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Between January 1981 and January 1982 Novell grew from 10 founders to 120 people as a steady stream of new faces came in to handle all aspects of company operations. Many good people came in with Novell Data System’s flood tide of fortune and left with its ebb; many of those sailed happily back in on the flood tide of Novell, Inc.
I look at the people who came to be part of Novell in 1981 in this order:
First are the founders of Novell Data Systems, the people who built the stage and then left. The free market system declared that they didn’t quite have their act together; they would have to pursue their dreams in other places, a little older and wiser.
After the NDSI founders I consider those who came to NDSI and left it, then came back again to play significant roles in Novell, Inc. These are the people who best know the difference between Novell-before-Ray and Novell-after-Ray.
Finally I look at those who came and stayed—the founders of Novell, Inc.—the people responsible for making the “Ray difference” happen.
Through the years Jack had worked with a lot of computer industry people. He picked from this vast experience base to build the Novell Data Systems team. For years he had been discussing business ideas with people on an informal basis. Those who believed in his dream and were ready for a change joined him. Some of the people joined late in 1980; the rest came on board early in 1981.
Jack drew other manpower besides George Canova from his CalComp experiences. He knew Joe Maroney from his work there. In 1980 Joe was working at Storage Technology in Denver, and Jack invited him to head Manufacturing at Novell.
Motorola wasn’t the only one excited about the arrival of the 68000 CPU chip. Dennis Fairclough was finishing his Ph.D. thesis, which compared the relative merits of the various 16-bit processors being introduced in 1980. He showed Jack his work—which found that the 68000 was a superior chip to the Intel 8086 or Zilog 8000 offerings—and Jack invited him to help start Novell. Dennis would have been the one who designed the multi-CPU minicomputer if it had been built.
Dennis often moved back and forth between the two worlds of academia and commerce. He had previously been involved in the startup of Praxis, a company that sold minicomputer systems with customized software to dentists and that Jack would head following his term at Novell.
Dennis agreed to be part of starting Novell, but he didn’t leave BYU. He still had his Ph.D. to finish and staying at BYU kept Novell’s startup expenses down. By the time he was ready to join full-time, Novell was in trouble, so he was involved as a founder but not as a full-time employee.
The “people conduit” from Praxis included Larry Edwards. His work experience included stints at IBM.
Larry was born in southern Utah. Every new acquaintance ran into one vestige of that: His name is pronounced “lorry”, with the vowel of “barn” or “born” according to taste—in rural Utah, as in various other English-speaking places, those are the same vowel—rather than rhyming with “Harry” and/or “hairy” (which have the same vowel in most of North America).
He was head of Sales for NDSI.
Sherrill Harmon was one of those “brightest and best” people that others complain won’t stay where they’re born, in this case Price, a coal-mining town in the center of Utah. He left to become part of the electronics industry that was springing up in many places in the West, but not in Price. His journeys took him to Phoenix in the ’60s, where he joined the General Electric disk drive division where he became acquainted with … who else? … Jack Davis.
In the late ’60s that GE division went through one of those economic convulsions that periodically shake companies in the electronics industry and lead to contraction. As is also common in the electronics industry, one company, GE, was contracting while another, Motorola, was growing. So a “people conduit” was established from GE to Motorola. Sherrill was part of that conduit.
At Motorola he became a project leader on the 68000 chip development. The minicomputer in Jack’s business plan was based on the 68000, so he invited Sherrill to join Novell.
Sherrill became head of Engineering for NDSI. And while the multi-CPU minicomputer Jack envisioned was never built, its successor, the LAN file server, was 68000-based.
TSI provided Novell not just with Jack Davis but a whole legacy of commitments. As noted on p. 6 above, one was between Jack and Rusty. The way that selling the Dobbs and Woodbury terminal was handled had caused acrimony between Dobbs and Woodbury. That and the company’s rocky fortunes proved sufficient grounds for a split.
Jack invited Rusty to design Novell terminals, including another for the Sperry marketplace.
Another people conduit ran back and forth between Beehive International and Novell. It included Phil Long. Because of Phil’s experience designing terminals for the IBM mainframe marketplace, Jack called upon him to head software design. As head of Software Development, Phil became deeply involved in developing the various low-level programs needed to get the terminal computer going. (Low-level programs are those closest to machine language and therefore needing the highest expertise to produce.)
There was another connection Jack had made in his wide-ranging activities but had forgotten by 1980. Reid Clark, a trainer at GE in Phoenix, remembered working with Jack but not vice versa.
In 1980 he walked into Novell’s new office as a representative of another Utah startup company, Billings Computer, to sell floppy disk drives to Novell.
As mentioned on p. 7 above, George Canova’s CalComp divestitures to raise cash included the disk drive operation he had himself started. It had been a part of the Memories Division sold to Xerox, but Xerox had declined to take that part, and it got sold to Billings Computer in a separate deal. So Reid felt that there ought to be a good fit between Billings and NDSI.
When he got there and discovered that his old associate Jack Davis was also involved, he asked to join and signed on to head International Sales.
An interesting piece of trivia about Reid: He was a Guinness world record holder for high-altitude survival. While being a pilot in the Air Force, he had been able to function in an altitude chamber with the air at a record-thin level.
About a hundred people were cast out of NDSI during its first time of troubles. Many couldn’t stay away. As Ray reassembled the Novell dream, they came back for a second try. Here are a few.
Jim Bills headed Novell Data Systems Technical Service. Throughout 1981 he labored to set up maintenance agreements with the big service outfits such as Icot. He left early in 1982 to work with Peripheral Systems, another Jack Davis offshoot, as the magnitude of the crisis was becoming evident.
He came back late in 1983 to continue working on service and thrived within the Novell organization until the mid-’90s. Jim wasn’t one of the founders who survived the troubles within the Novell organization, but he’s an almost founder.
Psssst! This is your author, Roger Bourke White Jr. I will from here on refer to myself in the third person.
Roger White came to Novell after spending three years running a ComputerLand retail store. He brought marketing expertise on reaching the retail store channel and technical expertise on dealing with the rapidly developing CP/M applications world. (CP/M meant control program/monitor. It referred to the premier operating system before Microsoft’s MS-DOS took over the field.)
Roger started as head of Customer Support for the personal computer, then moved to Sales and headed the Dallas regional sales office for six months, when the ebb caught him.
He spent three years at Beehive International working with their personal computer and then returned to Novell’s Communications, working on strategic reports and developer relations. He left Novell with the 1989 Organizational Phase Change.
Dave Owens was an NDSI engineer. He left in the summer of 1982 to join Beehive International, but in the summer of 1983 he became head of Engineering at Novell under Ray and continued afterward.
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