Monday, 23 May 2011

Business: RIP Skunkworks

I guess it's never too late to pay one's respects...

As you can see from the linked article, Joseph Thomas West III, better know as just Tom West of the Data General, Eclipse MV/8000, better known as "project Eagle", fame, has left us forever on 19 May. You'll be well advised to run and get your own copy of The Soul of a New Machine - it is a passionate and emotional masterpiece of technology writing. Here, I will just reminisce on the "good old days"™ when real companies and real men designed their own processors (and no, Apple's A4 does not count - it is just a take on ARM), and when wondrous products could still emerge from a large company's basements. Can you imagine Apple, Nokia, Microsoft, and even Google, these days allowing a skunkworks project of the "project Eagle" kind? No? I thought not. And no, bedroom entrepreneurs of the Facebook kind don't count either. After all, even they are just a modern take on the garage beginnings of Hewlett-Packard or Apple (or Microsoft - but that was a bit different, too). So, is it a bad thing, this lack of skunkworks? Am I really calling for the industry to suddenly spring up lots of them? No, of course not. If they were universally successful we'd already have lots of them. However, I do believe that every generation needs at least some romantic story that teaches that progress, technology, and after all business, too, is not all about the final bank balance. Yes, you need that as well, but surely everyone will enjoy it, and the road to it, so much better if there is a bit of the Pirats of the Caribbean in the mix, too.

So, who's going to be our next Captain Jack Sparrow?