Fable: The Company Which Lived And Died By The Learning Curve

There was once a company, founded in 1957, which rode the learning curve to success in the computer industry.

 

Between 1957 and 1965, the price of a silicon transistor dropped from $17 to 86 cents.

 

The company brought out its first computer in 1959 which was 10x smaller and, at $125,000, 10x cheaper than an IBM computer of equivalent performance.

 

In 1962 the company brought out a better machine costing $27,000

 

In 1965 it produced an even better machine costing $18,000.

 

In 1987, the company was the second largest computer company in the world.

 

But what lives by the learning curve can die by the learning curve.

 

In the late 1970s the first personal computers appeared.

 

The company's founder and boss dismissed them as a fad.

 

In 1977 the boss said "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home."

 

In 1981 the IBM PC was born

 

In 1998 the company was sold off to a PC company.

 

MORAL: Listen to those footsteps coming up behind you.

Between 1957 and 1965, the price of a silicon transistor dropped from $17 to 86 cents.

 

The company brought out its first computer in 1959 which was 10x smaller and, at $125,000, 10x cheaper than an IBM computer of equivalent performance.

 

In 1962 the company brought out a better machine costing $27,000

 

In 1965 it produced an even better machine costing $18,000.

 

In 1987, the company was the second largest computer company in the world.

 

What lives by the learning curve can die by the learning curve.

 

In the late 1970s the first personal computers appeared.

 

The company's founder and boss poo-pooed them. "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home," he said in 1977.

 

In 1981 the IBM PC was born

 

In 1998 the company was sold off to a PC company.

 

MORAL: Listen to those footsteps coming up behind you.

Comments

8 comments

  1. “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home,” he said in 1977.
    If by “a computer”, he really meant “a PDP-11″, then yes, he was absolutely correct. The average home has neither the electrical supply nor the air conditioning capacity for such a machine. Nor would the average individual have any idea what to do with it, either in 1977 or now.

  2. He wasn’t very good at quotations.

  3. UNIX is “Snake Oil”. A famous quote from Ken Olsen.

  4. if ever there was something in IT that was appropriately named, it was curses !

  5. georgegrimes-ti-com.myopenid.com

    It amazed me how they could get minicomputers so right and personal computers so wrong. I guess Ken Olsen’s vision only went so far. I really liked the VAX in it’s day but that is long gone.
    I don’t miss implementing user interfaces with curses though!

  6. Ah good old DEC. VAXs seemed quite amazing in the days of VT100s and line printers.
    When they brought out their Rainbow PC, and decided in their infinite wisdom that it could only use pre-formatted floppy disks supplied by DEC, I knew their days were numbered…

  7. Yes indeed, Dick, the vanishing empire of Olsen.

  8. Dec System 10
    PDP 8
    PDP 11
    The VAX family
    Ah memories of mis-spent hours banging away on a teleypt
    d

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