Cornerstone is Released

With its future hanging in the balance, Infocom released Cornerstone in January 1985. Reviewers hailed its ease-of-use. The friendly menus, as well as the simplicity to enter data and perform joins, made it stand out from other relational databases. A PC Week columnist wrote, "Cornerstone is the best program I have ever used. ...the program is so easy to use, explaining its use is almost redundant. If you need a relational database, buy Cornerstone." [Leichtman, Kerry. PC Week. May 7, 1985]

At the same time, Cornerstone faced stiff competition from other databases on the market-especially from dBASE III which was released around the same time-but several technical problems kept it from becoming an instant hit. The most glaring problem was that it was not programmable. Users could not tailor the user interface, build applications, or create macros. Every operation was performed by built-in functions. Users of dBASE II, on the other hand, could extend the product's functionality by using an esoteric programming language. "No matter how easy [a database] was, you still needed it to be customized for what you were doing," Ilson said. "With dBASE, people would spend a long time making something work, but you could always do what you wanted it to do."

Performance also proved to be a critical problem. Because the IBM PC emerged as the dominant platform by 1985, the portability of Cornerstone no longer mattered. In fact, the overhead of using a virtual machine made Cornerstone slow on a IBM PC-XT, the main platform of the time.

Cornerstone sold over 10,000 copies in its first year and accounted for $1.8 million in sales. However, the company had spent money based on projections of growth, but 1985 saw an unexpected revenue slowdown in the games business that put the company in jeopardy.

What happened? where the sales enough? how about game sales?