Sunday, January 22, 2006

Fumbling the Future, by Douglas K. Smith and Robert C. Alexander

Fumbling the Future: How Xerox Invented Then Ignored the First Personal Computer, by Douglas K. Smith and Robert C. Alexander

In 1973, Xerox had built a networked personal computer, mouse, graphical user interface, and laser printer. Before Microsoft. Before IBM. Before Apple. Yet nobody has ever heard of the Alto, and Xerox is still known as a copier company. How did all this technology get squandered?

I really enjoyed this story. It is a fantastic look at what happens when marketers and developers aren’t on the same page. Xerox marketing didn’t think a PC would be useful (some bright bulbs in that group!) and the developers kept improving technologies Xerox didn’t want to sell. This is a cautionary tale about what can happen with poor management and poor communication within a company. I recommend it to anyone in a high-tech company, especially those directly influencing product creation.

First Sentence:
Here is a three-part trivia question about televised personal computer advertising: Name the companies responsible for
  1. The longest playing series of personal computer commercials?
  2. The most creative single commercial?
  3. The first personal computer commercial?

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