Tom Proulx

Thomas Proulx, better known as Tom Proulx, is an American computer programmer and entrepreneur.[1] He was a co-founder and first programmer of Intuit and a pioneer of usability testing in the 1980s.[2] He was the main programmer of the first version of Quicken and prime mover of its successful merger with TurboTax.[2]

In 1983 Scott Cook went to Stanford University in California, United States. He wanted a programmer for a planned home bill payment and bank reconciliation program. Proulx, who studied Electrical Engineering/Computer Science at Stanford,[3] was the first person Cook met and they soon co-founded Intuit. Proulx was the first and main programmer of the first version of Quicken and the first Apple and Radio Shack versions. He obtained a patent for finding a way for a computer to verify that a user had correctly inserted blank checks in a dot matrix printer. This was essential to the near universal use of such checks in accounting programs.

In 1984, in what may have been the first case of usability testing with engineers, Intuit recruited people off the street to test Quicken with a stopwatch. After each test Proulx improved Quicken. Before this experienced computer users spent an hour or more to install programs and print a check. Novices often gave up. Quicken let novices do it in less than 15 minutes, printing checks faster than it took to write them. The market share of Quicken varied from 65% to 98%, making it a killer application, which drove many computer sales. It also made usability testing a standard industry practice.

In 1985, while Proulx was one of three Intuit employees, Intuit became the first company to shrink wrap floppy disks and manuals. This further revolutionized software development. By 1992, all major Intuit programs has a market share of 75% or more. Proulx then created an Intuit credit card with a download service, which automatically classified charges. In 1993, he actively assisted with helping Intuit go public and was the driving force behind its Chip Soft TurboTax merger. He resigned soon after.[2]

Proulx a recipient of the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1992.[3] He and his wife Barbara have two children, Audrey and Ian. Proulx is now CEO of Netpulse, a fitness entertainment company based in San Francisco, CA.[4]


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