The following article is for the real old-timers. This column, about chatterboxes in the industry of old, ran in Computer Currents, a local Bay Area Magazine, in 1985.

The Kings of Never-Ending Babble
by John C. Dvorak

There was a good-time to be had at the recent 3rd Personal Computer Faire at Brooks Auditorium. If you missed it there’ll be another one next year. The 3rd Personal Computer Faire isn’t like the popular West Coast Computer Faire or like the trade shows at Moscone. It’s rather tame and sedate by comparison. But it was worth attending if for no other reason than to attend some of the talks.

The show had the usual panel discussions, seminars and speeches. Most of them seemed to include the ubiquitous Philipe Kahn, prexy of Borland International. Kahn has three or four hit software products on the market, including Turbo-Pascal and Sidekick. At one session he told some sort of allegory about the planet of Swine and software companies like SwinePro, who ran the planet. The founder of MicroPro International, Seymour Rubenstein, was on the same panel when this story was told. As Rubenstein was checking for the phone number of his attorney Kahn told the tale of how Borland saved the people from high-priced software and the planet dwellers lived happily ever after.

Kahn then ragged on just about everybody he could think of. This is a common characteristic of a guy who is riding high. A notice should have been posted: “Don’t try this stunt at home. You may be injured.” How Kahn’s consistent lambasting of his competition has avoided his getting a left-hook to the jaw is a testimony to his reputation and a reflection on the rest of the industry. Kahn is riding roughshod over the software terrain like a Blues Brother on a mission from God.

When I said hi to him he even blasted me (what did I do?). “Dvorak, how come you never write anything about me? And how could you write that Microsoft’s QuickBasic can compete with us? Our Turbo-BASIC will blow Microsoft out of the water. What’s QuickBasic but a repackaging of the same old compiler? What’s so special about it?” he asked. He was gloating and sweating. He hinted the much hinted hint that he would release his low-ball version of Lotus 1-2-3 in the next two months. I heard the same hinted hint four months ago, but maybe it was an obscure hint of something else that I missed. Who can tell with these guys?

In a nearby room Adam Osborne was spewing forth his notions about the software business which aren’t much different than Kahn’s except when you look at the net income. On Saturday they were to appear on the same panel (hosted by the ever popular John Eckhouse, who could care less about software). I got the feeling that the speakers were part of some sort of repertory company. Too bad I wasn’t about to go back on Saturday (my day off) to check out what I knew would either be a bloodbath or lovefest between Kahn and Osborne, two of the best microphone hoggers outside of Steve Wozniak (the worst, which I guess means the best) that I know of.

If you go to one of these shows, you should try to catch Woz or Kahn or Osborne’s act on one of these panel discussions. It’s incredible to watch the other guys on the panel say: “Uh, but, uh, mmm, yeah but, uh, mph!” as they try to get a word in edgewise.

Now I suspect that all three of them have taken some sort of course or seminar on the technique of the continuous use of non-interruptable connective words. It makes it impossible to interrupt them without sounding rude. Sentences never end. They always have an “and” or a “but” or an “or” at the end. Those words lead on to more microphone hogging. Over the past few years, Woz has been the king and I doubt if he’ll ever be unseated. Osborne was much better when he was flying high, but he’s still good. If you’ve ever seen John Gielgud, you’ve seen Osborne’s look-alike speaking coach. Kahn is now outstanding, but who knows for how long.

Now if we’re going to talk about this stuff, we can’t overlook George Morrow, who, if he was as rich as Woz, would be dangerous in these sessions. You’d never get him off the mike. Luckily, he’s not that rich. George has developed the uncanny ability to interrupt someone elses never-ending diatribe with an occasional and emotional “ooooooh!” which (besides unnerving the speaker) makes the audience suspect the speaker made a blunder or error. This stops the talking offender in his or her tracks and allows George to grab the mike. Tough stuff. If he’s in a good mood Morrow can then talk for days without end.

There are other pros that try to compete with these guys. But as far as I’m concerned these four are the best at what they do–spewing forth a never-ending commentary on the world around them with total disregard for the ideas of others. Yeah, I know, I do the same thing in these columns. Give me that mike!—end




  1. BubbaRay says:

    Sidekick — one of the most useful utilities ever invented. I couldn’t live without the popup editor in a live, robotics environment. Imagine — a window in a dos box!

    Ah, well, we all know what happened to Borland and Lotus.

  2. B.Dog says:

    I loved Turbo Pascal. Too bad Kahn doesn’t do a working Delphi for Linux. That would be helpful.

  3. SparkyOne says:

    My Osborne I still boots from the CPM floppy but alas, the 9 pin OKI printer has given up.

  4. Paddy-O says:

    ’85… I was still working mostly with mini’s…

  5. Cap'nKangaroo says:

    #4 Iwas using a Vax 11/785 and my trusty HP41cv. I really miss that calculator.

  6. neozeed says:

    Heh, if you want to enjoy a good old fashioned Dvorak inspired flame war over “fair use”…

    http://groups.google.com/group/net.unix-wizards/browse_thread/thread/78fd3765812b839d#

    I had to laugh, but it’s pointless responding to something from 23 years ago, isn’t it?


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