The passing of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, has many of us assessing the role one man can play in promoting technological change. Here is Bill Gibbs’ account of how the Macintosh computer, one of Steve Jobs’ first big hits, influenced the development of graphics-based NC programming systems such as GibbsCAM.
It seems fitting, with the recent passing of Steve Jobs, for me to extend to him a posthumous "thank you." Were he still here, he would not understand this. He and I never met, and to the best of my knowledge he was never aware of my business efforts. Yet, in a very real way, he is responsible for my lifetime of CAM with Gibbs and Associates.
In my early years (I am an old guy), I was exposed to the beginning of NC machining while I worked as a mechanical engineer and tried to earn a degree in Computer Science. I thought there were great things in store for computers even though the computers of the 1970s were big things programmed with punched-paper cards.
I was hired to develop CAM software in 1978. However, that educational experience ended in 1982 when my parent company, a machine tool dealer, went bankrupt due to the defense manufacturing recession in California. Unemployment wasn’t much fun, so I became a self-employed contract NC programmer. I used an early CAM system, which ran on a DEC mini computer. A monitor in those days was a display of 24 rows, 80 characters each. I had a pen plotter for graphics. (This was before the IBM PC and DOS.) I decided that there was good, honest money in programming parts for people and that I was done with the CAM software business because it hadn’t ended well for me.
This all changed in July of 1984 when a friend told me I had to find an Apple store and see this new thing called a Macintosh. I asked, "Whatever for? The Apple II and Apple III are no big thing."
He said, "Trust me. Go look at the Macintosh."
So I did, and I fell in love at first sight. I had never seen a mouse before. I had never seen graphics on a monitor like this before, or ever seen a graphic user interface. The store had to ask me to leave after I had been playing with it for an hour or so. And damn! They were expensive. But I had a plan. I knew about OEM and VAR deals. I got five friends who all wanted Macs to chip in. I called Apple and spun a tale about wanting to develop CAM software on the Mac—something I could talk about. I wasn’t being especially honest with them because I had no intention of actually doing this, but their VAR program let me buy five Macs at half price. I said, "Great! Where do I send the check?"
Then, they explained that I would need to be surveyed by an Apple rep at "my offices." What offices? I rented room for a desk in a small industrial space shared with a small, four-man software company and an accountant. The other renters offered to help, and for one day they acted as my employees. The rep showed up, thought I was okay, and we filled in the paper work. We got to "company name," and I didn’t have one. Not to be deterred, he suggested "Gibbs and Associates," and completed the form. And I got the computers.
I’m not sure when I changed my mind about making CAM software, but I knew the graphic interface would be so great for NC programming, I had to do it. And so, the tale became reality, and Gibbs and Associates started making CAM software.
As they say, the rest is history. We changed to the IBM PC and Windows in the ‘90s due to popularity issues. Today, we are part of the Cimatron Group, one of the largest specialty CAM companies around, still servicing our customers with great products. And it all started with Steve Jobs’ Macintosh computer. Thanks for everything, Steve.
Article originally posted on the Modern Machine Shop blog on 10/20/2011 and can be viewed here.