From Sellam Ismail:

I located and transcribed a copy of "Quotations from Chairman Morrow", a collection of things that George Morrow of Morrow Designs said over the years he was in the computer business, for Fred.

Morrow died earlier this year of cancer. He had been out of computers entirely and was into collecting LPs. He was a good guy.

I'm posting this here because there are some gems in there, and some stuff is still relevant. It's also an interesting take on the 1980s microcomputer business. This text is hard to find, so posting it here will make it easier to find for people and hopefully preserve it.

I typed it in basically as it was typeset. Numbers preceding each section are actual page numbers in the original booklet.

I'm pretty sure I got all the typos, but if you find one please let me know.






First Edition: November 1984

Copyright (C) 1984 by Morrow Designs Inc.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication can be reproduced
without prior written permission of Morrow Designs Inc.  Individual
quotations can be used at any time with standard attribution.

Quotations By

Introduction By

(Portrait of George Morrow)


Morrow: Mayo to Mao

It started when George Morrow was a young fry-cook.  He had a spoonful of
mayonnaise in one hand and a piece of bread in the other.  "Hey, I can't
do this all my life.  Besides the fact that I can't tell good food from
bad, this job is boring.  I'm going to be an engineer," he thought to

So young George pursued the life of an intellectual.  For awhile he took
engineering, but he figured that to fully understand engineering he needed
to know physics.  He changed his major to physics.  Soon he figured that
to fully understand physics he needed to know mathematics.  He changed his
major to math.  Just as he was about to get his PhD in math, he figured
that to fully understand mathematics he needed to know philosophy.  So he
quit and went to work in the semiconductor business.  "Otherwise, I would
have never gotten out of school," he recalls.

Working for William Shockley gave George more insight into philosophy than
any college curriculum.  It must have.  George Morrow has become the top
philosopher in microcomputerdom.  If you're in the newspaper business,
George is the guy to call when you need a quote.  Some time back, Adam
Osborne was the most quotable, with guys like Seymour Rubinstein and a few
others occasionally coming up with a zinger or two.

But over the years, Morrow has outdistanced them all.  Enough to fill a
book--a little red book.

I recommend you take this little red book and hunt down George and make
him autograph it.  It's an obvious collector's item, and it will probably
be worth a fortune someday.  When you corner George for the autograph ask
him about his sugar to gross national product theory.  He's convinced
there's a direct relationship between sugar consumption and gross national

George is a little embarrassed by this book, I'm told (by George himself).
His public relations firm in cahoots with the staff made him agree to it.
You see, George is an interesting guy and these quotes are great, but
George thinks it detracts from the great equipment that the company
manufactures.  You know, takes away from the seriousness of it all.

Then again, maybe George feels obliged to be humble.  After all, how many
little red books are there in history?  None as good as this one.

John C. Dvorak
Berkeley, California
October 10, 1984


SOFTWARE                  1
PROOGRAMMERS              5
THE INDUSTRY              9
CREATIVITY               41
MISCELLANEOUS            55




Hardware is just a pernicious little thing required to allow software to
solve the application problem.

Good software is software that succeeds without having to work hard in the

'Self-teaching software' is an oxymoron--like 'military intelligence' and
'postal service.'

The only industrial costs software companies have is the printing of
serial numbers.  What drives the prices so high is thievery.


Instruction sets have eternal life; once created, they never disappear.
So a programmable instruction set is critical to the health of the

The user world would be better served if it could run software without

The floppy disk and its incorporation into microcomputers has been
responsible for all the software innovation that's taken place in the last
five years.


The formula for a successful software product: It has to be technically
excellent but user-hostile; that way all the consultants and software
cognoscenti can write about it and feel they're making a contribution.

Without the proper software, computers make very good bookends.




Programmers are like rock stars.  But with rock stars, at least you get to
hear the song before you buy the record.  A programmer spends six months
tuning his instrument and, whether it works or not, you're paying the
whole time.

