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Commentary & Analysis

I Remember Charles Wang

Charles Wang, founder of Computer Associates (now called CA Technologies), passed away on Sunday at the age of 74. Frank Romano looks back at a technology—and VDP—pioneer.

By Frank Romano
Published: October 23, 2018

At one time, Charles Wang (pronounced as wong) was the 14th richest man in America. I met him in 1970 when he had a company called PDA Systems. Their office was in an old hotel on the upper east side and their first product was what we would now call Variable Data Printing.

Charles and his partner had a “mail merge” program that ran on the IBM 360 that could wrap the variable data and other features. Before that, long names could not be broken or wrapped. I did all his PR and advertising as a freelancer.

I built the booth for a Direct Mail show in Boston and rented a van to take it up there, my first trip to Boston and the new Hynes Auditorium. I worked on promo letters for a CBS-owned restaurant and invited Walter Cronkite and his wife Betsy to dinner.

For a trade show, I printed floorplans and then imprinted them with codes for booths to visit. For a furniture store I created post cards that inserted names into little poems. The store’s business thripled. A few years ago, Charles contacted me to find some of the stuff we did. I had saved it all and met to give it to him.

Wang was born in Shanghai, China, and moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of 8. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and physics.

Wang co-founded Computer Associates International, now known as CA Technologies, in 1976 and headquartered it in Islandia. He served as chairman and chief executive. He started the company with Queens College classmate Russell Artzt, Wang's skills helped propel CA to prominence with 20,000 employees at its peak.

With the wealth he earned from CA, Wang would provide $52 million for a cultural center on the Stony Brook University campus to celebrate the links between Asian and American culture. 

Wang saw successes and setbacks in the fast-moving computer technology industry. Today he is best known for ownership of the Islanders hockey team. He died Sunday at the age of 74.

I remember him as a pioneer in VDP.

Frank Romano has spent over 50 years in the printing and publishing industries. Many know him best as the editor of the International Paper Pocket Pal or from the hundreds of articles he has written for publications from North America and Europe to the Middle East to Asia and Australia. Romano lectures extensively, having addressed virtually every club, association, group, and professional organization at one time or another. He is one of the industry's foremost keynote speakers. He continues to teach courses at RIT and other universities and works with students on unique research projects.


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