[TUHS] Happy birthday, Dennis Ritchie! [ really sun vs dec/apollo ]

Paul Winalski paul.winalski at gmail.com
Tue Sep 12 03:37:23 AEST 2017

On 9/11/17, Jon Steinhart <jon at fourwinds.com> wrote:
> While the choice of UNIX may have played a small part, Sun really nailed
> it with the SparcStation I.  Sure, they sold it for less than whatever
> the DEC equivalent was at the time, but that's because their manufacturing
> cost was way less.  The SparcStation I pioneered a lot of new manufacturing
> technology; it was the first snap-together system.  I remember looking at
> a tear-down of the DEC and Sun offerings, and the Sun had less than 10% of
> the parts of the equivalent DEC system.  Methinks that better engineering
> won the day.

Absolutely.  I worked at DEC and had many engineer friends at Apollo,
and we were all shaking our heads wondering how Sun got their
manufacturing costs so low.  Scott McNealy's management style helped,
too.  Ken Olsen at DEC believed in consensus building; decisions
weren't final until everyone bought into them.  IMO this led to a lot
of (expensive) wrangling and slowed down corporate reaction to market
conditions.  Scott McNealy believed in the principle of a single
decision-maker:  "lead, follow, or get out of the way".  We at DEC
eventually moved to project management that involved a single lead
engineer who was responsible for the success of the project, and who
was empowered to make decisions when a consensus couldn't be found.
But that management style never really caught on, although in my
experience the most successful software projects were all organized
that way.

-Paul W.

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