There's been no real change in progrmammer productivity since compilers
were developed in the 1950s.  Software hasn't kept up with hardware in
terms of productivity improvement.


The key to increasing programmer productivity is universal software that
runs in a wide variety of hardware environments.  This will keep the
programmer from having to re-invent the wheel every time a new piece of
hardware comes along.

Ninety percent of the software gets written in 10 percent of the time.
The next 9.5 percent takes 90 percent of the time.  The last one-half
percent never gets done.  But the software still gets sold.


A good programmer can only write about 250 lines of code a day.
Programming speed is a universal constant.  Something like the speed of
light, but a lot slower.

Programmers stand on the toes of those who came before them.

Anyone who trusts a programmer deserves what happens to him.


The Industry


Computer companies are like desert flowers--they bloom overnight and
they're gone.

Manufacturers have a responsibility to their customers to promote the use
of standards.  That's the only way to bring volumes up and costs down.

It is the user's responsibility to promote standards.  Companies that try
to set their own standards should not be rewarded by getting the users'


'Immediate delivery' means 'we have working prototypes.'

Products should die a graceful death and move on.  Hanging on is a
disservice to the marketplace.

Adam Osborne was initially successful not because he introduced
portability, but because he provided utility through bundled software.  To
be successful, a product must satisfy a need in the market by providing
utility where there was none before.


Being in the microcomputer business is like going 55 miles an hour three
feet from a cliff.  If you make the wrong turn you're bankrupt so fast you
don't know what hit you.  But if you make the right turn you're on a
rocket with people throwing money at you.

As long as product technology is changing the Japanese can't get into the
market.  But let the technology settle down into a well-defined market and
God help you if you're an American manufacturer getting into it today
because you're going to get run over flat.  Just look at what happened
with 5-1/4 inch floppy drives.


If you want to get into the marketplace with IBM it's kind of like going
to a movie--a beautifully attractive movie that you can really get into.
They put you in this nice chair and say 'please sit down and be
comfortable.'  You're probably a little bit nervious when you first go in,
but the service is so great, the surroundings are so great, the drugs are
so great, you think, why not relax and enjoy it.  Meanwhile, what's going
on up above you is that this huge weight is slowly being positioned and
there's a guy calling down, 'How heavy do we need to make it?  We want to
make sure when we drop it he's totally flat and there's no way for him to
crawl out from underneath.  Are you over him now?  He's comfortable?


He's not going to jump?  He's unconscious?  Okay.'  Kachunk.  And if you
don't believe that, all you have to do is look at Memorex.  Or Storage

Apple created a problem for the industry by attracting the attention of
companies like IBM and Radio Shack.  Before Apple became big and
successful, the big companies sneered and held their noses whenever the
word 'microcomputer' was mentioned.


IBM came into the personal computer market when Apple threatened their
base--when they saw Apple start selling into business, into the corporate
environment, especially to run VisiCalc.

If Commodore had done what Chuck Peddle put it in a position to do, there
would be no such thing as Apple today.  There'd be no such thing as Radio
Shack.  Commodore would completely own the market.


Three major factors made the personal computer happen.  One was the
microprocessor -- taking the power of a computer and putting it on a piece
of silicon.  The others were cheap semiconductor memory and cheap mass
memory -- floppy disks.  Not much has happened since then.
Microprocessors and semiconductor memory have just gotten bigger.


The microcomputer market started because there was a pent-up demand for
computers.  The first users were willing to do virtually anything to have
a computer around--put together kits, form clubs.  Next came a slightly
less technical group, which still was willing to do a lot of programming
to make their computers breathe.  And then, instead of moving to the home,
as many of us thought, the market moved into small business.


In the early days of the microcomputer industry, you came up with a
product concept, took out an ad, got some money from orders, began to
develop the product, did some more advertising.  If you where really
lucky, you could ship the product before people realized it had just been
a figment of your imagination when you first talked about it.

