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Kudos on the documentary!

Are you considering or planning to do any more documentaries on the computer industry?
Paul Wayner
Austin, TX

Yes, more shows are on the way!

Bob - My favorite mag of the early days was Creative Computing. The editor was David H. Ald. What is David doing these days? I learned an awful lot from that mag and listing the early programs and changing them. Your program was EXCELLENT. I've seen it 3 times. Jobs was right about how mac users feel about their computers (I love my mac), but I also admire Bill Gates and Intel.
bob ground
greenville, sc

Sorry, Bob, but I don't know David H. Ald. It's a small world, but not that small.

Do you know the mailing address where Paul Allen and Bill Gates receive correspondence? And would happen to know their Email addresses? If you do I would appreciate them. I remember Bill was doing a Q & A in one of the Seattle papers and had his Email address at the bottom. Your assistance is appreciated, Thanks.

Try billg@microsoft.com and paula@microsoft.com, but don't expect a reply.

I loved the program! Now I want to know more. I've already purchased your book but I was wondering if there are any classes offered at any Bay Area Colleges that I could attend that trace the history of the computer industry. I am particularly fascinated with the legal, sociological, biographical and monetary aspects of the meteoric rise of the computer industry. Any suggestions about classes or even books and internet resources would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Frank I. Hoppe
Berkeley California

I'm sure there are some classes, Frank. I know that several universities (none in the Bay Area that I am aware of) use my book as a text. And nobody has asked me to teach a course since I left Stanford in 1983.

Why the pseudonym, Bob (wish that could be in 72 point italics :-)?
Manavendra Misra
Golden, CO

Because I inherited it, put eight years into developing it, and it's now too valuable to drop.

Hi Bob,

Xerox didn't ignore the personal workstation marketplace; Xerox was early on the market with the Star system, and subsequently with a variety of other models. However, at the same time that the computer industry went through agonizing struggles between IBM, Apple, clones (where many fortunes were lost as well as won), most of Xerox's R&D focused on core business, e.g., the Marathon series copiers, to beat out the competition with Japan, Inc., and subsequently into the development of digital document products, which have accounted for an enormous growth in the company's revenue and profitability. Although others might focus on "the one that got away", it's important to acknowledge that PARC innovation is also responsible for the critical elements of Xerox's current products and services.

This information gets overlooked everytime!

Not overlooked by me! If you'll read one of my earlier answers, I give credit to Xerox creating a huge business out of PARC research. On the other hand, the Star was a dog and you know it.

Do you have any details of how Xerox PARC first came up with the idea of a Graphical User Interface? Who was there at that small moment when computer technology leaped toward the poetic. Also, who had the vision to actually develope the GUI to the extent that PARC did.

I feel the future significant inovations in computing will be with the user interface. Who is now at the cutting edge of this field?
James R. Volpe
Mill Valley, California

The GUI (and the mouse) was actually invented by Doug Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute around 1966. Xerox expanded on Engelbart's work, adding networking and features like cutting and pasting. Engelbart's work was minicomputer-based and didn't really anticipate the advent of individual desktop machines. He's a great guy, though, and is still fighting the good fight.

Where was Pammy?

The enquiring minds of nrrrds want to know!

Why didn't you mention in the show that Bob Cringley is a pseudonym and that you are Mark Stevens?
Kevin Purcell
Seattle, WA

Mark Stevens? Who is he? We didn't have enough money in the budget for Pammy. Maybe next time.

Ending surprised me, I thought Wozinak got into home electronics gadgets, Jobs and "Next" computer company ? What happened to the owner of Digital Research, no details.

Thank you.
Carl E. Moebis
Annandale, NJ

Woz's Cloud9 company folded years ago. NeXT is now a software company, but Jobs' fortune rests on Pixar. Gary Kildall died in early 1995 from complications following a bar fight. I am not making this up.


Great book, great program. Enjoyed both and have order both. Everyone at my company has watched the program and was absolutely "hooked" on it. I was really happy to see my old office at xerox-parc - I worked there from 91-94 and had a great time. Keep up the good work - enjoy your column also. Enjoyed Job's comments about Microsoft the most.
Marianne Beauregard
Livermore, CA

Thanks, Marianne. It's nice to get some validation from folks who were there.

