Robert X. Cringely's name is on every enemy's list in Silicon Valley, where for eight years he was the gossip columnist for InfoWorld, a trade paper read each week by more than 600,000 computer professionals. A veteran of 19 years in the personal computer industry, Cringely is now on television, too, in the PBS miniseries Triumph of the Nerds, based on his best-selling book Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date. TV star/sex symbol Cringely is a former war correspondent and Stanford University professor. The guy just can't keep a job.

After taking on the head honchos in Silicon Valley, see how Bob Cringely handles no holds barred questions from PBS viewers in his own inimitable style! In the following pages, Cringely answers the questions that PBS viewers submitted to this site when the program was originally broadcast in June 1996. Mr. Cringely's responses appear in bold text.

Do you plan to do a sequel? Perhaps looking into the history of the net?
Dallas, Texas

Yes! In a few months be on the lookout for "Triumph of the Nerds 2.01: Digital Dreams" on a PBS station near you.

Any thoughts on what the future of the MAC might be?
Sherryl Nelson
Stockbridge, GA

The Mac will survive if only because there are 15 million of them in use. Also, Apple is starting to make some of the right moves about regaining its technical edge. And Motorola and IBM, which have the right to sublicense the Mac ROMS and OS, are going to make sure there are next year plenty of cheap Mac clones.

Not really a question... and it's after the 21st anyway.

But you missed an opportunity at the very end of the program. As you drove into the sunset in your ragtop, you should have had an unintroduced lady by your side, hair streaming in the breeze... then cut! The nerds that read your column would recognize this as Pammy and go nuts.

(And speaking of pathological nutcases... some of us noticed you weren't driving a Studebaker. Sigh -- I *really* need to get a life.)

Good effort, BTW. Even if you couldn't interview Phil Estridge :-(
David Andrews
Oviedo, FL

Do you mean Don Estridge, former head of the IBM PC, operation who was killed in 1985 in a Delta airlines crash in Dallas?

Pammy may deign to appear in the next show. We'll see. And the Studebaker will be back as soon as its rebuilt. Remember I wrecked it in the spring of 1995?

Hi Dr.Bob Cringely,I love your show on TV. Wonderful !! superb !!Oscar performance!! I am going to read your book now!Did you work for Apple??employee#12??What happen to Steve Wozniak??Why did he leave Apple?? U never memtioned in the program.I grew up with all these PC things around me. I never forget my virgin contact with the apple ii, commoredo Vic 20.And my first relationship with the apple //c.Your program was so informative that now I understood everything about the PC History.Why didn't Xerox sue Apple & Microsoft for copying their inventions. The GUI?I am a Apple Mac man, What do you think Apple's position in the PC world? stay or like Atari.Do U know Larry Allision's email address.I love his Japanese's toys in his house.I am serious, I want to do some trading with him.Bob, U are the best, most sexyest guy on TVThe best part in the TV program is when you are laying on top of MicroSoft's stone sign.and U said"where did Microsoft get the ideas for windows"Of course not from Mic
Vancouver,BC Canada

Thanks for the praise, Dr. Dave!

Xerox DID sue Apple. They lost, just as Apple lost when it sued Microsoft. The answer to your Mac question is above. I believe Larry's address is "lellison@oracle.com," but you'd better have plenty of money if you are going to trade toys with him.

The current trend of software shared on the internet reminds me of punch cards, monitors and mainframes. Do you think this is really a step forward?

You came down very hard on Xerox and their inablity to recognize the products coming out of their research labs. Do you think with their corporate sales mentality they could have marketed these products correctly if they had in fact recognized their superior potential?
Fred Siegel

I don't understand your first question, Fred. How could the Internet -- an interactive, visual medium, be remotely like punched cards and batch systems? I don't get it.

Xerox took from PARC the thing they valued -- a $16 billion laser printer business. We should always remember that. But it still makes no sense to me why they didn't at least get some royalty income from the other stuff.

Although the developing Internet standards battle was foreshadowed, (with Oracle) it wasn't really dealt with.

There was no mention of Microsoft vs Netscape.

I take it this due simply to production schedules for the show, and if so what comments do you have on this furious battle?
Hans Feldmann
Toronto Ontario

It had to do with having only three hours to tell a very big story, Hans. The Internet will be explained in vast detail in the next series.

Hi Bobby,

I'm sorry to hear that M.S. no longer writes the Cringely column in Infoworld. We have a disagreement between the coder boys here - is Pammy a real person that you date???

Curious in the Midwest...
Peter Nedwek
Milwaukee WI

Pammy is VERY real. She's the beautiful young woman with whom I live. Don't believe everything you read -- especially in InfoWorld!