Today the microcomputer industry is like the fashion industry; products
are only good for seven or eight months.  If skirts are going up, you can
always re-hem.  If they're going the other way, you've got the wrong


The problem with the semiconductor industry is that their vision is very
short.  In bad times they'd fire whole departments to cut costs.  So
engineers developed a loyalty not to individual companies, but to the

Once the Japanese start building your product for you, they don't know how
to stop.  If the market changes, you're stuck with a huge inventory.

A consultant is someone who's called in when someone has painted himself
into a corner.  He's expected to levitate his client out of that corner.


Market research is a major area of abuse.  It is responsible for the
overcrowded Winchester disk drive market.  Early market researchers
called up all the companies making Winchsesters and asked them their
assessment of the market; then they published a report and sent it back
to the vendors.  The conservative ones saw from the report that they'd
underestimated the market.  So the next time the researchers called them,
they inflated the numbers.  It finally dawned on them that they were
buying their own garbage.

I believe in standards.  Everyone should have one.


Computer Design


The computer's hardware is its body.  The software is its soul.

In the early days of the personal computer industry, hardware and software
were completely separate disciplines, both emotionally and technically.
One didn't mix the two.  You did something either in hardware or in

Sixteen-bit machines are important because of their technological sizzle;
eight-bit systems are important because you can build them cheap.


Sixteen bits for the sake of 16 bits is an engineer's approach to

There's an unwritten rule in the computer industry that says each new
product must have special bells and whistles to spark the customer's
interest.  This has kept costs high and made the buyer pay for benefits of
questionable value.  Customers in the low-end segment of the market have
been victimized by vendors who concentrate on product differentiation for
its own sake instead of on what those customers really need.


The engineer who gets carried away with bells and whistles should be
required to spend time in the customer service department--then he can see
what it's like to support those additional features he's dreamed up.

The formula for a successful hardware product: take a technology that
can't fail but that is too immature for a big company like IBM to be
comfortable with, and run with it.  Using liquid crystal displays on
portable computers is a current example.

Tooling is an opportunity to waste money.


One of the great mysteries of life is how the printer and computer get
hooked together.

Mediocrity or adequacy is all most people need in a computer.

Successful products are simple products.

If George Lucas designed a lunch pail for Darth Vader, it would look like
a Kaypro.



Buying Computers


The most important thing in buying computer hardware is to buy as little
as possible.  The less you buy at a given time, the more you'll be
informed about what to do next.

Small computers let you computerize in small clumps.  You find out right
away what will work and what won't.  If it doesn't work you've wasted
$2,500; that's better than spending $50,000 and wasting the time of a
whole department.


Always use the 6-18 month rule in buying a computer.  It takes about six
months to bring a user up to speed on a new machine, so the system can't
be expected to pay for itself before that.  On the other hand, if it
hasn't paid for itself in 18 months, it shouldn't have been purchased in
the first place.  Technology is changing so rapidly that a user should
consider his needs only as far as 18 months down the road.  Then he can
upgrade, taking advantage of the knowledge he's gained by experimenting
with his first system.

Short-sightedness is a virtue when it comes to choosing a computer system.
Know what you need now--not two years from now.


A user should need at least two applications before he purchases a

Every small business in this country needs at least two computers.

Choose your hardware only after you've chosen your software; the
complexity of the software will determine the appropriate hardware.  The
more exotic a user's software needs, the more expensive the hardware will


The user's only interest in a CPU should be whether or not his software
will run on it.  Memory and peripherals, however, are much more important
because they determine how much you can do and how fast you can do it.

People who call systems user-friendly don't know what the first-time user
thinks about.

You never know what to spend on a computer until after you've spent it.


About 35 percent of the people who buy computers don't need them. They're
potentially unhappy users who'll spread bad news about computers.

If you're spending your own money on a computer, shop arouund for the best
value.  If you're spending your company's money, buy IBM; that's the safe


Selling Computers


Bundling software with hardware lets the customer 'test-drive' the
computer so he knows how it'll work before he buys.  That means security.

