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Dave Winer rewrites the history of the PC

From Dave Winer’s iPad review:

“IBM didn’t try to turn the world upside-down with the PC in 1981, however, in 1984, they did, with the PC jr, and failed.”

This is actually almost the inverse of the truth. Don Estridge, who headed up the IBM PC project, turned the way that IBM worked on its head in order to get the thing built. While he may not have intended to change the entire world, he certainly changed the internal world of IBM. He had to, in order to get the job done.

And the PC jr certainly wasn’t an attempt to change the world – in fact, it was a poor product largely because of the need to preserve the status quo for IBM. As Michael Schrage puts it in Serious Play:

“A primary reason for the failure of the IBM PCjr home computer in the mid-1980s was that IBM management had decided it might cannibalize sales from IBM’s popular line of personal computers. The product of a spec-driven culture, the PCjr was deliberately hobbled in the prototyping process to thwart that possibility.”

I’m not sure that Dave’s kick-off analogy is that good, either:

“If you’re old enough to remember the vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle, you’re also old enough to remember the PC jr.

Quayle, a fit young man, probably chosen as a running mate because of his fitness, was likely told by his handlers to compare himself to the fit young John F. Kennedy. When he did, Bentsen, who was many years his senior, and was probably briefed to expect this, said: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Entrepreneuers make the same mistake Quayle made, they always compare themselves to the winners, never considering that losers outnumber winners by a huge margin.”

The winner of the 1988 vice-presidential election? Dan Quayle.

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