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Notes About the IBM PC Announcement 1981
What is "the Prime", "the ticker", etc., in the transcript?
Here is commentary about some of the items mentioned in the transcript "IBM PC Announcement 1981":
Microsoft and Intel: Notice that the operating system was barely mentioned. (At the time, it was called the "IBM Personal Computer Disk Operating System (DOS)".) There were optional other operating systems "contracted". "Software" referred to the applications. Microsoft was listed as the supplier of BASIC and Adventure. The processor used (the Intel 8088) was worthy of just a minor mention. Nobody knew what would be important years later. The decision IBM made to use their products non-exclusively helped Microsoft and Intel become dominant in their industries.
The Prime: This was the large minicomputer from Prime Computer that we used as a timesharing system to run the company. Using "dumb" DEC VT-100 terminals connected by serial lines or dial-up modems, we edited programs and documents (using our own version of EMACS that Bob Frankston wrote), used our own email system, compiled programs, etc. The Prime, like most computers, was sensitive to heat and produced a lot of it, so we had an auxiliary air conditioner in the large room that housed it. That room was the only one that fit the whole company for such meetings.
Florida: Since we were dealing with IBM in Boca Raton, Florida, we called it the "Florida machine".
The ticker: As part of our R&D, we had a UPI news wire feed to the company. The comment that the news about the IBM PC was on the ticker meant that we saw it on the news feed just like news organizations around the country. A normal person couldn't just point their browser to cnn.com and hit "refresh" in those days.
Bob, Jeff, Julian, Lisa: These were other Software Arts employees other than Dan Bricklin (co-founder). Bob is Bob Frankston, co-founder, and co-creator of VisiCalc. Jeff Stephenson is a programmer who actually did most of the work converting CP/M VisiCalc for the Zilog Z-80 microprocessor to run on the Intel 8088-based IBM PC. He used a special variant of our macro assembler that automatically did some of the conversion and flagged potential problems. The original assembler was written in PL/I by Bob, with the additions written by David Levin (my cousin). Julian Lange was our President, and ran the second part of the meeting. Lisa Underkoffler was VisiCalc product manager and interfaced with our publisher, Personal Software/VisiCorp.
Copyright and other notices: With many author/publisher relationships going on in the industry, and many new manufacturers deciding which software to pay to migrate to their system, getting proper attribution was considered important.
Our IBM PC prototype: The first prototype we received was literally a breadboard -- it was a circuit board on a piece of plywood with sockets to plug in a keyboard, etc. It got better over time. We kept it secret by putting it in a locked room that you could only get to by going through another room. Jeff, who was the main person working with it, was a black-belt Zen swordsman, so we assured IBM it would be well protected...
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