PBS Documentary Series, Part 1 (1996)
I'm particularly interested in how these folks talk about collaboration, organizational structures and relationships, and their attitudes toward their work. Warren's comments about sharing, the Homebrew Computer Club, and the descriptions of work at Intel and early on in Microsoft are of particular interest. I'm curious what gets left out of these narratives, particularly those folks who get squished as these ventures incorporate, moving from invention to codification as a business. I'm also curious how a company like Microsoft moves from such sharing practices and collaboration described in the series which Gates remembers fondly) to supporting policies like stacked ranking.
Documentary hosted by Robert Cringley who describes himself as the premiere gossip columnist of Silicon Valley. "Institutions in constant change like the PC industry are driven by rumor and gossip, and I thrive on both."
Structure of how coders/programmers work—They've turned the myth of the Jobs/Wozniak camp and the Allen/Gates camp into a lifestyle. This includes the myth that every early, important Silicon Valley company began in a garage.
Intel and the development of the microprocessor
Attributes the "laid back Silicon Valley working style" to Intel. "Everyone was on a first-name basis. There were no reserved parking spaces. No offices, only cubicles. It's still true today[,]" which includes the chairman and co-founder, Gordon Moore's cubicle, even though, as Cringley declares, "he's worth $3 billion.
14:30ish, Moore: "In a business like this, the people with the power are the ones who that have the understanding of what's going on, not necessarily the ones on top. It's very important that those people that have the knowledge are the ones that make the decisions, so we set up something where everyone who had the knowledge had an equal say in what was going on."
cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics featured the Altair 8800—attributed to Ed Roberts, founder of MITS—Albuquerque
First Personal Computer
"Like every other PC pioneer, Ed Roberts built his just because he wanted something to play with."
16:30ish, Roberts: "Nobody had access to computers then."
Personally driven by lack of access to a mainframe. Financially driven when MITS, a calculator company, was going out of business.
Altair was an invention in search of a purpose. It didn't do much without a lot of extensive, physical programming. Cringley "a solution in search of a problem"
Homebrew Computer Club formed to discuss electronics and what people were dong with their work. Held in a Stanford classroom. Mostly from electronics industry, home radio folks, and physicians.
Paul Allen–first completion of the microcomputer Basic
Paul and Bill were students at Harvard?
wrote the code without having tested in (loaded it in with paper tape?)
weren't sure if i would work, but it did
Allen and Gates moved into a hotel across from MITS in Albuquerque. They worked writing Basic on the Altair. They invited their high school friends to come down and work on starting Microsoft. They all lived together in one apartment.
Gates: 27:30 "That kind of craftsmanship paid off."
By the end of 1975 dozens of companies were building microcomputers.
"Enter in the flower children of California."
Jobs: "There was something beyond what you see every day. It's the same thing that makes someone want to be a poet instead of a banker."
West Coast Computer Faire, Jim Warren
The California counterculture was crucial to the PC's development.
30:30ish, Warren: "And the whole spirit there was working together, was sharing. You shared your dope. You shared your bed. You shared your life. You shared your hopes. A whole bunch of us had the same community spirit and that permeated the whole Homebrew Computer Club. As soon as somebody would solve a problem, they'd coming running down to the Homebrew Computer Club's next meeting and say 'Hey everybody, you know that problem that all of us have been trying o figure out how to solve, here's the solution. Isn't this wonderful? Aren't I a great guy? And it's my contention that that is a major component of why Silicon Valley was able to develop the technology as rapidly as they did. Because we were all sharing, everybody won."
Founders of Apple were members of the homebrew computer club. Woz made his own computer and added to it in order to show it off at every meeting. A group started growing around Woz, and Jobs approached him to start a business. Jobs s called a visionary, but only in the sense that he thought it was profitable. He did little of the technical work. It was his idea to sell "packaged computers" rather than kits. The Altair was a kit, for example. Jobs found the venture capital to invest n it, specifically Arthur Rock ("the guy who invented venture capital"). 35:00
First marketed computer by Apple was Apple II. There's vey little mention of Apple I. (Was it Woz's personal computer from the Homebrew Computer Club?)
The Apple II was launched at the West Coast Computer Faire in 1978, one of the first big, west coast microcomputer shows. Most displays were from the Homebrew Computer Club.
Many of Apple's founders were in their twenties, but some were even in high school, e.g., Chris Espinosa who would demo computers at Apple after school. Largely, the market was still hobbyists. Microcomputers had to serve practical purposes in order to reach a larger audience. They needed a "killer application." For the Apple II, it was VisiCalc.
40:00ish VisiCalc was invented by students in Harvard's Business School. It was a spreadsheet program.
Dan Bricklin didn't want to do hand calculations. Up to this point, spreadsheets didn't exist as a concept.
44:00 "It gave people who were obsessed with numbers...the ability to play with scenarios....what if I do this?" It connected numbers and abstractions. Thus began the dominance of data?
44:15ish, Cringley: "The spreadsheet was every business man's crystal ball. It answered all those what if questions. What if I fire the engineering department? What if I invest $10 million in pantyhose futures? Look, I'll be rich in under a year and have slimmer thighs at the same time, the computer says so. The effect of the spreadsheet was enormous. Armed with an Apple II running VisiCalc, a twenty-four year old MBA with two pieces of dubious data could convince his corporate managers to allow him to loot the corporate pension fund and do a leverage buyout. It was the perfect tool for the 80s, the Me decade, when money was everything and greed was good."
Bricklin didn't patent spreadsheets.