I recently read that "Robert X. Cringely" does not really exist. So, was the real Mark Stephens employee number 12 at Apple, and did he help move things out of the famous garage, etc., etc.?
Oreland, PA


I wonder how mistakes could get through your your fact-checking process such as:

"COBOL came before FORTRAN." (FORTRAN was developed in 1954; it was done by John Backus et al to prove you *could* do a higher level language. COBOL came along around 1960 as the consensus of industry groups as to a common business-oriented language, replacing their individual proprietary versions. To avoid anti-trust problems, the government called a meeting and assigned it to the most technologically advanced agency, the Navy. The effort was chaired by a Naval officer, Grace Hopper, who smoothed the way for an entire industry.)

Grace Hopper invented higher level languages with COBOL. (See previous item.)

For more enlightened information on these and other topics, see the Internet newsgroups comp.misc, comp.society.folklore, and alt.folklore.computer, to which I am a frequent contributor.
Michael Shapiro
San Diego, CA


1954 Initial design
1956 First compiler
1957 Public version commercially distributed
1966 ANSI standard (FORTRAN-66)


1951 FLOW-MATIC development started by Grace Hopper
1955 FLOW-MATIC goes into regular use by U.S. Navy - major influence on COBOL
1959 First meeting of a group who want to create a common business language
1960 First COBOL compiler; standard COBOL-60
1974 ANSI standard (ANSI-74 COBOL)

I really liked the show. I glad you weren't afraid to show people what a creep Bill Gates is. How did Gary Kildall die? Mike McHugh
Foxboro, MA

As it says above, Gary died from complications following a bar fight. Nobody was charged.

How bright is the future for Java and Netscape? Please explain.
Alan Tang
Montebello, CA

Both Java and Netscape are in the sights of Microsoft. Bill Gates wants to defeat Java by encapsulating it in a language Microsoft calls ActiveX and he wants to beat Netscape by giving away his Internet Explorer program. In the end, I don't think either effort will win, though I think Netscape will eventually succumb to Java-based browsers. By the time that happens, though, Netscape will be making all its money from server software so it will be okay.

We all know that Bill Gates is now basically the ruler of the world, but whatever happened to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft?
Matt Clipper
St. Charles, MO

Paul Allen left Microsoft in 1983 when he came down with Hodgkins Disease. A bone marrow transplant finally defeated the Hodgkins and Allen has since been a successful investor in sports, high tech and, most recently, the new Dreamworks SKG movie studio, in which he invested $500 million.

What kind of women did these men marry? Were they involved in computers,too?Most interested in Gates, Jobs,and Wozniak's wives. Also,how did Gary Kildall die?
los angeles,ca

Gates' wife was/is a Microsoft product manager, though she is now on maternity leave. Jobs' wife met him when she was an MBA student at Stanford. Her father is the chairman of Bell Atlantic, the big east coast phone company. Woz's second wife was an Olympic kayaker, though they are now divorced.

I am the president of my employer's computer club and I really enjoyed the Triumph of The Nerds. I can't think of another instance where practically the entire history of something could be documented by live video of the actual people involved since most all of them are still living.

I had read a biography of Bill Gates so most of what he had to say didn't come as much of a surprize. What did surprize me was the way the true genius of Steve Jobs came across. I think it is a little sad that there wasn't room for even a mention of his NeXt computer which I believe was mostly just ahead of its time. But I suppose just a mention of the NeXt computer couldn't have done it justice. I was fortunate to see a demonstration and it was a marval. As an old Atari 8 bit and Atari ST backer I know that it takes more than good hardware to make a computer great.

Again, nice job Bob.
Bill Angell
Normal, IL

Thanks. We might get to NeXT in a future program. Jobs really had no interest in talking about it, though.