Dear Mr. Cringely, do you think that Steve Jobs is suffering from a case of sour grapes? During the interview on your show with him, he stated that good artists borrow and great ones steal, or something to that effect. Yet when the topic of Bill gates comes up, he is very critical and almost jealous of his success. Is Steve Jobs that jealous of Mr. Gates? Also, don't let Tom Snyder push you around like that. When you were on his show, you were both insightful and funny, yet he let that bumpkin meander on about his radio station problems for almost half of YOUR time! It was pretty rude in my opinion.
A faithful fan,
stephen yochim
east lansing, mi

Yes, Steve is tasting some sour grapes. He's absolutely convinced that Bill Gates lucked into a fortune he doesn't deserve. That's pretty much correct, of course, but where Steve thinks he could have done a better job then Bill, he's dead wrong. What Bill brings to Microsoft is a consistency of purpose and an ability to lead a large organization that Steve Jobs could never understand, much less emulate.

After viewing your program I can truley say that it was "insanely great"! As a dedicated Mac user who must occasionally serve time on a DOS machine slogging Windows95, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Steve Jobs. However, all the computer stuff aside, I really only have two questions: 1. Is that incredibly cool '66 T-bird convertible yours? 2. What middle name could possibly begin with the letter "X"? Thank you for producing such an outstanding program...I'll certainly read the book at my earliest convenience!
Jon Holland
Mesquite, Texas

Yes, the '66 T-Bird is mine. It's a rare Q-code model with the 428 cubic inch V-8. 1966 was the only year they offered a 428 in the convertible and fewer than 600 were made. Mine has every option except the 8-track.

X stands for Xavier, my mother's maiden name.

How about discussing the real issue? That is how Microsoft only cares about it's own expansion. Where are technical pride & ethics?

Wow, what a long question! I'll answer it in sections, okay? First, about ethics and technical pride: since when were those factors in business? Microsoft isn't unethical, though it may sometimes look that way. They are just willing to mine ungracefully. And they have technical pride, but being stuck as a copier of technologies, they don't have much choice.

About Apple being a fading force. This week's interactive week tabloid says that is in the top 20 revenue making US firms. That sounds like they know what to do.

Read this:

PC Experts:


You know who seems to know the least about Macintosh computers? PC Experts. I'd always figured that these PC experts were pretty plugged-in to the computer market in general, but it seems like everything they know about a Mac they picked up on the street six or seven years ago.

They've updated their modems, CPUs, RAM, and even their operating system, but they've neglected to update their knowledge about the one computer to which they owe their plug-and-play, mouse-driven, CD-ROM-using, window-clicking world-the Macintosh. So in an attempt to bring these PC experts into the 90s, I've compiled a list of the most common Apple and Macintosh misconceptions, complete with a reality check for each. Fax it to your PC acquaintances; it really spoils their day when they read good news about Apple.

There are thousands upon thousands of software titles for the Mac, but it really doesn't matter, since most people are going to use the same six or seven programs anyway. In fact, the top-selling titles on the PC platform are also the top-selling titles on the Mac: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, Adobe PageMaker, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop, Quicken, Netscape Navigator, etc. Even though the Macintosh Software Directory lists over 12,000 Macintosh software titles, chances are you're going to use only a handful of the most popular ones anyway. As the saying goes, "With the PC you've got 50,000 pieces of software you'll never use, and with the Mac there's 12,000 pieces you'll never use."

The other side of this misconception comes from the fact that retail stores like Egghead Software, Babbage's, Software Etc., etc. carry hardly any Mac software. That's because the vast majority of all Mac software is sold by mail order. It's always been that way, it'll probably always be that way. Incidentally, there are over 500 software applications that are available only for the Mac and not available on the PC at all. Is that reason to celebrate? No. The reality is: you're probably not going to use any of those 500 either.

In fact, Mac users can pop an IBM-formatted disk into their floppy drive, read it, write to it, save files in PC formats, and even format a floppy disk in IBM format right from their Mac. This feature is built-in on Macs. Do PCs come with this same "compatibility?" Hell no! They couldn't mount a Mac disk with a saddle. What about PC apps? Mac users can run Windows or Windows 95 applications on their Macs using SoftWindows¨ software from Insignia Solutions. You can even buy a Mac with an actual PC-board built right into the machine, so you can have both a Mac and a full-blown PC together in one box. The reality is: Macs are the most compatible computers on earth, and the only computer than can run Macintosh, DOS, and Windows applications.

It's true. Their tiny little niche has made them only the third largest computer maker in the world. IBM is just behind Apple as the fourth largest. Funny, I never really hear IBM referred to as a niche player, even though they sell fewer computers than Apple. I wonder why that is? Hmmm-only Compaq and Packard Bell sell more computers than Apple, and then just barely. In fact, during certain quarters of the year, Apple has outsold both Compaq and Packard Bell. This niche misconception is perpetuated by the national media's outwardly biased coverage of Apple. By the way, what kind of computers do most computer journalists use? Hmmm. Makes you stop and think. The reality is: Apple is one of the top three computer companies in the world and has a market share most Fortune 500 companies would kill for.

