In the beginning, computer manufacturers all defined their own proprietary interfaces for hard disks and other peripherals. This state of affairs was due in part to the immature state of interface technology, but it was also partly due to the manufacturers’ desire to control the peripheral market for their machines. Eventually, third-party vendors started to make add-on disk systems that were cost effective and compatible. To add insult to injury, the third-party disk systems often yielded better performance than their officially sanctioned counterparts.

Computer vendors didn’t much care for this turn of events. In several highly publicized lawsuits, they attempted to protect interface specifications as trade secrets ...

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