This month represents the 25th anniversary of the first of my five "Success in Software" conferences that I created and produced from 1982-1984 in Palo Alto, California. These were wonderful events that explored, as their name suggests, what it took to be successful in the newly-emerging industry of micro-computer software.
Let me take you back to 1982. We were in the midst of a deep recession (Reagan's tax cuts hadn't gained traction quite yet). The then-current watchword of the Cold War was "Nuclear Winter." And the Japanese were the economic superstars.
And yet hope sprang from an unlikely quarter: people who hoped to make a buck developing and selling microcomputer software. This was because there was something new going on: a new tool — the personal computer — was becoming available to more and more people. The Apple II was selling well, the IBM PC was less than a year old, and Steve Jobs was on the cover of Time (back when it was an important magazine). Something was going on: opportunity. It was the "Gold Rush of the 80s."
My speakers included: Bill Gates (back when he was only worth $100 million), John Doerr (before he became a "Master of the Universe"), Trip Hawkins (Founder of Electronic Arts), Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus), Alan Kay (Apple Visionary), Nolan Bushnell (Founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese), Robert Metcalfe (inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com), Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Software), Tom Perkins (VC), Esther Dyson, William Randolph Hearst III, and John Dvorak (industry pundits), Ted Leonsis (later to be AOL Vice Chairman), Fred Gibbons (Founder of Software Publishing), and many others.
Each of these events drew more than 600 people (room capacity): about a third venture capitalists, a third engineers, and a third marketers. They were like a "Rock Concert for Entrepreneurs." Some companies were born at these events. A lot of contacts were made. Many ideas were shared.
There was a lot of excitement in the air then. And it reminds me of the current enthusiasm for Web 2.0 and social networking applications. How wonderful to witness this frenzy once again.
Indeed, there is a kind of "Wild West" feel to "Web 2.0 World." If you're participating in it, thank your lucky stars! And enjoy it! (Because it won't last forever.)
Question: How would you compare the "micro-computer software" era of the early 80s with the current Web 2.0 era?
[Bonus question: compare that 64K PC in young Bill's photo to an iPhone.]