This is another widely held misconception, but it is also not true! I know, I know, you watch some incredibly lame "artsy-fartsy" Apple ad on TV and think, "The person that designed this ad must be on drugs," but I don't think that's the case. I think it's more that they've completely lost touch with consumers, so they create ads to please themselves, and hopefully a panel of judges that give out awards for "artsy-fartsy" ads. These ads are so artsy that it makes tracking their results almost impossible, so nobody can really be held accountable for their failure. What they've got working in their favor is the fact that most people that buy Macs are convinced by other Mac users to take the plunge. If you find someone that bought a Mac based solely on an Apple TV ad, look for their VW mini-bus and love beads; they can't be far behind. The reality is: The person in charge of Apple ads is not on drugs. As far as I know.

For years Macs were a premium item and considerably more expensive, but not anymore. Mac prices have now come down to where they are very competitive with most PC prices. But I want to warn you: when you head down to the computer store to compare price tags, the PCs may still seem cheaper at first. Until you look under the hood and realize that Macs come with standard features like a built-in sound card, a built-in video card, and built-in networking hardware and software. For many PCs, these features are add-ons which have to be purchased separately and then installed. The reality is: If price, not value, is your only consideration when buying a computer, maybe you should buy a PC. But if you're a bit more discerning, and want a computer with more standard features, you may have to pay a couple of bucks more. But at least now, it's just a couple of bucks.

We're not arrogant. We're frustrated (and a little bit spoiled). We've spent our entire Macintosh lives defending our purchase. We've been faced with all the misconceptions listed here, the teasing, harassment, and outward media bias against Apple and the Mac for years, all the while knowing we're using the best computer on earth. Microsoft knows the Mac Operating System is the best, too! That's why Windows 95 looks and acts like it does. Believe it or not, I've actually had arguments with PC experts that try to convince me that Apple copied Windows 3.1! The reality is: we're tired of trying to make Microsoft-brainwashed PC users see the light. If that makes us come off as a bit arrogant, so be it.

The Mac isn't only for graphics, it's just that it's great at graphics, and it's no surprise that it's the industry standard for professional graphic design. But the Mac rules in other areas. For example, PC users are often surprised to hear that the Mac has 50% share of the pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, scientific, and engineering computer markets. The Mac also dominates the MIDI and music industry, and is the industry standard for digital video production. And needless to say, the Mac has the lion's share of the educational market in America as well. The reality is: a Mac is for whatever you need it for: accounting, word processing, graphics, music, engineering, multimedia, or surfing the Internet.

The national media have been consistently wrong about Apple's demise and I can't image that people still put any faith in them. It would be like a sports odds-maker who consistently picks the wrong team every single time, for nearly 12 straight years. You'd think after a while you might lose a little faith in his ability to predict the future, but PC users line up to hear the news. The fact is, Apple may get bought out, or merge with another company, but their going out of business is pretty unlikely.

Here's an Apple stat most PC users would find surprising. In the Fortune 500 listing of America's largest businesses, Apple took the 114 spot (ahead of household names like McDonald's and Federal Express). So where does the Fortune 500 list find Microsoft, the computer software mega giant? About 105 spots behind Apple down at number 219. Is that surprising? It shouldn't be, since Microsoft is only a $5-billion company, and Apple is an $11-billion company. The reality is: It could be much worse for Apple-they could be Packard Bell.

Another misconception. Been around for years, it's just totally wrong. Granted, Apple had done a totally lame job of working with and supporting developers of Mac software. They know that; that's why there's Guy Kawasaki and Heidi Roisen. They're refocusing Apple's attention on developers, and it must be working, because Apple's most recent Macintosh software developers conference had a record-breaking attendance.

You now also see more and more PC software developers putting both a Mac version and a PC version of their software on the same CD-ROM. They're catching on to the fact that there are 56,000,000 sales possibilities. The reality is: There's never been more Mac software than there is right now.

Well that's it. These common misconceptions about Apple and the Mac have been developed over nearly a 12 year period, so don't expect PC users to change their long-held beliefs overnight, regardless of what the facts and figures show. The reality is: nobody needs Apple to succeed more than the PC user. And luckily for them, it will.
John Wyncott
Ft. Lauderdale Fla

Okay, I read it, Now here are some other things to think about. 1. Revenue is nothing without profits and Apple is gushing red ink. 2. an installed base is nothing if it is shrinking (Apple's is). 3. Applications that are more than 18 months old are meaningless and more than half of the Mac apps you mention haven't been reved in that long. This is because the developers have switched their attention to where the market is -- to Windows 95. I like Macs, too, and I think they will survive (look above), but it isn't going to be easy.

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