An Interview with Watts Humphrey, Part 10: The Fortune Interview, IBM Lawsuits, and Virtual Memory
This interview was provided courtesy of the Computer History Museum.
The Fortune Interview
Humphrey: Let me move on to another situation. This was
the year I took over programming. They had these programming sort
of technical meetings -- symposia kind of things -- where they get a lot of the
technical people together for a meeting, and they would share presentations and
that sort of thing. And so I was going to go up and be the host of this thing. I
had just been in the job for a few months. But I was to go up and meet with
them there, and Tom Watson was going to come and give a talk. So I was supposed
to meet him at the airport, but I couldn’t meet him at the airport because they
had set up an interview with Fortune magazine,
and that was set up back in
Also, as part of that
same symposium, we had been working on improving the configuration management
for the whole system, and there wasn’t a good configuration management system. So
we had chartered Bob Rutheroff who ran the lab in
Also I think towards the end of that year we had a meeting -- the TSS system had gotten into trouble, as I mentioned. We had gone and added a whole lot of function to it. And instead of coming out three months late, it was about six to seven months late with performance problems and everything. And so basically the system 360 was coming along and people were starting to buy it and they were happier with it. And so people had switched back from TSS to 360. So 360 was now starting to go full tilt. And the management decision, the division presidents and that whole crowd all said, “No, we’re going to kill TSS, period.” And I objected because I thought it was a system we should have available, but no -- they were going to shut it down. So they did shut it down. It cost us about $30 million. We did actually get the system running, and it was installed in a few places with the Model 67, but it was stopped. But it was the early virtual memory system, and it was really a very good responsive system, but it was not compatible with 360, and that was a real problem that people were concerned about, and it was out.
So in any event, I
remember meeting in the board room. I was talking about software and software
phase plans and the whole thing, and Tom Watson interrupted me at one point. I
had gone through what the phase plans were and when you announce things and
when you do various stuff and he said, “
And I put down a note here on John Haanstra and Chuck Branscomb. I think I mentioned to you the Model 91 programming problems.
Humphrey: And that was at the very beginning. John Haanstra was the president of the division at the time. And he had been president of the small system division -- the old, I think it was GPD, General Products Division -- and there was a DSD, Data Systems Division something like that. And George Kennard was the president of data systems division and that’s when I was in the FAA thing. And George was a prince. I worked with George multiple times. We still exchange Christmas cards, wonderful guy.
John Haanstra I didn’t know as well. He had been in the penalty box when GPD was canned, was broken up and put together in the center. But then John ended up running the big overall system division. He took that over. And he was a wild man. He had this enormous organization, and he thought he could do anything. So he would basically make up announcements. He’s the guy who basically said, “Announce the Model 91. We’re going to get that business.” I mean, he would call meetings at two in the morning. The place was a zoo. And he basically, as I say, he was very aggressive. He was moving fast, pushing hard, but he didn’t seem to understand much about programming. He was a very good hardware guy. So he actually was pulled out of the job and left IBM and actually ended up taking over as head of -- I think it was GE’s computer operation -- and went down to Phoenix -- I think it was that area somewhere. He also was a private pilot and he had a twin-engine plane he used to fly around. He wasn’t there a year when he was flying with, I believe, some of his family and the plane crashed. No one really understood what happened, but in any event, he died young and he didn’t continue. He was a marvelous and capable man, but he had no concept for any limitations on programming. He didn’t really appreciate it. And he was a big part of our getting tremendously overcommitted. At another point while I was running programming development -- you remember I talked about pricing earlier.
Humphrey: I already talked about the board meeting on program pricing. Now, a corporate committee was set up to actually study how we ought to price programming [software]. And people were now getting very concerned about the Department of Justice, the question about whether they were going to file a lawsuit or not. There had been a lot of discussions by then. They had been poking at us. And the lawyers were very concerned and the issue was bundling -- basically, connecting one product to another. So if you want this product you’ve got to buy that one. And this is essentially what Microsoft is doing now. And the lawyers at that time told us that if you are judged to be a monopoly, that is what they say is per se illegal directly counter to the antitrust laws. And I often wondered how Microsoft kept getting away with it. Of course, they are getting away with it here but not with Neelie Kroes, the European Union’s competition commissioner. So that is a problem, and the Europeans are nailing them. But it is a problem -- an antitrust problem -- where you tie one product to another, and so if you want this product, you’ve got to get that one.
Booch: Well, back then the legal system didn’t really understand software very much. What was the attitude that you saw among that community? Did they really understand software? What was their perspective?
Humphrey: They didn’t and I’ll come back to that.