34 vs Thousands Jason 25 Feb 2006

10 comments Latest by The Point

Via an entry on CDC at Wikipedia:

“It was after the delivery of the 6600 that IBM took notice of the new company. At the time Thomas J. Watson, Jr. asked (paraphrased) ‘how is it that this tiny company of 34 people (including the janitor) can be beating us when we have thousands of people?’, to which Cray quipped ‘you just answered your own question.’ “

[Thanks JR]

10 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Ryan Freebern 25 Feb 06

And now, years later, everyone has heard of that wildly successful Control Data Corporation, and no-one remembers the quiet demise of the lumbering hulk IBM.

Rabbit 25 Feb 06

Regarding Ryan’s comment - I’m assuming you’re being sarcastic.

To that I would say (while intoxicated), my _guess_ would be that CDC were more well-meaning than IBM. Whereas IBM (like most larger corporations) were a group of greedy, heartless cock smokers.

I am now going to pass out. Thank you.

Chad Sakonchick 25 Feb 06

Jim Thornton and Dean Roush put together a team of 34 engineers (themselves included), and continued work on the new design.

So the janitor was an engineer?

jake 25 Feb 06

custodial engineer

Charlie (Colorado) 26 Feb 06

Regarding Ryanís comment - Iím assuming youíre being sarcastic.

Y’think?

To that I would say (while intoxicated), my _guess_ would be that CDC were more well-meaning than IBM. Whereas IBM (like most larger corporations) were a group of greedy, heartless cock smokers.

Actually, IBM under Tom Watson was known as one of the most employee-friendly of companies; it was well known that it was nearly impossible to be fired, there were no layoffs, and IBM had amazing benefits, including things like company gold courses for all employees.

Mike Douglas 26 Feb 06

So the janitor was an engineer?

When you’re a small company, you have to hire the best.

Lisa 26 Feb 06

Cray (according to their website) now employs 900 people.

Still not very big compared to IBM.

eh 27 Feb 06

cray got beat by clusters of cheap, fast commodity PCs.

the lesson of this is supposed to be (1) that throwing more people at a problem doesnt’ necessarily help things (mythical man-month) and (2) viewing people as interchangable commodities is a mistake, right?

many experimental physics projects involve thousands of people spread over multiple continents (and they work bottom-up).

The Point 27 Feb 06

The point is that at the time, CDC had a product far superior to anything IBM had to offer, and it had everything to do with having a small team. Not that CDC/Cray crushed IBM because of this, but that they succeeded in spite of powerful competition because of this.

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