Accidental Empires, Chapter 4 — Amateur Hour




You have to wonder what it was we were doing before we had all these computers in our lives. Same stuff, pretty much. Down at the auto parts store, the counterman had to get a ladder and climb way the heck up to reach some top shelf, where he’d feel around in a little box and find out that the muffler clamps were all gone. Today he uses a computer, which tells him that there are three muffler clamps sitting in that same little box on the top shelf. But he still has to get the ladder and climb up to get them, and, worse still, sometimes the computer lies, and there […]

IBM didn't invent the personal computer but they don't know that.

We’ve been away for a few days celebrating Fallon’s fifth birthday in Orlando where the preferred destination has shifted from Disney to Universal Studios, source of all things Harry Potter. While we were away, IBM celebrated its 100th birthday by claiming, among other things, to have invented the personal computer, soiling the legacy of Ed Roberts and pissing-off all real geeks in the process. Here’s a video in which you’ll see IBM’s VP of Innovation innovating his way to this completely bogus claim at the 2:37 milepost.

This sin shall not go unpunished.

Among his milestones IBM’s VP of Innovation completely forgets to mention the company having helped automate the Third Reich.

And while […]

Terminal Man

Ed Roberts died yesterday in Georgia. He was the founder of MiTS, the designer of the Altair 8800 and as close to being the father of the American personal computer as anyone can get. I say the American personal computer because French readers constantly correct me on this. Where, again, are all those French computer companies?

I knew Ed Roberts, though not very well. I never worked for or with him but I met him many times even years after he gave up computers for medicine in his late 30’s. That transition from digital hardware to medicine is key to Ed’s story and I think provides the crux of this column, which is […]