A Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today.
Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Written by Alternate Historian

December 20

In 1996, on this day Jean-Louis Gassée (pictured) reluctantly sold Be Inc. for $200 million (he wanted $275 million) after discovering that his buyer Apple Computer was on the verge of striking an alternative deal with his business rival Steve Jobs of NeXSTEP.

Apple Buys Be Inc.Earlier in the year, the board of Apple had taken a strategic decision about the development of the next generation new operating system, the Mac OS X. Fatefully, they had chosen to abandon an internal development project called Copland; instead of rewriting and modernizing the Macintosh operating system, the company would leapfrog this development by acquiring a new platform with many of the desired features. The two options quickly narrowed down to BeOS or OPENSTEP. And both operating systems were owned by former Apple Executives. Which was not to say that negotiations proceeded through open dialogue between buddies, because Jobs had not entered the building since his highly publicised exit in 1985. And Gassée was forced out after a political in-fight during 1990.

Yet matters took a decidely unexpected course. Retained after the purchase in an Advistory capacity, the acquisition was so integral to the strategic direction of the company that within just six months, Gassée had replaced Gil Amelio as Interim CEO. "A man in the desert doesn't bargain on the price of water" ~ Jean-Louis GasséeOnly later would a number of deeply disturbing facts emerge; that the bid for Be Inc. was hugely over-priced, because only $80 million had ever been invested in the company; that OPENSTEP was a proven technology, unlike BeOS; that Jobs had requested a position on the board but had only been offered an advisory position; and that the abandonment of Copland and its successors Gerschwin and Taligent disguised a genuine crisis inside Apple Computer.

By then it was too late to reverse these missteps, and in any case, Jobs had moved onto other rewarding projects. Ironically, Gassée, who had only ever wanted to make a tidy profit, would be forced to watch Jobs take a staggering $1.2 billion out of Pixar Animation Studios before stepping up to a full-time position on the board of that company's biggest customer, the Walt Disney Company. But such is the fine margin between dreams and nightmares.



May 20

In 2000, ending their search for adult supervision of the fledgling search giant Google, co-founders Larry Page and Serge Brin appointed Steve Jobs as CEO. Other candidates such as Intel's Andry Grove and Amazon's Jeff Bezos had been rejected by Venture capitalist John Doerr.

Apple Buys Be Inc. Part 2Only four years before, the former Macintosh Guru had almost re-joined Apple. But the acquisition of his company NeXSTEP fell through and the Board decided to purchase Be Inc from another former Apple executive, Jean-Louis Gassée.

Over the next dozen years, Apple would release innovative computers that dazzled the loyal followers of their niche customer market. Whereas Google would be transformed into a global retail giant. Impossibly long lines of consumers queuing up all night outside their chain of stores waiting to buy the next Google hand-held device.



September 3

In 1998, on this day two students at Stanford University called Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google Inc., an American multinational corporation specializing in Internet-related services and products.

Apple Buys Be Inc. Part 3Within years they recognized the need for their fledgling search giant to have adult supervision. After candidates such as Intel's Andry Grove and Amazon's Jeff Bezos were rejected by Venture capitalist John Doerr, they took the momentous decision to appoint Steve Jobs.

Only four years before, the former Macintosh Guru had almost re-joined Apple. But the acquisition of his company NeXSTEP fell through and the Board decided to purchase Be Inc from another former Apple executive, Jean-Louis Gassée.

Over the next dozen years, Apple would release innovative computers that dazzled the loyal followers of their niche customer market. Whereas Google would be transformed into a global retail giant. Impossibly long lines of consumers queuing up all night outside their chain of stores waiting to buy the next Google hand-held device.



July 9

In 2012, although Judge Colin Birss deemed Galaxy 10.1, 8.9 and 7.7 tablets "not as cool" as the iPad, the unlawful re-use of unique design features made it practically indistinguishable to the non-expert consumer and consequently the London court decision found that Apple's registered designs had indeed been infringed by its component supplier Samsung Electronics.

Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
By Ed & Brian Hartman
As expected Apple dismissed the possibility of licensing design to any "third party" contrary to the proposal that both companies "get a room" and find a resolution for the consumer. And in support of Samsung, those third parties (Google, Oracle, Motorola and Microsoft) rejected Apple's claim of innovating and competing with better products and services. Instead, they accused the company of seeking to destroy the market for Android devices through patent litigation. In a creative solution to the problem, it was Samsung that demonstrated innovation in the coming days; to retain its prominent place in the tablet market the South Korean based company announced a forthcoming new device codenamed the Galaxy 10 that would include an infrared projection feature for the keyboard.