Loved the program. Built an Altair in 1976? Have a copy of MITS Altair Basic 3.2 on cassette tape (regrettably skipped the punch tape step) Embedded in this code is, as I recall, Copyright by Microsoft, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Monty Davidoff. Who was Monty Davidoff and what happened to him? I still have the tape cassette but no compatible interface. Have all those boxes of boards. That $400 computer cost us over 12,000 by the time we were done using it. Thanks for doing a show that explains to others what the hell I was doing between 1975 and 1985. Soldering, mostly.
Bob Riskin
McCabe's Guitar Shop
Santa Monica, CA

Monty Davidoff did the floating-point routines in MITS BASIC. He is still programming in the Boston area and didn't make a cent from Microsoft.

Will the U.S. software industry continue to dominate? What about the European (East and West), Asian and South American software developers? Marcel Bigger
West Lafayette (IN, USA) / Rorschacherberg (Switzerland)

There is lots of good work being done in Europe and the former soviet block countries, but the money is still in the U.S. Most of the rest of the world doesn't understand venture capital, which explains why there are at least four big French software companies on University Avenue in Palo Alto: they came to where the money was.

Why did those idiots over at InfoWorld let you go? You were the best part of that magazine. All the other guys are infatuated with the latest "Client/Server" or Network Computer "crap". (Oh boy! mainframe terminals again!) InfoWorld hasn't been the same since. The writer(s) they have taking your place aren't quite as witty and irreverent. I hope everything works out well for you. I really liked your book and the PBS series. Both took me back to when I was working at a small computer store while I went to college.
Thanks a lot!

Thank you.


I'm familiar with you from your InfoWorld columns, and I just caught you the other night on PBS. I have just a few questions and one comment (which probably can safely be ignored).

I heard that that your name is a psuedonym, protecting your anonymity for infiltration into into the halls of the tech-weenies? Is this so? Or do you just SAY that your name is psuedonym to throw people off? But I suppose if that were the case, you wouldn't reveal it here and thus ruin your cover. Nevermind.

With all your writing about Pammy, she seems pretty real, but I also read somewhere that she is creation of your pen. Say it ain't so!

Observation: You don't look anything like the mental image I'd built up of you from reading your column all these years. However, if forced to articulate what that mental WAS, I don't think I'd come up with anything that made sense anyway.

P.S. Is it going to get any more difficult to get the juicy news tidbits now that everyone knows what you look like? (Although I suppose most of your tips come through e-mail now.)

P.S.S. Sorry about the length of the response...
Paul Norton
Minneapolis, MN

I no longer write for InfoWorld, so I don't worry so much about tidbits. Pammy is all too real. Maybe she'll be in the next series. And I know I'm supposed to look like Broderick Crawford, but what the heck?

Was the Wall Street Journal article factual?

There were some serious factual errors in that article, but parts of it were correct.

Why do you talk about Apple's current situation in such a gloomy view while other companies like Zenith Data Systems and Packard-Bell have either verged on bankruptcy or been taken over by other larger concerns? How can a system brand with a loyal user base of over 22 million users be considered going through dire times when it can't meet demand? As far as I can see, Apple still keeps innovating, Microsoft still plays copy and catch up and neither IBM nor COMPAQ has done anything exceptional lately.
Christian Dupuis
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

ZDS and Packard-Bell aren't responsible for a whole computer architecture, the way Apple is. Nobody would even notice if those companies went away. I talk about Apple in gloomy terms because the future IS gloomy, but not impossible.


I just wanted to say I really enjoyed the PBS special "Revenge of the Nerds"!

Triumph of the Nerds.

I read your column each week in InfoWorld, it is the first thing I turn to. I hope you keep doing the same!

I am no longer writing the InfoWold column. That's some other joker.

I do have a question or two for you...

Do you think Gates will continue being the Boss? (Personally, I hope not.)

for at least another 5 years, yes.

Do you think anyone else has a chance to compete with and/or beat Gates? Who? (Novell, etc.)

Mark Andreessen of Netscape has a shot (and Bill Gates knows it).

Where do you think the Internet is heading? Fad or future? Regulation and control?

All of the above.

Sorry for so many questions.

Again, Thank you for your enjoyable column. I look forward to seeing more things from you.
Peggy McCaughern
Drexel Hill, PA

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