Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paul Allen and I

I was recently given a copy of Paul Allen’s autobiography, Idea Man. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve skimmed the parts where I had a role. And my first reaction is:

Really Paul, you don’t know how to spell my name?

Other than that, everything that mentioned me seemed totally accurate.

Paul was my direct supervisor in my first stint at Microsoft (I think at that time everyone reported to either Paul or Bill). He conducted my face-to-face performance review in 1981. That review turned out to have an interesting moment.

When I was hired at Microsoft, I signed a modified employment agreement. The usual agreement would have given Microsoft the rights to anything I thought up while I worked there; the modification limited the scope to work that I was assigned to do.  The purpose of the change was to allow me to consult for my previous employer, Seattle Computer Products.

So while employed by Microsoft, I was a consultant to SCP, with Microsoft’s blessing. As an SCP consultant I designed an add-in card for the IBM PC that SCP sold as the RAM+. This was a memory card that also included a serial port. SCP priced it slightly less than IBM’s price for the memory card alone, and it was a huge success. The IBM PC only had five add-in slots, one of which was always taken up by a video card, so a multi-function card was particularly appealing.

During my December 1981 performance review, I learned from Paul that Microsoft was planning to come out with an IBM PC add-in memory card. It surprised me that Microsoft was getting into the hardware business. I had to tell Paul that I had designed what would be a competitive card for SCP. He was an easy-going guy, and just said something like “don’t do it again.” I was relieved to not be in any trouble. (I’m not sure if I had reported to Bill that I would have gotten off so easily.)


pixymagic said...

Chevy HHR Turbocharger
Hat’s off. Well done, as we know that “hard work always pays off”, after a long struggle with sincere effort it’s done.

FTC said...

Hi Tim
I wrote here only to tell you that It's shocking to me to know that you, creator of MS-DOS, actually has not as relevance as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs (business genius, not computer's genius) or even Paul Allen.
I discovered your history and your name recently, watching "Pirates of Silicon Valley" and looking for more information.
Congratulations for your good work in MS-DOS and I was happy to hear you if you come to some conference at Barcelona (Spain).

Vinoth Kumar R said...

Finally i found the blog of the man who wrote DOS. Great Work Tim..

Lijo George said...

It's an honor to post a comment in this blog. I am of no importance to post a comment anyway. Hats off to your work.

John zpinoza said...

Hi Tim, I am honored that the original author of DOS / MSDOS will read my post. What a history! I've followed your story for a number of years. I realize that the story of the PC would have quite a different ending had it not been for you. In your honor and for your contributions I continually repeat accurately your involvement to the foundations of the computer industry. Thank you. Best regards,
Jimmy Zecca

Ashley Smith said...

buen articulo este de datacredito

Java Chap said...

I just have been skimming through the posst and I am impressed about the density of the topic along with the easy readability ... a true expert writing!!! I am looking forward to my commute back home to continue reading on my mobile

Ace Olszowka said...

I found your blog from the recent source release of MS-DOS, great read thanks for publishing the code!

Steven James Debsin said...

Hello Mr Paterson - Tim.
I've been trying to get a hold of you, and to use you [and my family name] to rise up, and find a destiny.
My grandfather is Rodney Brock of Seattle Computer Products. Please get a hold of me soon: tiberiusfury@gmail.com :or: jonha.silverworm@hush.com

1337.sp33d said...

Hi thanks for all your hard work in the computer industry , I am trying to get ahold of Barrett Williams who worked for Seattle Software Design in the mid 80's any ideas as to how ?. I used to live in Issaquah in the mid 80's as well and loved it , great town. Hope my memory serves correctly.

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Unknown said...

What ever happen to Rodney Brock?

Brett said...

Hi Tim,

I came here after the sad news of Paul allen's passing wondering if you had any stories about him. Yes you did! Cool. Thanks for DOS - I used it and CP/M before it. It's the last time I felt fully knew an OS inside and out. After DOS things became just too big and complex to know everything without reference to a manal.

I became a programmer but started with Basic and professionally with Pascal. I used assembly on Z80s and at Uni but could never imagine writing a whole OS in such a low level language. You did an amazing thing.

Cheers. Have a nice day.