March 19

In 1993, determined to re-invent personal computing, Apple's head of advanced product development Jean-Louis Gassée [1] controversially delayed the release of the MessagePad 100 because it failed to meet the original design goals for the Newton.

Apple Newton DelayedThe catalyst was was the emergence of technical difficulties with the toolbox and application language for the Apple Newton. Because to provide a truly open platform for application development, further time was required to finalize "Dylan" a brand new very advanced programming language [2].

The end result was a larger, tablet sized product, with non-proprietary expansion ports, better syncing and an incredibly sophisticated handwriting recognition. Finally launched in 1995, the product transformed the metaphor for mobile computing. And of course it was a far cry from the luggable devices that Gassée had scrapped in the late 1980s.



February 24

In 1955, on this day the incomparable Arab American Industrialist Abdulfattah "John" Jandali-Schieble, Jr. was born in San Francisco, California.

Birth of Visionary Tech GuruBecause his mother's family objected to her relationship with a Muslim Syrian-American the couple had seriously considered having the child adopted at birth [1] by the Jobs family. However the discovery that the prospective adopted mother was Armenian had forced a reconsideration because after all the child would be brought up in a dual heritage family. It was a positive decision that shaped both his whole identity - and also the future of America. Because later in life, he would help the nation confront a wave of Arabophobia whipped up by neo-conservative right-wing extremists in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

As a student he sought spiritual enlightenment in India, and some of that mystique entered his business personality as a visionary tech guru. Based upon original work conceived by Xerox at the Palo Alto Research Centre, he developed "Orient" the world's first commercial graphical user interface computer. He became one of America's richest men, using the brand value of his Arabesque lifestyle product, his personal prestige and also his wealth to promote the peaceful image of the Arabic community. Today Orient is the world's leading operating system, implemented in all major languages including of course Arabic.



January 24

The launch was originally scheduled for 3:43 AM on January 22 but was delayed or rescheduled 3 times. The first two delays were because of flight delays from the prior mission, STS 61-C. The weather on January 24 is deemed as acceptable by the staff on duty and the launch takes place on schedule at 3:43 AM, 24JAN1986. The weather in Florida is the usual cool January morning, no frost and temperatures in the 50's F instead of below freezing. The O ring seal on the SRB is more flexible on this warm morning and expands to fill the joint against the pressure of the solid rocket exhaust. The seal is not perfect, there had been problems detected several times over the first 24 flights, but the leaks are smaller and do not cause damage to the External Tank or the SRB mounting structure so they do not cause a disaster.

Challenger LaunchedThe "Teacher in Space" mission is a success getting American school children excited about the Space Program and raising their interest in the study of math and science a small percentage.

The next launch in March 1986 takes place on schedule with the Columbia carrying the Astro-1 space observatory into orbit in the cargo bay for the very first time.

In early May 1986 the Challenger, still in good shape, carries the Ulysses Solar Spacecraft into orbit and deploys it to study the Sun for a long duration.

In late May 1986 the Atlantis, modified earlier to carry a liquid fuelled Centaur upper stage delivers the Galileo Jupiter probe safely to orbit and sends it on the direct path planned to reach Jupiter in 1988. In June 1986 the Columbia launches from Cape Canaveral and successfully deploys several commercial satellites to orbit.

In early July 1986 the Discovery launches from Vandenberg USAF base, California, in the first all Military mission for the Space Shuttle. Unlike the missions sent from Florida the California launches are sent south west over the Pacific into polar orbits. While it would be technically possible to send missions eastward this would cause them to fly over Mexico or the USA during the boost phase dropping the Solid Rocket Boosters on populated land instead of open ocean. The classified mission deploys a heavy military spy satellite to orbit.

In late July 1986 the Challenger launches from Cape Canaveral successfully delivering the TDRS satellite to orbit. In August 1986 the Atlantis launches from Cape Canaveral delivering the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit giving better views of the star field but not as good as hoped due to mirror grinding errors. The views are much clearer than ground observations, but not nearly as good as they were predicted to be.

In early September 1986 the Discovery launches from Vandenberg USAF California delivering another top secret military satellite into a polar orbit.

In late September 1986 the Challenger launches from Cape Canaveral and captures the Long Duration Test Facility in orbit, returning it safely to Earth for detailed study of materials with long term exposure to low Earth orbit conditions.

