes of 5¼ inch diskettes), or setting up and burning in new equipment.
Half the staff had dual floppy IBM 5150s, about a quarter had the new Compaq luggables, and a lucky few had the new IBM XT's with their magnanimous 10 megabyte hard disks. Color monitors were reserved for those with heavy graphic needs or up on the third floor (the executive offices). And, naturally, as the PC manager, I had an XT with a color monitor.
Obviously, this was before "the cloud," before networked hard drives, before Google Docs.
Halfway through one moderately busy afternoon, the fire alarms triggered—buzz buzz buzz and flashing strobes, which most people ignored. We were fairly accustomed to alarms sounding when someone left a burning cigarette in their office (yes, this was the ’80s, and people still smoked indoors at work). After about five minutes of this nonsense I looked up to see a larger than usual smattering of employees milling about outside, so I went to see what was up.