part three


The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.

William Gibson


And Then He Discovered Loops!

April 1982

Bob has written many lines of code

We interviewed quite a few candidates to replace Bud Tribble as the software manager before encountering Bob Belleville, who was one of the main hardware designers of the Xerox Star, the first commercial computer with a graphical user interface. He was intelligent, soft-spoken, and dryly skeptical about human nature. One of his many aphorisms was “The Law of Conservation of Misery,” which said no matter what course of action is taken, the total human misery in any given situation is maintained. It seemed particularly applicable to large computer companies.

It looked as though Bob’s background was stronger in hardware, so we were somewhat skeptical about his software expertise, but he claimed to be equally adept at both. His latest project was a rebellious, skunk works effort to make a low-cost version of the Star called “Cub,” which used an ordinary Intel microprocessor (the 8086). This was heresy to the PARC orthodoxy that felt you needed custom, bit-slice processors to get sufficient performance for a Star-type machine. Bob had written much of the software for Cub himself.

“I’ve got lots of software experience,” he declared. ...

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