In October 1986 the Columbia launches from Cape Canaveral carrying the EOM Spacelab in the cargo bay so that scientists on board can perform experiments in orbit.

In November 1986 the Atlantis launches from Cape Canaveral carrying the first "Reporter in Space" and also delivers two commercial satellites into orbit.

In December 1986 the Challenger launches from Cape Canaveral carrying three commercial satellites into orbit.

In January 1987 NASA institutes new flight restrictions to prevent cold weather from shrinking O ring seals to the point of danger from failure to contain exhaust from the Solid Rocket Boosters.

In 1986 NASA successfully launches the Space Shuttle 11 times from Cape Canaveral and the USAF 2 times from Vandenberg California. On January 1, 1986 there had been 23 successful mission, on January 1, 1987 there have been 36.

Unfortunately with only four Space Shuttles it isn't practical to launch any more frequently because the early prediction of two weeks to recondition a shuttle between flights has proven impossible to accomplish. Columbia had been out of service for 1984 and 1985 but in 1986 she had flow three times, in January, June and October.

Once the "Reporter in Space" mission is completed the journalist, Timothy T. Ferris goes on a one man campaign to get the prototype Shuttle, Enterprise, brought up to flight status with a refit similar to the one done on the Columbia during its long 18 month rebuild from January 1984 to July 1985.

Made famous by his flight he is hired as the on air reporter for CBS Los Angeles 6 pm news and becomes something of a broken record on the topic bringing up the Enterprise at least once a week. His popularity with Star Trek fans soars and results in a letter writing campaign in 1987 causing Congress to add funds to NASA's budget that can only be used to make Enterprise flight worthy. In essence the prototype is stripped down to the frame and completely rebuilt almost from scratch costing more than it would have to just build a brand new shuttle. This gives NASA two pairs of shuttle, the Enterprise and Columbia have heavier frames than the Challenger and Atlantis. Discovery has the lightest frame, which is why she is the preferred shuttle for Vandenberg missions that are close to the launch limits of the system. For some Vandenberg launches the Orbital Manoeuvring Engines have to be used extensively to achieve stable orbit and the on-board tanks for the OMS fuel system are much larger on the Discovery to make this possible. Enterprise goes in for refit September 1987 and flies its first orbital mission in March 1989.

At the beginning of 1989 NASA and the USAF discontinue the reuse of the Solid Rocket Boosters saving weight on the parachutes, recovery ships, and refurbishing process where the rockets have to be completely disassembled, inspected, refilled with fuel and reassembled. This provides a significant saving in manpower and equipment as well as increasing the total weight to orbit that the STS system can accomplish. By removing the parachutes and recovery equipment and reconfiguring the linear charge on the range safety detonator to automatically destroy the boosters 30 seconds after separation from the Orbiter the two SRB's are broken into smaller less dangerous pieces that impact the ocean 130 miles out and sink.



July 21

In 1985, eighteen months after he survived a titanic board room struggle, Chairman Jack Tramiel of Commodore International took the step forward that he had been fighting tooth and nail for, announcing the release of the 900 model (pictured), a 16-bit microcomputer based on the Zilog Z8000 CPU that would take the competition to the Apple and IBM during the late 1980s.

Commodore 900A Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor, Tramiel had promised "computers for the masses, not the classes". To achieve this goal, he had driven Commodore to the edge of bankcrupcy, offering budget priced machines distributed through retail channels rather than authorized resellers. Following on from the success of the PET, the Commodore 64 was selling at the staggering rate of 400,000 units per month, and in fact a key issue for the company was finding a suitable successor to this runaway success. That would be the 900 model.



July 24

In 1980, disregarding the unduly cautious legal advice of his attorney Gerry Davis, operating system guru Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc. (DRI) took a snap business decision and signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) presented by the impatient IBM lead negotiator Jack Sams.

CP/M licensed for IBM PCsWith that routine formality out of the way, the IBM representatives visibly relaxed, and the historic meeting at Pacific Grove progressed into substantive discussions. The conclusion was an agreement to license CP/M-86 for the IBM PC, but it was a done deal after Tom Rolander demonstrated DRI's brilliant multi-tasking operating system.

Until the NDA was signed, the IBM representatives had been unwilling to reveal their plans. Because their one-year accelerated product-to-market plan ("Project Chess") was dependent upon the taking of a strategic decision to drop their first choice Motorola chip. This judgement was central to the negotiations because DRI's MP/M-86 already worked on the second choice Intel 16-bit model (the operating system had actually been developed two years before).

