Could I try that mouse thing?
January 5, 2010 1 Comment
The audience watched people send and receive real e-mail, collaborate on joint projects, write memos in Japanese characters, and conjure up engineering schematics on the Alto’s arresting black-on-white display – all live. Secretaries typed letters and shot them over the network to a laser printer, while engineers designed buildings on a video screen and software developers debugged code.
The results were mixed. [..] Xerox’s top executives were for the most part salesmen of copy machines. From these leased behemoths the revenue stream was as tangible as the “click” of the meters counting off copies, for which the customer paid Xerox so many cents per page (and from which Xerox paid its salespersons their commissions). Noticing their eyes narrow, Ellenby could almost hear them thinking: “If there’s no paper to be copied, where’s the ‘click’?” In other words: “How will I get paid?”
For Geschke, the most discomfiting revelation was the contrast between the executives’ reaction and those of their wives. “The typical posture of the Xerox executives, and all of them were men, was this” – arms folded sternly across the chest. “But their wives would immediately walk up to the machines and say, ‘Could I try that mouse thing?'” [..]
“It didn’t register in my mind at that event, but that was the loudest and clearest signal we ever got of how much of a problem we were going to have getting Xerox to understand what we had.”
– Michael A. Hiltzik, Dealers of Lightning, Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age