Tuesday, August 15

Gary Kildall : A good life !?

As the popular press celebrates the 25 years of PC revolution, and recounts the PC stories where the heros are Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell etc., it is also important to remember Gary Kildall who could have/should have been where Bill Gates is today.

I came across this article about Gary Kildall, head of Digital Research and who wrote CP/M operating system. According to article/legend when IBM came knocking for an OS to run its PC, Kildall was of flying his aerobatic biplane, and left his wife Dorothy to do the talking who in turn was too hassled planning for vacation to take the IBM proposal more seriously.

The article quotes former CEO of Symantec Gordon Eubanks: "Gary could have owned this business [ie, computing] if he had made the right strategic decisions... He did not care that much. Dorothy ran the business and he ran the technical side, and they did not get on."

Article goes on to mention : "Kildall died in 1994 at the age of 52 from injuries received in a biker bar brawl during a night out in Monterey, California."

A more sympathetic story in Dr. Dobb's journal mentions the cause of Kildall's death as falling from a ladder in the bar. The story refers to Kildall as an academic type who cleared the path on which Microsoft flourished.

He starts of happy, a laid back academic -- "Gary was happy in his marriage, happy to be living by the ocean, happy not to have gone to Vietnam, and most definitely happy in his job". -- whose accomplishments though path breaking was overshadowed by the success of Microsoft "his resentment of Bill gates was inevitable" but "never expressed publicly"

He did become wealthy by selling his company to Novell 1991.

Gary then moved to the West Lake Hills suburb of Austin, Texas. The Novell deal had made him a wealthy man. His Austin house was a sort of lakeside car ranch, with stables for 14 sports cars and a video studio in the basement. He owned and flew his own Lear jet and had at least one boat

A great quote from Tom Rolander's eulogy at Kildall's funeral " ...It was then that I learned that computers were built to make money, not minds."

In some ways every competitor to Microsoft has been a repeat of the Kildall story. Kildall was passionate about software, Bill was passionate about the "business of software".

Everyone is a hero, depending on your perspective.

Gordon Eubanks sets the record right about the MS deal with IBM in this interview. (very interesting reading)

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