Inevitably, the most sensitive aspect of the negotation was commercial. Because IBM opened bidding with a ludicrous offer of the one-off payment of $250,000 unaware that CP/M was generating annualised sales of $6m. Eventually, they settled on the scalar formula that would make Rowlander and Kildall (pictured) fabulously wealthy, a royalty price of $10 per license. After this business was concluded, three quite startling facts emerged.

  • Kildall and Rowlander had been scheduled to fly to meet with a CP/M distributor. Fortunately, the meeting had been cancelled because Kildall's wife Dororthy was notoriously hesitant to sign NDAs without her husband present.
  • DRI was scheduled to meet with representatives of IBM's competitor, Hewlett Packard that very afternoon.
  • IBM had made the lazy assumption that a company in Seattle owned CP/M. Amazingly, Jack Sams and his colleague Pat Harrington had even contacted a couple of "long-hairs" who had been reluctantly forced to admit they did not own the operating system and instead referred the IBM-ers to DRI.



November 23

In 1992, the first smartphone appeared in public on this day when IBM debuted a prototype device code named "Angler" at the COMDEX computer and technology trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. As fate would have it, amongst the excited members of the crowd was a twenty-five year old English consultant. His name was Jonathan Paul "Jony" Ive [1].

Debut of the IBM SimonHe immediately grasped that in concept it potential was huge. Feature rich with a 4.5 inch B&W 160x293 LCD touch screen display that worked with apps to help make our everyday lives easier, but it was a massive device with a battery guzzling design and a low powered 16MHz processor.

Plans to market the IBM Simon Personal Communicator resulted in an $899 two-year contract with BellSouth, available in fifteen states. But a transformative event then occurred with the appointment of Jony as the new tech lead. He had left his native England with dreams of joining Apple's Industrial Design team, but the lure of IBM's R&D budget combined with the demonstration at Comdex encouraged him to join Big Blue instead.



June 2

In 1993, in the far-reaching "look and feel copyright" precedent ruling of Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation, San Francisco federal Judge Vaughn Walker rejected Microsoft's argument that the dispute was a contractual matter relating to the original licensing agreement for Windows version 1.0. Instead, he found in favour of original design manufacturers who were entitled to "get patent-like protection for the idea of a graphical user interface (GUI), or the idea of a desktop metaphor [under copyright law]."..

GUI Wars
By Ed, Brian Hartman, John E. Bredehoft & Stan Brin
However the main beneficiary would be Xerox Corporation who had launched the first GUI computer called Star in 1981 (pictured). Because the Apple design team had been invited to view Star at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) research lab and these visits had been very influential on the development of the Macintosh which was launched two years later in 1983.

During 1990 the same judge had presided over a case in which Xerox had been denied $150m. However Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation redefined the "originality" argument proposed by Apple that while the individual components were not original, the complete GUI was. During the case, Apple had been forced to admit licensing many of its representations from Xerox opening the wider debate of whether copyright protection only extends to original expression.



August 12

In 1981, on this day IBM announced its first Personal Computer: model number 5150, the creation of a team of engineers and designers under the direction of Don Estridge of the Entry Systems Division in Boca Raton, Florida.

IBM announce their first PC: model number 5150Featuring 64 kB of RAM, a single 5.25-inch floppy drive and monitor the system (pictured) would sell for US $3,005. And yet Estridge would never have been able to achieve this price point without the support of key supply chain partners, the Intel Corporation's 16-bit model chip, the CP/M muli-tasking operating system from Digital Research, Inc and of course Microsoft Basic (CP/M was non-exclusively licensed to IBM for a $10 per unit royalty free, Microsoft Basic also shipped onboard competitor products such as the Tandy TRS-80 already selling in Radio Shack stores).

Due to their earlier release, widespread acceptance and of course DRI's brilliant multi-tasking operating system, the IBM PC and its clones dominated the market even after the launch of the technically advanced Apple Macintosh. Early sales of that product would remain disappointingly flat until a power struggle on the board of directors was resolved on May 24th, 1985. President John Sculley was forced out, placing control of the pioneering company in the hands of the visionary Steve Jobs, the head of the Macintosh division who Sculley had been attempting to outster. Unbeknown to Sculley, Jobs had learnt from his early mistakes. He now believed that he had leap-frogged the problem with the ground-breaking concept of a truly personal computer that could potentially render IBM's desktop unit hopelessly obsolete long before the decade was out.



