IT Management: Eric Lundquist's 25 Most Influential Techies During 25 Years of PCWeek/eWEEK
Eric Lundquists 25 Most Influential Techies During 25 Years of PCWeek/eWEEK
Let's say the PC industry was formed by building boxes and software that surrounded a processor. No processor = no PC industry. Grove led Intel out of the memory business and into the processor era.
He wasn't the best programmer or the smartest businessman, but he is the best at synthesizing technology, business, the economy and dogged ruthlessness into the company that created the digital economy.
Remember when they weren't called PCs but IBM PCs and IBM Compatibles? Estridge was the visionary who thought about using PCs made from off-the-shelf components and (to IBM techie horror) outside software to create a new personal computer business. He died far too young but should be remembered for what he started.
Henry Ford had his nemesis in Alfred Sloan. Rommel had Patton. And yes, Bill Gates had Steve Jobs as an able comparison. Jobs' vision of elegant, leading-edge closed systems that could evolve alongside (and often ahead) of consumer demands was in counterpoint to Gates' idea of innovation by copying some of the best ideas out there.
Bill Ziff Jr.
OK, he originally hired me at PC Week after a series of grueling interviews and scientific personality testing (guess I faked it pretty well) that would never be allowed these days. But BZ was a publishing mastermind who knew how to put buying audiences in front of vendors anxious to sell their stuff. Without this media channel, we'd still be tapping on IBM PCs.
You can see the pattern here. What makes a PC? A chip, some software and a business plan. Oh yeah, and some components. Like a disk drive. Thank Shugart for those floppy disks that grew into today's massive storage, but remarkably tiny disk drives.
If you have a portable sewing machine nearby, grab it and practice running through the airport lugging it. To really take off, PCs needed to become portable, and Rod Canon and Compaq made that transition possible.
Every business segment needs a rumormonger who can anonymously slide among the business movers and shakers and spill the beans before the big announcement. That was the role of PC Week's Spencer Katt. Did you know there was a Spencer Katt comic book? Even IBM took notice of the Katt.
Before Ted and Gateway, there were personal computers and there were cows, and never the two had met. Was it Sioux City suds that helped Ted come up with the outlandish and incredibly successful strategic plan for Gateway? In any case, Gateway showed that even a Midwesterner could muscle into the PC business.
In the shoulda, woulda category. His DOS could have been the DOS that launched a million IBM PCs.
And oh, you need some applications to run on that box. Business applications that let a user do all the stuff once the province of mainframes. That would be Mitch and Lotus.
How about an entire industry devoted to trying to come up with different ways to promote what was essentially all the same boxes? Impossible, you say? No way. The high-tech PR industry gave employment to many people (including ex-journalists) who might otherwise have ended up serving Sonic burgers. Regis built the high-tech PR business.
Sometimes it is easy to assume that the PC business grew up solely in the U.S. That was decidedly not the case. Shih and Acer proved that building boxes for other companies could be a very lucrative business.
Asian Factory Workers
OK, this is not one individual, but who do you think assembled all those PCs? Who do you think is assembling those PCs right now? How do you think the PC industry was able to keep those prices falling?
Controversy time. The rise of the rest of world's engineering community provided solid (some would say unfair) competition to the U.S. engineers trying to build the next great PC system.
Unconnected PCs are about as useless as TVs not connected to an antenna. Metcalfe (as he is always fond of reminding everyone) was one of the designers of Ethernet, which made all the boxes talk to one another.
My apologies to Michael Miller, Sam Whitmore, et al. Let's just say that Bunnell represents all the journalists who were willing to sit through all those PowerPoint presentations and dreary dinners to actually find new things to write about the PC industry.
You could make a decent argument that all the Microsoft efforts were really just to create a platform to offer up Microsoft Word, which evolved into Office. Simonyi was present at the development of office applications all the way from Xerox to Microsoft.
Ah yes, banks of blinking modems in the server room and that unmistakable screech as two modems tried to sync. That sound is lost now, but Hayes made distance networking possible.
The Novell red box of networking software was once part of every experienced IT networking geek's tool kit. Noorda made the sharing of office files possible for PC users and gave the PC its corporate pinstripes.
Geeks and Las Vegas? Do you think that would have ever happened if Shelley hadn't cooked up the Comdex show? History too often forgets the people who made sales and marketing possible for new technology innovations. Without Comdex, the PC industry might still be a backwater techie curiosity.
He developed the World Wide Web and was way ahead of the titans of the PC business (like Bill Gates) who missed the importance of building a worldwide network. Thanks Tim.
Sloppy Geeks with Bad Breath and Pizza-Stained T-shirts
Someone needed to do that programming late into the night. Someone needed to figure out how to wire up all those PCs in the office. Someone needed to jump on all those techie Web-based discussion areas. It wasn't like they had anything else to do on a Saturday night.
OK, so there is only one woman on the list. Two, if you count the Asian factory workers who often are young women with hands sufficiently nimble to plug in components. Anya was the woman in the Apple "1984" commercial breaking down (in my interpretation) the IBM PC business. I think she also represented the revolutionary nature of the PC biz, so she makes my list.
Dell represents the college kid who turned a hobby into a multibillion-dollar business. Let's hope there are more like him out there.