Computer distribution channels are not well.  Sixty percent of their
business has gone away and it's not coming back.  Today the government
and big corporations are buying direct from the IBMs, Sperrys, the
Burroughs, the ITTs.


There's a difference between computer dealers and office equipment
dealers...  At COMDEX (Computer Dealers Exposition) you introduce a
product and computer dealers will attack you...they're turned on by
technology.  At NOMDA (National Office Machines Dealers Assn.) the guy
strolling by looks at the booth and says "Ah, computers...we'll have to
get into that some day."

Office supply dealers should become more venturesome, computer dealers
more cautious.


Computers should be made affordable to the mass market.  Computer makers
should first decide what prices will make this possible, then find ways to
build computers that can be sold for those prices.

In the old days, our customers were as technically competent as we were,
or more so.  They bought from us because they had an emotional need to
have a computer.  Today's customers are less technically aware.  They buy
machines because they think they can do something practical with them.  We
have to show them it's worth the price.


We're not selling toothpaste or bubble gum or soft drinks, in which
there's no difference in the basic product from one year to another except
packaging.  We're selling technology, and there's a difference.  Look at
Detroit.  In the early days, the auto industry was run by engineers and
technical types.  It was only later, to squeeze every last dollar out of
profit, that they brought in the bean-counters.  And as soon as they did
that, Japan came in, and there wasn't anything left.


Not everybody needs a computer.  If a dealer sells one of my computers to
the wrong person, my reputation and the dealer's are on the line.  Only
two groups benefit--the phone company and United Parcel Service.

All the computers that have been sold so far have been sold to people who
knew they wanted computers.  That market is saturated.  The real test will
be our ability to sell to people who have never had a burning desire to
own a computer because they didn't know what they could use it for.


Adam Osborne was the first hardware manufacturer to recognize what
bundling software could do for the user.  I watched what he did and
figured that if a little software was good, a lot would be even better.

With bundled machines you can throw away the hardware and keep the
software, and it's still a good buy.





The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake--you can't learn
anything from being perfect.

Children have an easier time learning about computers than adults because
they're not afraid to make mistakes.  Children are used to making mistakes
all day long and getting yelled at for it.  So they're more willing to
experiment with something that might intimidate them.  Adults can't
experiment because they won't risk mistakes.

The computer is simply a device to amplify mental powers.  It provides
leverage for your mind.


A technologically reckless person is one who knows just enough technology
to be dangerous but not enough to be cautious.

You're not trying hard enough if you don't fail sometimes.  You can only
tell if you're breaking ground if you're stubbing your toes.

Engineers add parts to machines to solve problems; I take parts out of
machines to solve problems.

The people who make money in this industry are the ones who engineer a
product and get others to build the parts.


I listen to the marketplace better than anyone else, and I don't mind
borrowing.  Never do anything yourself if someone else can do it better.

The stabilization of markets encourages big business; upheaval and
innovation encourage small business.

For my father's generation, work was not supposed to be pleasant.  For me,
work is the greatest pleasure.  I'm not a workaholic, I'm a work

The most potent drug of all is being on a "hot" project.


The most successful company isn't the first one with a good idea.  It's
amazing how smart you can be if you're second and do your homework.  My
first microcomputer was an attempt to understand Osborne's success.

When a company gets bigger, it can't afford to be adventurous.  If it gets
into high volumes, it has to stick with established technology, take what
it knows works.


Most of us in the early days had entrepreneur's sickness--we wouldn't do
anything that would dilute our control of our companies.  Steve Jobs of
Apple was the only one smart enough to see that he had to give away parts
of his company to get the most talented people.

You can still have ideas, develop products, without being entrepreneurial.
Entrepreneurial just means you gamble a lot.  Apple hasn't been
entrepreneurial for some time and neither has H-P.


Being a successful entrepreneur means being able to do it more than once.
If you can't repeat your success, you probably were just lucky the first





Venture capitalists are like lemmings jumping on the software bandwagon.

