Matrix Astrological Software

Matrix Astrological Software

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Computers were made for astrology, although it took some astrologers a little time to recognize this. Matrix Software, the first company to create computer programs and make them available to the general public, was founded by astrologer Michael Erlewine in 1977 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Prior to Matrix, astrologers did their charts using complex log tables, interpolation techniques, and a pencil and paper or, at best, a four-function calculator. Some astrologers even tried to make the argument that the age-old ritual look-up tables had some special meaning in themselves and that computers had no soul. This retro attitude did not last long and astrologers quickly came to love their computers.

Erlewine began programming on handheld-programmable calculators in the early 1970s, in an attempt to research techniques for which there were no tables, such as Local Space and heliocentrics. Erlewine published his own heliocentric ephemeris in 1975 and some of his early programs were published by Hewlett-Packard.

After a centuries-old tradition of creating charts from a series of tables, not all astrologers welcomed the computer. When Erlewine published an astrological calendar in the late 1970s with a cover showing a computer with an astrological program on its screen, he received a letter from a nationally known astrologer berating him for associating computers with astrology. Astrologers were at that time quite computerphobic, even though the computer was to liberate them in such a significant way.

Matrix received the same sort of reaction when it pioneered Astro*Talk, its series of interpretive-report-writing software. These programs printed out complete astrological interpretation reports that astrologers could then make available to their clients. Erlewine recalls a hot debate on these new interpretive reports at an American Federation of Astrologers (AFA) convention forum discussion, where one astrologer burst into tears at the shame of allowing these computer-generated reports to enter the field.

In the beginning, well-known astrologers would buy report-writing software quietly, not wanting other astrologers to know they had and used them. But soon these reports generated enormous revenue for professional astrologers, enabling them to offer a $10-$25 report to clients who could not afford a full sit-down session. One client reported selling more than $300,000 worth of reports from a single $300 program.

Matrix Software relocated to Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1980, where Erlewine was joined by his astrologer/programming brother Stephen Erlewine.

Over the years, Matrix has held dozens of in-depth conferences and meetings, featuring some of the most distinguished astrologers of the time, including Dane Rudhyar, Michel Gauquelin, Charles Harvey, Charles Jayne, Robert Hand, Theodor Land-schiedt, Noel Tyl, Roger Elliot, Geoffrey Dean, John Townley, and Robert Schmidt.

In addition to its initial calculations, hi-resolution chart wheels, and report-writing programs, Matrix Software has pioneered a number of astrological techniques, including the first programs that performed simple astrological database research and audio programs that actually spoke astrology, with interpretations available in both masculine and feminine voices. In addition, Erlewine created special programming that offered full-motion video astro-reports, with unique spoken text, recorded over the video for exact birth data. Matrix helped to produce the award-winning Time-Life Astrology CD-ROM. Michael Erlewine, an early pioneer in online and Internet content, created (at the request of Microsoft) the New-Age Forum on MSN, as well as its own site, and helped to launch Astro*Net on America Online.

In the late 1970s, Michael Erlewine and Charles Jayne teamed up to create ACT (Astrological Conferences on Techniques). Originally designated by Jayne as a meeting of the minds, by invitation only, Erlewine soon broadened this into a forum format, where invited experts discuss cutting-edge astrological topics in front of an audience. In these sessions, a moderator was also present and the audience was free to participate. ACT conferences were held a number of times, including stints at conferences of both the AFA and the United Astrology Conference (UAC), as well as at Matrix itself. The conferences were always very well attended and participation was very active, reaching incendiary levels at times.

—Michael Erlewine