Dan Bricklin's Web Site: www.bricklin.com
The Value of Experience
The IBM PC is an example of a system designed by people very experienced in the field -- it was a revolution from within
One thing that struck me during the panel during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the announcement of the IBM PC was the depth of experience of the individuals involved with the PC at the time it was developed. This is in contrast to the image a couple of years ago of inexperienced "New Economy" people who can invent the new because they aren't "held back" by knowing the old.

The effect of the IBM PC was enormous, and has been well documented elsewhere. Its design in many ways was a base on which 20 years of industry prosperity was built. Those people must have done a pretty good job. I think one reason was that those people knew the past well, and used lessons learned to guide them. They had extensive experience with mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers, and with the structure of the industry. They were trained at leading institutions and knew all the theory.

Look at the backgrounds of some of the people involved in getting things going:

Dave Bradley, who did the BIOS, was a veteran of the Series/1 and the Datamaster like many of his IBM peers. He had a doctorate in electrical engineering from Purdue. Other members of the IBM team were very familiar with the Apple II as users, and had years experience with designing (from scratch) various minicomputer and microcomputer systems.

Bill Gates and Microsoft (founded 1975) were the most experienced microcomputer software developers, knowing the details of just about all the machines built up to that time. Bill had been programming on mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers since 1968 or so, most of it for sale to others.

The operating system that MSDOS was based upon (CP/M) was developed by Gary Kildall. Gary was extremely experienced in microcomputer development, and brought ideas from the products of minicomputer leader DEC and others to his design. At one point, before creating CP/M, he taught computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School, and knew classic mainframes like the Burroughs 5500.

Rod Canion, who helped define the "standard" we followed, got his masters in EE/CS in 1975, and then went to Texas Instruments (at the time a dominant force in several fields), working on computers and hardware before founding Compaq.

Mitch Kapor put together and led a "dream team" of experienced individuals to create and market Lotus 1-2-3. Ray Ozzie learned the promise of work group computing from one of the leading educational research projects, and then went on to work at a major minicomputer manufacturer before joining the microcomputer world at Software Arts and then Lotus before creating Notes.

Bob Frankston and I had extensive experience with mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers, starting in the 1960's. I worked at minicomputer leader DEC as well as at a small company that used microprocessors before being trained by establishment-supporting Harvard Business School. Not only had I worked implementing interpreter-based calculating languages on mainframes (APL, LISP), but I also helped develop early minicomputer-based word processing and editing systems.

As you can see, the IBM PC represented a revolution led by many of the old guard's troops and leaders. I believe that experience and knowledge of the past are very valuable and that the success of the IBM PC is an example of that.

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