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Biographies: Dreams That Get Funded: Programming Rolls Its Own Reality Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129822D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 13 page(s) / 60K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Mark Halpern: AUTHOR [+2]


3309 Brunell Drive Oakland, CA 94602 USA

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Copyright ©; 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Biographies: Dreams That Get Funded: Programming Rolls Its Own Reality

Mark Halpern

3309 Brunell Drive Oakland, CA 94602 USA

This is the third episode of a memoir of a career in computing that began in 1957. The first episode appeared in this journal, Volume 13, No. 1, 1991; the second in Volume 14, No. 1, 1992. The title is taken from a remark made by my friend Bob Brill when I objected to some proposal of his as not showing much sense of reality: "What is reality but dreams that got funded ? " -- Mark Halpern My second resignation from IBM, in December 1969, was precipitated by an offer from Kai Magleby, who had been selected by Fairchild Camera and Instruments to bring them into the computer business systems market. I gladly accepted his invitation to take charge of the software side of this new enterprise. {t was very flattering to be asked, by a complete stranger who knew me only through my work, to take so responsible a position -- and like most flattery, it proved hollow. Our financing was to come from the profits Fairchild expected from its main business, semiconductors, but 1970 turned out to be one of the periodic low points in that industry. At first, the hard times in the electronics/computer world were good for us; we were sheltered under Fairchild's wide umbrella, and were still hiring when other companies, particularly small start-ups, were laying people off or failing altogether. On one memorable occasion, some eight or ten people, the entire professional staff of a Sunnyvale- based software company, marched in to offer themselves as a unit; they had just gotten their last paychecks, and had been told to deposit them quickly to make sure there were still funds to cover them. But within a couple of months the industry-wide recession pulled us down too; its profits dried up, and Fairchild aborted our fetal company.

They didn't kill us with a single merciful stroke. First came the waves of layoffs, eventually reducing us from a high of about 40 to a core team of about six. Then we tried -- with Fairchild's blessings -- to sell ourselves to other companies. We had some promising meetings with RCA, and were much depressed when these negotiations fell through at nearly the last moment. (This disappointment turned out to be a well-disguised blessing; within less than a year, RCA abandoned the computer business altogether. If our negotiations had been successful, we would have been relocated to the East Coast, only to be dumped there.) Finally, about September 1970, Fairchild gave the few of us who still survived our severance pay, and we dispersed to find whatever jobs we could, with many promises to stay in touch and get together again when conditions improved.

What turned out to be available for me was the job of director of education...