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F > FORTUNE > 32:16


Dimitri Rotow's own memories:
Fortune was yet another fascinating case of a start up where the visions of the founders diverged from those of the technical staff.  I was one of the product managers and perhaps the only guy in marketing and sales with a UNIX background.

The technical staff at Fortune believed in UNIX, in Ethernet and in client/server architectures.  Even for a single workstation they would have liked to have had a machine where the processor itself would have connected to the disk store through an Ethernet stub.

Unfortunately, the three founders cared for none of this and ended up trying to steer the company in some sort of "Business Basic" clone business (a strategy driven by the least competant fo the three founders, Homer Dunn, aka "Homer Dumb" to many of the technical employees) - utter idiocy, albeit very well executed by senior management (Gary Friedman, a financial and administrative genius) and Sales (Dave Vandenberg, a genius at sales).  Fortune went public in the mid 1980's and at the time had the largest IPO ever, over $70 million.

Later on the company crashed because the Business Basic strategy was stupid (as was obvious to everyone except Homer, apparently), but those of us who really wanted to do a UNIX workstation company were proven right by the success of SUN.

Fortune was a great learning experience for many and was a wonderful place to meet people with serious UNIX skills.  To this day, Fortune alumni tend to be a close-knit bunch. It's a testimony, like some of AT&T's adventure in the 3B line, to how one or two managers who don't really understand the intersection of technology and customer needs can negate the efforts of the rest of the company even if that rest is a truly talented group.

I was one of the few who sold shares in the initial offering: thank you, Gary Friedman, for making this possible, and thank you all my colleages (except Homer, of course) for the brilliance and style and personal commitment you brought to the party.  To this day,  I measure serious power and commitment in startups by the high standard set by Fortune people 'lo these many years ago.

Anne (Rosenbloom) Schardt's memories:
I worked for Fortune Systems in various technical support / management capacities from 1984-1990 in Redwood City/CA, Frankfurt/Germany and Monte Carlo/Monaco.  From the PS 10 32:16 through the Formula, Fortune IBM-compatibles, Motorola and Arix OEMed systems.
The first person in support to get a 30MB drive was the envy of all others. Wow, 30 megs!  Those were high-flying days at the pioneer of UNIX microcomputers: Fortune Systems...until they didn't keep up with the market, became a software company selling Fortune:Word and Convergent Technologies took the systems lead.
But, hey, they're no longer around either.  Sun picked up the ball and most of Fortune's and CT's technical staffs.

Pat Audet reports to us:
I maintained these systems at Ford. They could hold 2MB of RAM (4 x 256 KB + 1 MB) and four 4-port serial cards. Later versions had a 70MB HD. You could also get a tape unit that fit to the right of the floppy drive. Ford had hundreds of these systems with terminas all throught their Dearborn offices in the mid '80s unitl replaced by IBM ps/2's. An Oracle DB was also available for the Fortune. It came standard with a word processor, spread sheat and several programming utilities.

Joe Cassara adds:
I worked for a now defunct photography chain store as a freelance programmer, writing custom database applications for their old 32:16 (at the tender age of 15.  My father was regional manager.).
It had one of the best implementations of Business Basic at the time, but the rest of the system was quite fussy!  Power loss to the CPU would result in hours worth of tinkering around with  SCO XENIX to get it to boot again.
Our system was fried and repaired for a whopping $500 because a salesman mistakenly plugged a printer into one of the RS-232 ports. And the terminals' keyboards produced a beeping sound with every keystroke that could not be shut off completely!  Hard Disk access was slow. Call me bizarre, but I kinda liked this system, despite its drawbacks.

Al Meers remembers:
From 1984-1988 I worked at SSG/WB, and we sold and supported about 200 Fortune Systems 32:16 (and other) computers as a VAR in the SF Bay Area.
Fortune used to compete against their own VAR's for sales, and would even compete VAR's against their other VAR's, so we started to back off of selling Fortune systems, even tho they were just about the first and best multi-user Unix business systems at the time.
Competitor Unix systems at the time included Plexus, NCI, Sperry Rand, with Sun, Apollo, and SGI being at the niche or expensive high-end.
Most of our clients used them for the Fortune Word word processing and the Multiplan spreadsheet, along with some accounting programs written in BASIC.
I still have a Fortune system, complete with console & kb, extra terminals, some extra cards, memory, disks, and programs on 5 1/4" floppies.  I also have way too much documentation on it considering I haven't touched the system in more than 15 years.

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