Japanese accounts payable are like heroin; they get you hooked with
120-day payment plans.

The best way to keep the competition out is to price low; if there's too
much fat in the profit, someone else will come in under you.

I'm happy with 10 percent after-tax profits.  After 15 percent I rebel;
that's rape.


The Morrow theory of finance: When you're a little guy operating out of a
garage, you have to pay all your own bills.  But when you get more
successful, you get a line of credit, and the bank starts paying your
bills.  Then you get a little more successful, and the bank won't pay
anymore, so you pay your bills slowly--30, 60, 120 days late--and now your
vendors are paying your bills.  Now you're even more successful, you get
venture capitalists, and they're paying your bills.  And it used to be
when you reached the highest level of success, you could go public and
have the public paying your bills.  But nowadays, when you finally reach
the pinnacle of financial success--like Chrysler--you're so successful you
can't be allowed to fail, and the government starts paying your bills.


People in Silicon Valley don't like the first stage--paying their own
bills.  They've been very successful at leapfrogging this step, by getting
venture capital up front.

Big corporations used to sneer at small computer companies; but the small
companies forced the big ones to get into the small computer business.

Money coming in says I've made the right marketing decisions.

If you make enough units of a product, front-end costs are insignificant


Money is the only lethal drug available on a non-prescription basis.
Bankers are the druggists.

It's a definite sign of success when your vendors pay your bills.

U.S. venture capitalists will hold on while a firm dies, to get more money
for it.  They deliberately prolonged Osborne's existence.  At the end,
with every Osborne I they shipped, they lost at least $200.


Venture capitalists don't know how to decide which companies are going to
be successful.  They don't have the slightest idea what the ingredients of
a success are.  The only thing they know is what worked the last time.
They have a tendency to repeat.  They'll work it to death.  When Osborne
first came out he had a startling product that captured people's
imaginations.  Then everybody began building portables.  If you had an
idea for a computer with a handle on it, it was easy to go out and get
venture capital.

The good thing about venture capital is that it provides a lot of jobs.




The MIS department wants control of the computer revolution; they have
power and position and want to protect it.  But the insurrection will
win; as micros get cheaper, more and more of them will enter the
corporation.  They may be hidden, but they'll be there.

As an organization leaves the startup phase and grows, it needs a
different kind of employee--one who doesn't have to see the job from start
to finish.

There'll be a special place in hell for the tape back-up people.


User groups are an excellent device to bring pressure upon manufacturers.

If I had a business that relied on kids sticking quarters in a machine, I
couldn't sleep at night.

People think computers will keep them from making mistakes.  They're
wrong.  With computers you make mistakes faster.

The small businessman is smart; he realizes there's no free lunch.  On the
other hand, he knows where to go to get a good inexpensive sandwich.


More money has been wasted in artificial intelligence than in any other
area of computer technology.  We're still not close to having any real
idea or model of how the human brain works.

Networking hasn't come of age.  For right now, carrying a floppy disk from
one computer to another is probably still the most effective way to
transfer information.

Ths is the ultimate con game--I'm having fun and people pay me to do it.


Lawyers.  The worst parasites this country has produced.

The guy who knows about computers is the last person you want to have
creating documentation for people who don't understand computers.

Portable computers took off because people seem to want handles on their
computers--handles that don't really serve them well.  People are
attracted to handles.


Western Union had the chance to buy the telephone patents in 1883 for
$40,000--even then a drop in the bucket.  They didn't do it because they
thought they were in the telegraph business, when really they were in the
communication business.  Similarly, the railroads didn't realize they
weren't in the train business, but the transportation business; so they
sat back and watched as cars and planes took it away from them.  I don't
know what business I'm in.  The computer business?  The information
business?  Somebody at IBM knows what business they're in.  If there's one
thing I'd like to find out, it's what business IBM thinks they're in.
They're sure not telling anyone.

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