Episode – I
The concept of Personal Computer (PC) was nowhere in sight till mid 1970’s. The computing resources were only meant for GODs of Tech. Simple business application and data management were the major highlights in the computing industry. The Ivy League colleges focused primarily on preparing graduates for handling such a work environment.
But not everyone saw their world confined in the books. For them there was always a room for “What’s BEYOND”.
Bill Gates, a student at HARVARD back then was looking beyond what the computing industry had to offer. Nothing notable and striking could be made out from his appearance, but he had a rare talent back then. He knew how to handle a mainframe computer (Big Deal back then!). Feeling some disconnect with his classroom courses, Gates saw his opportunity when the first ‘So Called’ personal computer ALTAIR 8800 was introduced. The only remarkable feature it had based on today’s standard was its size. ALTAIR didn’t had any terminal, keyboard or a monitor. On the top of it all, there was no easy way to use that device. It just seemed like a science project. Gates knew that ALTAIR needed a programming language and instead of watching the parade to do the job he decided to write a program himself.
After spending hours, Gates and his friend presented their software to the ALTAIR manufacturers and everything went well and thus Gates made his first software sale. This incident was enough to inspire Gates to take the biggest risk of his life. He dropped out of college and formed a software company –Microsoft in 1975.
But Gates wasn’t the only one working to make Personal Computing easier. 3000 miles away in California, a charming college dropout was imagining the future of PC’s in a complete different way,he was STEVE JOBS. Jobs was fascinated by the new invention of his mate Steve Wozniak (Woz). Woz had developed a microprocessor computer with 16 times memory than ALTAIR 8800 along with a monitor display and a keyboard. Woz just wanted to create cool gadgets but Jobs was a complete business mind. Following is an excerpt from an interview of Woz.
“Woz: It was a EUREKA moment for me when the commands that I was typing were visible on the screen. I showed it to Jobs with the monitor displaying the texts – THIS IS GREAT.
To this Jobs without saying a word typed a text and the monitor displayed – HOW COULD WE SELL SUCH A THING”
This marked the inception of a company which would in future be the most valuable on earth. APPLE was founded in 1976 and Jobs was ready to sell his first product APPLE 1.
The Meet n Greet of Greats
Despite the revolutionary idea of keyboard and a display monitor, APPLE 1 was a flop. One of the major drawbacks of Apple 1 was that it had a wooden case, unreliable and the power consumption was very high. But this setback could not discourage Jobs, he was sure they were up to something big and was not ready to quit. He realized there was something still missing in APPLE 1 and spent hours just figuring that out.
During his undergrad years Jobs used to attend calligraphy and design classes just to pass the time. But he never knew, the aesthetic sense that he had developed during those days will come in so handy in the fabrication of his next big innovation. Jobs then ‘Connected the Dots backwards’ by using his design instincts and imparted the missing aesthetic and spiritual feel to his APPLE 1 device. He designed a device which was handy, compact and had a personal appeal. It had a beautiful plastic case and Rod Holt designed the unique power supply of the device.This machine was APPLE 2.
Within a few weeks after the launch, APPLE 2 immediately got all over the place and no one even dared to challenge what Jobs had come up with. APPLE 2 had changed the computer business completely.
But Gates was not amongst those who would sit back and let others dominate. So he picked up a fight to win and decided to land his punch where no guards were placed. APPLE 2‘s programming was not competent for running business software (running spreadsheets etc.). Gates spent months developing the Softcard (a circuit board) that plugged right into the APPLE 2 device and gave it the ability to run the business software.
For Apple to take advantage of Microsoft, the two geniuses had to meet. Time had come when the history would witness the meet of two of the greatest minds of the modern era.
When Gates entered Apple’s office, Jobs was not even sure why he let Gates with such a nerd and geek look get past the entrance. He was apprehensive that Gates, who could barely handle the suit he wore, had the ability to tweak with his machine. But Jobs was startled when Gates unraveled how he could be the king of computing industry with Microsoft’s software and Apple’s unique design. Jobs didn’t waste any time to cash in and joined hands with Gates for next version of APPLE 2 suited for business applications.
For years APPLE 2 featured Microsoft’s software and it was a win-win situation for both the companies. But as it is said that “Two swords cannot be in one sheath”, the industry was bracing up for one of the most fierce market rivalry between the two Greats. The time had come when the friends were about to turn foes.
To be continued……
Catch up with the next episode and witness how the two greats battled it out to live a legacy………