“Silicon Cowboys” Tells The Story Of A World Totally Different From Our Own — One In Which Most People Had Never Worked On A Computer

April 27, 2017 — It was a different time. 

Most people in the world had never used a computer. And it wasn’t that long ago.

In those days, computers were usually large, clunky contraptions; the personal computer was a small enough business that one company could pretty much own the market.

That company was IBM.

Of course, that was until Compaq Computers, the upstart computing company that would eventually take on IBM for control of the personal computer market, came up with one of the great innovations in portable computing history.

They put a handle on the case.


The portable computer was not what people today would think of as actually portable. It weighed around 30 pounds and looked like luggage. But compared to the nearly room-sized computers of the past, these comparatively small creations issued in the age of personal computers.

Today more than 90% of all Americans own some form of personal portable computer. In 1984, only 8.2% of America households had a home computer (the U.S. Census Bureau didn’t even keep track before 1984). Compaq is one of the reasons for that jump.

The men who started Compaq are not obvious revolutionaries. Rod Canion, Bill Murto and Jim Harris met when they were all middle managers at Texas Instruments. They decided that they wanted to start a company of their own. After several ideas were thrown out (including starting a Mexican restaurant), they decided to create the first really portable computer.

These men weren’t tech wizards or geniuses. Their original plan for a portable computer was sketched out on the back of a napkin at a pie shop.

Essentially they cloned the IBM computers, but Compaq’s were smaller and better. They were 100% compatible with IBM software, something IBM never managed. The computing giant never saw the upstart coming, and even after Compaq attracted notice, IBM was too sure of its invulnerability to worry.

Silicon Cowboys is available on Blu-Ray or you can stream it immediately on Amazon Video.

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