About Andrew Hargadon

I do a little of this, a little of that... you know, a tinkerer.

Microsoft, GitHub, and the Irony

Microsoft acquiring GitHub, the largest open-source code repository, brings them full circle to the infamous 1976 open letter by Gates to computer hobbyists who were sharing, not buying, their BASIC software for the Altair. The irony should be savored.

Bill_Gates_Letter_to_Hobbyists

In ’75, Microsoft got its start when Gates and Allen adapted BASIC for the Altair 8800. BASIC was originally written by two Dartmouth professors, who put it in the public domain. As Paul Ceruzzi wrote in A History of Modern Computing:

“with its skillful combination of features taken from Dartmouth and from the Digital Equipment Corporation, [BASIC] was the key to Gates’ and Allen’s success in establishing a personal computer software industry.”In 1981, MS-DOS, Microsoft’s operating system for the IBM PC, was acquired for $75,000 from the tiny Seattle Computer Products (who themselves borrowed it from Digital Research’s CP/M).

That wasn’t the last of Microsoft’s creative pursuits.

Microsoft Word was originally written by Xerox PARC engineers as Bravo (but never marketed); it became a Microsoft product when Microsoft hired one of its original authors, Charles Simonyi, away from PARC.

Excel was derived from Visicalc by Software Arts, and from Lotus.

And the graphical user environment that is Windows first appeared at PARC in the Alto personal computer, and then in the Apple Macintosh, before becoming Microsoft’s flagship product.

The world is powered by building on and recombining what has come before. Too often, where we stand on this fundamental creative process depends on whether we profits from creating or defending our innovations.

A window into entrepreneurship education

Some exceptional folks in entrepreneurship at HBS just announced Harvard was closing their NYC-based Startup Studio. Considering the program’s ambitions matched the leadership of the Entrepreneurship program and the largesse of the school, the outcome offers a great window into the challenges of teaching entrepreneurship.1 Continue reading

2016: The Year of The Hype

For my 2016 Innovation of the Year—celebrating that innovation which most changed the game—one stood clearly in front of all others. Largely because it also stood clearly behind so many of the others: hype. Like all past IOTY winners, hyperbole wasn’t invented in 2016 but this was the year it demonstrated its truly disruptive potential. Continue reading

Lesley Gore, innovation in context

Lesley Gore passed away this week. She’s probably best know for It’s my Party but my favorite is You Don’t Own Me. To teenage girls in the early 1960s, looking at a bleak future in a Mad Men world, this must have been a powerful message (the song later became a feminist anthem). It’s hard to appreciate innovations like that 2-minute song without having the context of the times. So to honor her memory, my daughter and I played the song and then, to appreciate the context, watched the Folgers coffee ads of the time. Continue reading