September 30

In 1980, during a routine quality assurance review, the IBM PC locks up and engineer David Bradley hits control-alt-delete to force a soft reset.

IBM scraps the Three Fingered SaluteWith Development lead Don Estridge looking horrified by this "three fingered salute", Bradley quickly explains the need for an engineering workaround to protect the power supply and hard drive from the energy surge of a hard reset. Estridge nods wisely in understanding but firmly insists that this amateurish feature is used for internal purposes only, solely during development only and is to be removed from the final BIOS code. "IBM doesn't do Easter Eggs" being his final words on the subject.

But unfortunately, the locks and software crashes never seem to go away, after all, the programming schedule is incredibly ambitious and as the deadline fast approaches some form of quality compromise become inevitable. To achieve this design goal with some degree of industry standard the team are forced to discretely add a reset pin to the top left side of the keyboard. And as Estridge had anticipated all along, the hardware override feature has the perceptional impact of placing the blame of crashing squarely on the software developers. They in turn are forced to confront this and dramatically improve the quality of their programming code such that the hardware reset is hardly ever necessary for the end-user.



June 10

In 1977, the Orient, one of the first mass-produced microcomputer products, goes on sale.

John and Woz change the worldAlthough the Orient was the brain-child of the Jewish American Inventor Steve Wozniak [1], "Woz" had originally conceived of the far simpler idea of selling a fully assembled printed circuit board. But he had been dissuaded by his friend Abdulfattah "John" Jandali-Schieble, Jr. who convinced Woz that even if they were not successful they could at least say to their grand-kids they had had their own company.

Together they sold some of their possessions (such as Wozniak's HP scientific calculator and John's Volkswagen van), raised USD $1,300, and assembled the first boards in John's bedroom and later (when there was no space left) in John's garage. Wozniak's apartment in San Jose was filled with monitors, electronic devices, and some computer games Wozniak had developed.

The reason that John really wanted a microcomputer product only became clearer with the release of an Arabesque graphical user interface. And even though the Orient would eventually become the world's leading home computer, that was just a side-bar to an even more significant development. Because in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the peaceful advocacy of a billion dollar Jewish-Arabic business partnership was a bulwark to the wave of Arabophobia being whipped up by neo-conservative right-wing extremists.



May 19

In 1980, on this day the business-oriented personal computer code-named "Sara" was first announced and released as the Apple III (pictured).

Launch of Apple III Captures Business Computing MarketShipping as standard with the true typewriter-style upper/lowercase keyboard and eighty column display feature set demanded by business users, the Information Analyst bundle also included expansion drives and a choice of thermal printers for a complete solution to IT requirements of a modern office. Because the Apple III was the first product launch since the incorporation of the company (the Apple II predated the formation of the company) the success was all the more remarkable. And the chance discovery of a complex design flaw had even triggered a tumultuous power struggle inside the organization that firmly positioned the company in the business, rather than the consumer, market space.

The Head of the Macintosh division was a twenty-five year old College drop-out called Steve Jobs. Without undertaking any due diligence, he pursued the dream of minutarization by insisting that the unit was fitted with a heat sink instead of a CPU fan and air vents. However this challenging design failed to expel all the heat from the unit and case designer Jerry Manock unfairly took the blame. However he managed to demonstrate that under prolonged testing solder began to melt and run across the cramped "fineline" technology motherboard (this motherboard was itself a largely unproven component and also selected by Jobs to fit the case size on the untested assumption that it would be fully tested by the supplier). But rogue connections were created and of course the result was unexpected malfunction. Fortunately, this design flaw was detected before the launch and a daughterboard introduced for the secondary components. But of course the issue highlighted the reckless decisions taken by Jobs. He was forced out of managerial duties and although he remained a co-owner he was replaced by Manock.



July 9

In 2012, on this day the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPAD Mini a seven inch version of the popular tablet computer and more significantly a killer product directly targetted at the Android and Kindle Fire consumer markets.

