Richard Lewis establishes Lewis & Associates (a sole proprietorship) while still in college at Louisiana Tech University. He attracts several clients interested in automating certain business practices. The most notable client is Carrier Air Conditioning, which was at the time attempting to create a computer model for use in residential and commercial estimations. Mr. Lewis created exactly that model in FORTRAN for Carrier and ran the estimates on LA Tech's IBM 360 mainframe.
While employed as a software engineer in the intelligence industry (GTE Government Systems, Ford Aerospace, Loral Space Systems), Mr. Lewis began conceiving a consulting practice to serve the burgeoning industry of startups in Southern California.
Mr. Lewis begins a consulting practice as an individual, with clients including Teledyn Ryan, Beckman Instruments, IRS, Red Carpet Realty, and NCR.
NCR approached Lewis seeking to obtain software for their new remittance processing transport, the NCR 7770, which stood poised to revolutionize the remittance processing industry with high track speeds, low OCR and MICR error rates, and a multi-pocket sorter capable of offering as many as 40 out-sorts.
A deal was struck wherein Lewis would provide the software and NCR would provide the hardware and service. Lewis formed Deltasoft Corporation and began what ultimately would become a $2 million enterprise, with clients scattered across the United States. Deltasoft grew into an unstoppable force in the industry, attending trade shows and startling visitors to its' booth by actually processing their sample remittance documents right in front of them. Most would walk away with a floppy disk of live data.
STAR*RPS was born, and there was simply no other company on the planet that could do that!
As Deltasoft continued to grow and mature the remittance software, the management team recognized a virtually untouched market: tabletop remittance processing. The NCR 7770 weighed over one thousand pounds and required a forklift to unload; its' cost including Deltasoft software approached $100K. Many regional utilities and small one-branch banks couldn't afford to buy in and were still using lockboxes to process their remittances. Advantages of in-house processing over lockbox would make an affordable tabletop solution an easy sell.
The management team decided to expand into hardware engineering, sales and service and so formed a new California corporation named Group ASTL, Inc. The meaning of "ASTL" varies depending on whom you ask and their mood, but one of our favorites is "Applied Systems and Technology Labs."
Group ASTL would conduct business as ASTL Systems for the remainder of the corporation's life, with all Deltasoft contracts and clients migrated to the new corporation.
The tabletop remittance processor would undergo several years of engineering effort only to meet limited acceptance in the industry. In part, this was due to an onslaught of competition, including directly from NCR and Maverick Microsystems, a former supplier. Since service is mission-critical, ASTL had negotiated service contracts for clients based on a loose-knit community of service providers in the banking industry. Service became the critical issue in the ongoing success of the venture.
Amid widespread fears of "Y2K" (for which ASTL conducted several audits for clients such as Dell), many STAR*RPS clients feared the rollover from 12/31/1999 to 01/01/2000 so ASTL was on standby, despite assurances from Mr. Lewis that his code had been written with this event in mind.
As it turned out, one small bug appeared in the first week of January, 2000. A report had the wrong date format on it. The operational software withstood Y2K and ASTL's reputation was intact.
The NCR 7770 hardware platform reached end-of-life and NCR discontinued service and support of it, so our clients were left with the necessity to either return to lockbox, or procure new equipment from another vendor. At the time, ASTL management decided to concurrently discontinue the tabletop remittance processor product line, mostly due to difficulties with our contract service organization.
Mr. Lewis returned to his consulting practice, doing business under the ASTL Systems name.
Twelve years of providing consulting services to clients revealed another sustainable market: providing engineering services to past clients as well as new clients, leveraging on the lessons learned over the past two decades.
This is our story, and you may very well be part of our future. We sincerely hope so!