Silicon Valley Journal – 30th Anniversary

February 25th, 2014
MMM Tech Perspectives


CHAPTER 1 – FEB. 25, 2014

Thirty years ago almost to the day I made my first visit to Silicon Valley.  I’m returning today on what is probably my 100th trip to the Bay Area to visit venture funds, private equity groups, clients and friends.  I’m proud today to be joined by Mayor Kasim Reed and his Invest Atlanta team.

I thought I’d share my insights on how the Valley has changed, how Atlanta has been impacted by the Valley and how technology has evolved through my 30 years of crossing the country — transporting tech knowledge and contacts from the Bay Area to the Southeast.  I’ll be including periodic tweets and pics on the way, highlighting changes that have taken place over three decades.  I hope you enjoy this chronicle of technology growth and evolution.

My first trip to the Bay Area was in 1984 to visit Jean Yates, my adventurous and brilliant sister.  Jean had journeyed to San Francisco in 1979 and to start her own Silicon Valley technology company, Yates Ventures.  The start-up grew quickly and provided software and evaluation tools and services to the dozens of companies vying for a slice of the exploding microcomputer market.

Like the early days of the automobile industry, every major technology manufacturer had its own microcomputer – Tandy/Radio Shack had its TRS80 (affectionately known as the TRASH80), Intel had its own microcomputer (of course, with an Intel processor) and then a litany of others followed — Corona, Columbia, Eagle, etc.  The microcomputer resolution was spawned by the open architecture of IBM following its announcement of the IBM PC in late 1981.

Founding building of Silicon Valley: IBM's Building 25 in San Jose. Source:

Founding building of Silicon Valley: IBM’s Building 25 in San Jose. Source:


By contrast, Apple’s closed architecture limited the early spread of the Apple market.  While Apple computers were being sold in microcomputer retail stores, the excitement in the Valley was around IBM PC compatibles and related peripheral devices.

By analogy, imagine the beginning of the automobile industry where cars were sold with only an engine, four wheels, a steering wheel and brakes.  This was similar to the early days of the microcomputer – you bought four wheels and two axles but little more.  The result was a frantic growth of the peripheral market for memory expansion boards, disk drives, back-up systems, monitors, printers and any other device to speed up the PC.

In addition to Apple and IBM, other Valley microcomputer firms were targeting high-end businesses during the early 80s.  Companies like Fortune Systems, Corvus and AT&T were operating their computers on versions of UNIX, one of the few multi-user and multi-tasking operating systems.  Other esoteric operating systems such as Pick Systems (named after Dick Pick) and M/PM (the multi-user version of C/PM from Digital Research) were also scattered in the market.

Osborne Portable Computer; c.1980s

Osborne Portable Computer c.1980

So my first trip to the Valley was full of excitement and confusion – IBM PC compatibles, Apple’s closed architecture, peripheral devices sprouting up everywhere, and challenges with how to get them all to market.

In this setting, I visited my sister in San Francisco and viewed my first microcomputer – (an Osborne “portable”), more accurately described as a “luggable”.  The Osborne was developed by Adam Osborne to be the first portable computer — it was the size of a small television set with a green screen approximately 4 inches in diagonal.  The Osborne computer was designed to fit perfectly in the overhead bin of the jet airliner of its day, annoying all other passengers since there was no storage bin space available.

The next day, Jean took me on a tour of her office on El Camino Real in the Valley.  In her office, she had disassembled her Osborne computer – something akin to taking apart the engine of an early model T.  Jean and her business partner, a software engineer, were reconfiguring certain aspects of the computer to enhance its speed.  I also recall the first software program I saw in operation on the Osborne – MicroPro’s Wordstar – a simplistic word processing program with cryptic commands.  I was hooked.

Upon returning to Atlanta in 1984, my eyes were opened to the burgeoning technology opportunities for Atlanta – ones that I’ll be exploring on this trip as they continue to evolve:

  • Links between Atlanta financial services businesses and our IT community
  • Opportunities for Georgia Tech to be a major source of talent in driving successful software and tech companies in our city
  • Security and privacy issues that were just starting to manifest themselves in the 80s and have become huge problems today, presenting opportunities for Atlanta entrepreneurs
  • The importance of an active angel community, fueled by serial entrepreneurs and local investors looking for more favorable investment returns
  • Connections between Atlanta’s traditional businesses and our entrepreneurs – providing pilot sites, innovation opportunities and customers.




The information presented and contained within this document are provided by MMM as general information only, and do not, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed within this document are solely the opinion of the individual author(s).