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