Alby Chrisbach's

Software MicroSystems SMS Shuttle
Many firsts.  Many lasts...



1981

This is very much my own take on the computing landscape in the late '70's and very early '80's.  There is undoubtedly better and more thorough detail out there though for the development of my attempt at bringing a machine to market this was my perspective.

The period was dominated by mainframe computers such as Burroughs, IBM, Univac and Honeywell.  All databases ran only on these mainframes and they were all hierarchical.  During this time Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was installing the first mainstream minicomputers and in doing so in great numbers.  Also, powerful scientific and business workstations were under deployment by Sun MicroSystems.  Networking was emerging.  Ethernet was a concept that took its course from Bell Labs to Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).  Slower networks such as Nestar found their way to the marketplace.

Business, research and scientific computers were emerging under the great Gary Kildall's CP/M (Control Program/Monitor) on a board that had become surprisingly standard, the S100.  Apple had introduced the Apple I and Osborne his 'portable'.  These were truly "personal computers."  A variety of other personal computers raced to the marketplace, including IBM who released two versions, a Personal Computer and a Business/Scientific Computer, originally running QDOS though I believe there was a Fortran Compiler made available for the scientific variant.

Hard drives were moving rapidly from the size of a washing machine to the size of a few dictionaries.  5 megabytes was considered a fairly large drive in those days.  All personal computers, and 'word processors' were using floppy disks that shrunk in size as well.  The desktop sized external hard drives were making fast headway into the market with the RS232 cable.

My thought in putting this machine together in about 1981 was that if I could put a 5MB hard drive inside a nice looking box and run the 3 popular personal computer operating systems that such a machine would become popular.  I made a prototype with a handsome German computer that had internal motherboard slots.  It's keyboard was quite nice looking and I found a nice looking monitor.  I added the additional boards to motherboard so that one could reboot from one OS to the other.  With luck someday I'll find a picture of the box with the internal hard drive.  Meanwhile I seem to only have a crummy pictures of an ad and another of the keyboard and monitor.

The machine did work rather nicely and I sold it to an attorney who used it for years.  One.  One computer sold.  I believe I was supposed to sell more than that number.  Ah, but I believe that ideas without working capital and salesmanship do not materialize in the marketplace...






Since you are not likely to be able to read this ad here's actual text -

"

If you don't know Software MicroSystems, you don't know computers.

    So you want to buy a computer.
    Ask your friends. Allen likes his Apple at home, Irene says now there's some software for her IBM.  Charlie says that a CP/M machine is the only way to go.
    The SMS Shuttle is at least $1,000 less than any one of the above machines with comparable abilities.
    With the announcement of Software MicroSystems SMS Shuttle you can now all all three machine in one.  The SMS Shuttle runs Apple software.  And IBM software.  And CP/M software.
    The SMS Shuttle is an integrated turn-key professional and business system that works when you turn it on.  No odyssey into mystery.  No screaming phone calls.  No weekly checks paid to the computer store.
    Performance through packaging.  The SMS Shuttle, the first computer appliance: a break-through in convenience for word processing, accounting, database management, spreadsheets, communications, electronic mail and networking.

"


More of the story -
Not only did I not have the working capital to go beyond this one machine, nor the personality to convince venture capitalists, but at a trade show I took out a booth with the guy who was importing the machines from Germany.  We had discussed partnership and he told others at the show he was my partner.  Four or five people at the show who I knew told me 'my importer' was a known crook who bullied his way into acquiring merchandise and stuck everyone in silicon valley for product.  So, I was scared off... Broke again and onto the next project.