Launch of the iPAD Mini
By Ed & Brian Hartman
A break with the traditional single product version ethos, not to mention a flip-flop from previous announcements ("7in tablets should come with sandpaper so users can file down their fingers" and "One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen would offer 70 per cent of the benefits of a 10-inch screen .. this is far from the truth. Seven-inch screens are 45 per cent as large as an iPad. This size isn't sufficient for making great tablet apps") the launch of a new content consumption device that could fit inside a jacket pocket was a competitive response to both the alleged theft of Apple's intellectual property and also the commercial success of Android-powered 7" tablets. With a screen resolution half the size of the Retina Display touting iPad, developers could easily shrink existing apps and still retain their look and feel without major reprogramming effort. And the all-day battery was a compelling feature of this new electronic travelling companion.

Of course, by the time that Amazon unbundled Android from the Kindle Fire, Windows 8 was on general release and the market entered a new phase, a straight dogfight between Apple and Microsoft.



February 2

In 1986, the knives were out for the management of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration even before their Space Shuttle Challenger returned to Earth.

Mission STS-51-LDue to the cold weather, two O-Rings had failed to seal on one of the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs). Fortunately, solid fuel had formed a crust which protected the seal. Had this Aluminium Slag not held the SRBs in place, the booster cylinder would have impacted the external tank area. It was an accidental contingency that had miraculously saved from disaster the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program.

Engineers had been alarmed by earlier flights pointing the finger directly at management-driven schedule pressures. And the dispute in the Agency would soon leak upwards into a governing Republican Party bidding to replace Ronald Reagan with a GOP successor in the White House. The complacency within the leadership of NASA was beginning to gain acknowledgement. But cancelling the Shuttle program was not politically acceptable, not after spending $7 billion and building 5 machines, plus designing a space station around it. Of more immediate concern though was a four-man mission scheduled for May 1986 in which a shuttle was to carry a Centaur filled with explosive hydrogen to boost the unmanned spacecraft Galileo to the Planet Jupiter...



October 30

In 1987, on this day the first 16-bit (fourth generation) video game console, the PC Engine is released in Japan.

NEC wins the Bit WarsAnd despite a mad last minute rush to add the Hitachi 6309 (a 16-bit CPU) and a second player control port, NEC engineers also manage to export the console under the name TurboGrafx-16 and get the product shipping before Christmas in the US at a price point just below $100.

Having stolen a march on Nintendo Entertainment and Sega Master Systems, NEC then began to develop TurboGrafx-CD, a better-than cartridge release mechanism for shipping feature rich games into the US market while dramatically increasing audio and visual power. The battle for video game supremacy had begun in earnest.



August 16

In 2013, American biographical drama film "the Assassination of Steve Jobs" was released on this day in the United States, India and Turkey.

Not the potter, but the potter's clayFilmed as a series of critical incidents with explanatory flashbacks, the punch-line is that the movie is actually a character assassination of a "raging monster".

After a series of increasingly angry confrontations with his wife, business partner Steve Wozniak and the various Apple employees that he ruthlessly fires, he finally escapes from this circle of hell to find inner peace in the spiritual insight that "Only Allah knows what tomorrow will bring". The movie then reaches an emotional moment of personal triumph when he finally re-unites with his biological father Abdulfattah "John" Jandali and ultimately accepts both his childhood rejection and his Islamic Arabic identity. This becomes possible when he learns of his biological mother's family rejection of his Muslim Syrian father which ultimately forced the adoption, somewhat ironically to a family of Armenian descent. It was a cruel imperfection of design that he spent his whole life trying to correct, and the deep truth that he discovers to be the cause behind this conflict is that "something had been missing in this harsh world, and that was love".



April 23

In 1993, on this day WordPerfect 5.2 went on general release. And by porting the application to OS/2 Warp the author Satellite Software had taken a breathtakingly risky decision to "bet the farm" on IBM holding the enterprise workstation space.

OS/2 Warp seizes the enterprise marketFortunately for them, it was a safe gamble because the brilliant software engineer Dave Cutler had recently decided to join IBM from DEC. He had been hired as a technical authority to eliminate many of the proprietary features that had held back the operating system. And to be more blunt, overcome the wrong-head attitudes of certain individuals who, having been burned by DOS, wanted to ensure that the OS remained closed to preying software developers. So much so, the first version only supported IBM printers (and not HP, Epson or other popular brands) and the third party application support programme just never took off at all. Due to appalling "stealth" marketing, many actually believe that the OS/2 only ran on the PS/2 machine. And so Cutler immediately set about transforming the status quo by porting to the new PowerPC platform allowing matters to move in the right direction and at a pace.

