[iDC] RE: Garage Entrepreneurs

Gere, Charlie c.gere at lancaster.ac.uk
Tue Jun 12 17:06:54 EDT 2007

Dear Alex (if I may) and IDC list

I have no wish to deny the courage of entrepreneurs, nor their hard work, but neither has any bearing on my argument, so just a few points

<snip>You look at Apple and Google and HP now and think they are BIG companies. 
I was there when Apple was tiny. And when the BCE was tiny.  When Google was not yet a thought form.<>

The present size of the companies you cite either now or when they started or the circumstances in which they were developed, again have no bearing on the argument that they only exist because of the infrastructure developed by the US government. 

<snip>You are confusing the creation of the infrastructure with the creation of the companies that USE the infrastructure. 
Yes - the Internet depended on government funding to get bigger than tiny... That is like the government building highways or airports... My Business was the product of me busting my butt to use THAT infrastructure to create a new enterprise that used the infrastructure.  That is like Ford developing a mass market automobile or Rockefeller developing fuel refineries and gas stations to run  on highways. <>

Neither Ford nor Roosevelt begin to conform to your garagiste fantasy of entrepreneurship, almost precisely because they were deeply and explicitly working within a structure only made possible by government funding (as in fact all computer entrepreneurs are, though clearly with far less self awareness)

<snip>The vast majority of businesses (all businesses) began on dining room tables and in garages.<>

What? Even Ford and Roosevelt's businesses?

<snip>Google is not a government funded start up project. It came from guys in a garage... <>

Oh come on... Google was not really developed in a garage, but in the extremely well-appointed and well-funded computer laboratories of Stanford University. 

<snip>Your ignorance of history is staggering.  ENIAC was a big government contract - not for the Cold War - it was for WW2.<>
For what its worth I do know about ENIAC as a glance at the second chapter of my book Digital Culture will confirm. I did not mention it in this post as ENIAC was a number cruncher, rather than the kind of computer enabled by the development of SAGE in the 1950s, though it's development in relation to the military needs of the US in WW2 would also absolutely confirm the point I am trying to make

In my statement " Above all much of the development of computing as we now know it was driven by US military needs in relation to the Cold War and Vietnam", the operative phrase is "as we now know it" and perhaps I should have added, as 'real-time interactive, symbolic manipulation technology'. My bad. Please read Paul Edwards' brilliant book The Closed World for an in-depth explanation of what I am talking about and about the primary importance of the SAGE/Whirlwind project . 

<snip>The second successful commercial comptuer was for private industry. And funded by entrepreneurs who worked by the seat of their pants (without a BIG contract) and ran out of capital and had to sell their nascent business to a larger company that could fund the development costs. See http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0645.html?printable=1<.

By the same token I know about the history of Eckert and Mauchly, the first commercial computer company and its exact relationship to the government that enabled it to exist (again see Digital Culture, chap 2). They were able to garner the expertise to build computers because of wartime government funding and then go commercial because of the possibility of selling to the same government that had given them the expertise in the first place. Apart from anything else there was pretty well nobody else to sell to

<snip>PROBABLY!!!??! What is this word doing in this sentence? Are you guessing? It sure seems like you are guessing. 
  You make it sound like Steve Jobs was living in a garage because there were not enough workers housing projects for them... DO you think Palo Alto is Moscow?  The vision is laughable. <>

You seem to have misunderstood what I was saying and also to be rather exercised by my use of the word 'probably' in relation to the garages in Silicon Valley (and to have a problem with a perfectly legitimate academic caution about a supposition, a guess, reasonably informed, but a guess nevertheless). My point is simply that the garages used by these entrepreneurs were attached to houses that were built to house those working in the solid-state electronics industry (rather than computing) that gave Silicon Valley its name. I did not suggest that anyone was actually living in a garage, though of course you were there, so perhaps you know differently

<snip> The very first e-commerce business was started on a dining room table and used a data host that was in a garage. LITERALLY<>

That a 'data host' was LITERALLY in a garage neither proves or disproves your argument (nor indeed mine)



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