Microsoft today issued a press release commemorating the history of Microsoft Word. It’s better than you might expect except for one glaring typo:
Word was originally the “Bravo” product, brought to Microsoft from IBM’s Palo Alto Research Center by Charles Simonyi in 1981.
Of course, it was the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, but it reminded me that through most of the 70′s IBM did have a Palo Alto Systems Center. Those were the halcyon days (for IBM at least) when the economics of the computer business allowed IBM’s sales division to have a significant product development arm, generally in partnership with customers. As a result, there were a number of IBM Systems Centers around the globe and the one in Palo Alto specialized in transaction processing and database applications. Commoditization has mostly killed such nearly custom work, but that’s a story for another day. As for the building that housed the IBM Palo Alto Systems Center, it is prime real estate on Page Mill Road and has gone through a number of transformations since then.
One other recollection, but I’m only about 70% sure on this one: Microsoft launched Word in 1983 and I seem to recall an issue of PC Magazine with a piece of stiff cardboard bound inside that revealed a demo copy of Microsoft Word on a 5 1/4 inch floppy when you peeled back the covering. At the time I wasn’t too interested in Word, but liked the sidebar where the publisher observed that at first he thought they were crazy when they asked him to bind a “floor tile” into the magazine. Ah, those were the days!