What I am about to tell you is a story of vision.

And lack of it.

Back in the early 1940’s an engineer by the name of Chester Carlson brought his invention to IBM for evaluation as a product for offices.

IBM executives and engineers examined the machine inside and out, and came up with the conclusion that it was a nice product without a real market.

They told Carlson that perhaps there would be a market for four or five thousand units.

It wasn’t worth the cost of producing and marketing.

The machine?  An electrophotographic copying machine.

Today it’s called an office copier.

Carlson knew IBM was wrong but almost gave up.

That would have been the end of the story but for the fact of a competitor of Eastman Kodak.

That company was Haloid, and at the time produced and sold photographic paper in the shadow of their larger competitor.

Haloid also held the patents to Photostat machines which held the market for copying at the time.

The company signed an exclusive agreement to develop, manufacture and sell Carlson’s machine.

In 1958, the company was renamed Haloid-Xerox for their newly patented technology called xerography.

The Xerox 914, the first commercial copier was released in 1959 and was an instant success.

Flash forward to the late 1970s and the Xerox corporation.

Xerox was never a big name in computers, but their development center in Palo Alto, California (PARC) had been developing a new concept in computing.

The machine was called the STAR and was small enough to fit on a desktop with room to spare.

The STAR also was the first to use a graphical interface and a silly little device called a mouse.

Monitor, keyboard and mouse on the desktop with a processing unit about the size of today’s desktop computers.

Unheard of, at the time.

One of the industry insiders invited to view the machine and its technology as it was released was a still relatively unknown Steve Jobs.

Jobs brought his ideas of the technology back to Apple and the Lisa project and sparked his new Macintosh project to make desktop computing affordable.

Meanwhile, on the market for a few short years, the STAR itself went nowhere, and the company that wouldn’t take no for an answer with IBM gave “no” as an answer for the STAR.

“Who needs a computer on their desktop?” was the question from Xerox.

I think we know the answer.


Of course, turning down the office copier wasn’t the only disaster from IBM, there were many more.

IBM actually had a good thing in its original PC.

Open architecture, extensible firmware and an operating system (PC DOS) marketed by a young upstart by the name of Bill Gates.

But the company never quite captured the lucrative market that the PC would ultimately become.

It entered the “home computer” market with what was called oddly enough, the IBM PC.

No, not Personal Computer.

The IBM Product Center, featuring their PC and the PCjr.

Like a good corporate citizen, the Product Center was open for business Monday through Friday 9 AM to 5 PM.

Unfortunately, PC buyers didn’t shop those hours.

They shopped after work and on Saturdays.

The IBM Product Center was a dismal failure leading the company to close all of the stores and declare “There is no market for home computers.”

I kind of suspect they were wrong.

Oh, and one more thing…

In 1994, Apple and Microsoft were engaged in a patent fight over the Graphical Interface for computers.

Someone at Xerox woke up and the company joined the lawsuit claiming the Apple had violated their original copyright in creating the Lisa (and Macintosh.)

But it was fifteen years too late and the court wasted no time in throwing out Xerox’s claim.