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Steve Jobs and Lisa

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, January 12, 2006
5:25 pm

With all the hubbub about Apple’s rebound, I’m sure everyone is sharing their favorite Steve Jobs story. Here’s mine.

In 1984, I worked for a small custom software developer, Eyring Research, in Utah. We had built a strong reputation building custom systems based on the Tandem NonStop computer system.

Soon after Apple launched the Macintosh computer, we were approached by Tandem about helping them sell Apple on the virtues of operating the new Apple Macintosh factory in Fremont, California, on a network of Tandem systems. The DEC PDP11/70 system in place was simply too small to keep up with the factory’s manufacturing capacity.

I wrote the business plan that helped convince Apple to select Tandem, and then managed the project to implement the Tandem system in the Fremont factory. It was called the AppleTOES project, but that is another story.

Steve Jobs was still Apple’s chairman and VP of the Macintosh division at the time. One day, I was reviewing the project with Steve in his office when he asked, “Did we do the right thing in selecting Tandem?”

What could I say? I had recommended it. I replied with a few facts about how this system would meet their current needs and then linearly expand as capacity demands grew.

Steve replied, “Yes, I think we did the right thing for now. But we will soon replace this system with a network of Lisas.”

Remember Lisa? That underpowered, overweight, expensive predescessor to the Mac?

I’ve thought in the many years since that time that Steve was absolutely correct in his vision – using large networks of small, powerful computers to do the work that 1984 computing philosophy reserved for large monolithic systems. He was just wrong about the platform.

Now, 22 years later, Steve Jobs is again demonstrating his extraordinary vision.


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