Sunday, February 05, 2006

A War Story about: Cards

Searching this blog, I discovered that in many stories I refer to cards. This is a story about another sort of cards, and it's not my story, but I think it belongs on the web, here as well as anywhere. If you have trouble deciding what this story's about - that's because I'm protecting the innocent.

In the early years of the PC, when it was truly a weak, poor excuse for a computer, some people at a company I know made an exciting breakthrough. They were planning to make a product that would - and did - take the world by storm. But their marketing people decided, reasonably, that the real market for their product lay in the PC world, and required these developers to convert their exciting new hardware/software product to work on the PC.

My friends knew at once that they needed a real time operating system to run their software on the PC, capable of handling multiple simultaneous software processes and hardware interrupts. They inquired quietly, and found two companies on the West Coast who had, but were not productizing, such operating systems. And so they flew off to the coast to talk turkey with these companies. I won't mention their names, but you can guess who they were. They met both companies on the same day, morning and afternoon. Both meetings were held under tight non-disclosure agreements, and our friends wanted to give away as little s possible about their invention, to keep the price for the realtime OS down.

In the afternoon, during the second meeting, they liked what they were offered, but the price was rather high. At one point, one of our friends dropped his pen. When he reached over to pick it up, business cards from the morning meeting cascaded out of his pocket all over the floor, for all to see. He quietly picked them up. The price for the OS dropped precipitously, and they made a deal. No one knows whether the card drop was intentional.

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