12 THE POWER OF POSSIBILITY NISC | 50 YEARS OF INNOVATION AND MEMBER SERVICE stay within that limit. (That wouldn’t come close to powering even one day’s use for an average refrigerator today.) Lillian C. De Krey, a Verendrye employee, took the customers’ money and copied the meter readings onto file cards. If she needed to do any significant calculations, she used a hand-cranked adding machine. People who didn’t come by to paytheirbillormailitinsawtheirnameinthe“doghouse”section of the monthly newsletter, which was printed on a mimeograph machine and mailed to homes. Clearly, this system wasn’t sustainable, evenforasmallcooperative.Largeutilities, banks and other businesses already were using technology to take the place of labor-intensive manual accounting and billing. Some cooperatives began installing automated adding machines or rudimentary data processing, but the future lay with computers. On April 2, 1965, Time magazine’s cover featured a drawing of a humanoid computer with a banner heralding “The ComputerinSociety.”InJuly1966,theSaturdayReview magazine declared that computers were ushering in a turning point in human history. A mainframe then cost $300,000 or more (about $1.8 million in today’s dollars — an investment far beyond the capacity of most rural electric and telephone cooperatives), plus required the expertise of a programmer — also difficult to find. The path was obvious to leaders of the co-ops. They would need to band together. Clyde Ellis, General Manager of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association continued from page 8 (NRECA) and a man so committed to spreading power across America that he became known as Mr. Rural Electri- fication, exhorted co-ops to move collectively into the computer age. “Involvement. This is our key to the future,” Ellis said at a conference of the Rural Electrification Administration. “As I see it, you, as rural electric leaders, must take this key of involvement and use it to help bring our 1,000 rural electric systems into this marvelous future unfolding before us.” As he spoke, in September 1966, the North Dakota statewide associations serving rural electric and telephone cooperatives had already set up Electronic Data Processing (EDP) as a shared data processing center, charging Members in several states 11.5 cents per customer to handle billing and record keeping. In St. Louis in 1967, co-op leaders from Kentucky, Arkansas and Wisconsin began to plan for a shared data processing center, then expanded their effort to include 14 states in a venture that became Central Area Data Processing Corpo- ration. The NRECA actively encouraged the creation of other regional data processing centers as well and worked to bring common systems design, programming and a plan for the centers to evolve to being “total management infor- mation centers.” “Throughout history we have looked at a problem and found a cooperative solution to it,” says Martin Lowery, NRECA’s Executive Vice President for External Affairs.