Of course WordPerfect had been written for Data General computers themselves the offset of the DEC range. It was through this circuitous route that Cutler was encouraged to commit to IBM when he had been considering a similiar post with Microsoft. Needless to say, WordPerfect for OS/2 was a huge success, and before long Satellite Software had acquired the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, CorelDraw Package and bolted together the WordPerfect Office suite that has dominated the enterprise application productivity market space for the last two decades. But of course if Microsoft had not experience prolonged delays with Word for Windows, then the situation might have been radically different.



September 14

In 1995, on this day the struggling Italian computer manufacturer Olivetti released the Envision 400/P75, a full multimedia PC for the living room that would transform the home computing experience.

Release of the Olivetti EnvisionA combination of Italian style and engineering talent in Ivrea had overcome the considerable challenges in conjugating innovation with quality standards in order to produce a home computing appliance for non-computer savvy people. Designed to resemble a videocassette recorder, the Envision bucked the trend in a diminishing PC market by convincing late adopting consumers that computers were not impossibly hard to use.

The Envision shipped with a choice of two processors: one based on the Intel 486 DX4 100mhz processor and one based on the Intel Pentium P75 processor. It had an infrared keyboard and an internal modem, and it was compatible with audio CDs, CD-ROMs, Photo CDs and Video CDs. It came with preinstalled programs that would allow it work as a fax, an answering machine when connected to the telephone line. It also had three possible operating modes: simple mode (limited to the use of an infrared remote control to control the volume and the reproduction of photo, video or audio CDs); intermediate mode (with a simplified Windows shell replacement called Olipilot that gave access to a limited set of programs); advanced (the standard Windows 95 graphical user interface).



October 20

In 1992, in the landmark case of Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc. the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favour of the video game publisher (at the original hearing, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California had ruled in favour of Sega, preventing Accolade from publishing any more games for the Genesis and requiring them to recall all of their Genesis games on sale).

Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc.The legal decision was the latest in a long-running series of tribulations for the home console manufacturer. Only recently, Electronic Arts had demanded extra royalties per cartridge (incredibly they had acquired a "grey" development kit having baulked at paying Sega the fee). Seeking a great leap forward that would lift them above these petty wrangles, Sega entered into a strategic alliance with Apple, who, ironically - like Accolade - had been accused of reverse engineering computer software (in their case, from Xerox). Inadvertently, the Court had spawned a video gaming revolution leading to the creation of an unparalleled experience for gamers on the feature rich Apple desktop (and later, mobile) platforms.



July 30

In 1980, on this day commercial discussions with the little parts supplier Microsoft collapsed over IBM's boneheaded demand for an exclusive license to their disk operating system.

Talks between IBM and Microsoft collapseBut the broader issue was really one of vision because the long-haired visionary programmers Paul Allen and Bill Gates were pretty outspoken in their advocacy of an IBM PC powered by a Motorola 68000 chipset and running Xenix, a Microsoft implementation of Unix.

And the problem was that the IBM Executives were just thinking about the numbers, long-term profitability and how to compete favourably with rival products such as the Apple Computer and the Radio Shack's TRS-80. In fact they had only sought out little parts suppliers such as Microsoft and Intel for the sole purpose of reaching a sub-$3,000 price point. Reluctant to change course and embrace an open commercial and technical partnership, IBM reverted to the trusted in-house model, re-designing the PC architecture on the IBM 801 CPU and its own Unix.

IBM regretted their obstinate decision because they were unable to squeeze their in-house design under the sub-$3,000 price point (a task requiring small company agility not available at the Entry Systems Division in Boca Raton, Florida). And while the IBM project went no where fast, Allen and Gates banged their head against the same wall with Hewlett Packard before seeking out same-sized start-up companies that shared a common mindset.



January 17

In 2011, on this day Apple, Inc.'s Board of Directors approved a third medical leave of absence requested by Steve Jobs.

The Baton is PassedTim Cook the professional head of Worldwide Sales and Operations had served as Apple CEO for two months in 2004, when Jobs was recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer. In 2009, Cook again served as Apple CEO for several months while Jobs took a leave of absence for a liver transplant.

Therefore it was something of a major surprise when it was announced that the new CEO would be Jonathan ("Jony") Ive the forty-three year old Senior Vice President of Design and Cook would continue to run the day-to-day operations as COO. Jobs had always considered Ive to be his "spiritual partner at Apple," while Fortune magazine stated in 2010 that Ive's designs have "set the course not just for Apple but for design more broadly".



March 4

In 1975, on this day the Menlo Park Police Department discovered a grisly murder scene at Gordon French's garage.

The Murders at the Homebrew Computer Club by Robbie Taylor and Ed.French and his friend Fred Moore had first met at the Community Computer Center. They agreed to share a regular, open forum for people to get together to work on making computers more accessible to everyone. Unfortunately these techies had been way too trusting and this residential event had drawn the attention of the Manson Family, a commune of extremely dangerous individuals who - rumour had it - were behind the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Amongst the victims were Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen and Bill Gates. The latter individual had been discovered with an Open Letter to Hobbyists, which lambasted the early hackers of the time for pirating commercial software programs. Perhaps he might have changed his mindset and even become someone famous in this glorious Open Source future, had he lived.



May 18

In 1998, at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit the US Department of Justice and twenty states accused the Microsoft Corporation of becoming a monopoly and engaging in abusive practices contrary to the Sherman Antitrust Act 1890 sections 1 and 2.

United States v. Microsoft CorpThe case was just the beginning of a decade long legal struggle that ultimately consumed the full attention of founder Bill Gates. Ironically, he had been considering retirement, but two developments forced him to reconsider his withdrawal from the company. Firstly, the DOJ Antitrust suite, and secondly, the emergence of the "Internet on Your Desktop" concept targeted for Windows 2003 that ultimately forced the monopoly showdown.

On May 20th 2000, Steve Jobs was appointed CEO of Google, Inc. by company founders Larry Page and Serge Brin. A true visionary, he set about seizing the whole computing market from Microsoft, Apple et. al. He imagined a retail giant, with impossibly long lines of consumers queuing up all night outside their chain of stores waiting to buy the next Google hand-held device. Only his premature death would prevent him seeing the fulfilment of this dream.

Although Microsoft had been much slower to grasp the power of the Internet, they had at least taken some early steps in their development cycle. Most noticeably, programming more granular Linux equivalent security structures into the filing system and building a more ubiquitous browsing experience. However, thats where the trouble really began. Because the designs laid down for Windows 2003 imagined the browser seamlessly integrated into the desktop, Internet based networking resources such as file, print, voice and rich multi-media content could be manipulated as easily as data on your C drive. Even more impressive, your desktop personality would be replicated on other devices under a roaming user profile. Unfortunately for those excited by this possibility of rich collaboration, the snag was you had to buy the Premium Operating System. Because the underlying philosophy of the web was that it was free and anonymous. Thats when the dispute got really nasty.



November 20

In 1983, the general release of the first version of Visi On - the graphical user interface-based operating environment program for IBM PC compatible personal computers running early versions of DOS - began shipping world-wide on this day.

Visi On kept under wraps at Comdex '82VisiCorp had surged ahead in the two years since Mitch Kapor had replaced Terry Opdendyk, the autocratic president hand-picked by the early venture capital investors [1].

As the former head of VisiCalc development, Kapor was a brilliant spreadsheet programmer, but in his newly elevated role he took a number of surprising entrepreneurial gambles that paid off, big time. Most notably, the high risk decision not to demonstrate the futuristic GUI (codename "Visi On") at Comdex '82 when it was demonstrable but not yet commercially viable. As it turned out, the audience reaction to VisiCalc was so positive that such a cheap marketing ploy would have been unnecessary and potentially counter-productive, running the risk of another software developer bringing the concept to market before VisiCorp [2]. Having avoided that pit fall, the development team were given the necessary space and time to reduce the required hardware footprint ensuring price parity with Apple's competitor product, the "Lisa".



November 2

In 1979, a planned three-day visit to the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) facilities by Apple Engineers Steve Jobs and Jef Raskin was cancelled by Xerox because of new commercial restrictions of access placed on the Alto prototype computer.

Xerox take advantage of the Alto ComputerThe two companies had been discussing a proposal under which Xerox granted Apple engineers three days of access to the PARC facilities in return for the option to buy 100,000 shares (800,000 split-adjusted shares) of Apple at the pre-IPO price of $10 a share. However this deal was scuppered by PARC researcher Larry Tessler.

Developed in 1973, the Alto was the first computer to use the desktop metaphor and mouse-driven graphical user interface (GUI). Unable to position the Alto as the ground-breaking device of a new technology era, he finally managed to persuade his bone-headed bosses to see that such computers were the photocopiers of the future. The device was then placed under restricted commercial access, and the final painful steps taken in the development of a marketable product.



Older Posts




© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.