Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The story behind "The Network is the Computer"

I had the privilege of having dinner with both John Gage and Bill Joy on a number of occasions. Sun Microsystems famous tag line, "The Network is the Computer" was created by John Gage on a train in China with Bill Joy. How do I know this? John and Bill told me the story on separate occasions.

On January 10th, 2006, I happened to be out at Sun's Headquarters in Menlo Park, CA when I heard about the Sun Founders Panel to be held the evening the next day at The Computer History Museum. Like any long time Sun employee or geek in general, I wanted to be there live. When I went there in the afternoon of the 11th, I was told there were no more tickets left. I asked the nice folks at The Computer History Museum what could I do in order to get in. They said that there would be a waiting list that they would start at 6:00pm taking names. I asked if I purchased a very nice Computer Museum polo shirt would I be #1 on the list. They smiled said, "I think we can do that." Luckily for me, I was one of the few on the waiting list who did get in that night.

It was a fantastic night that was hosted by John Gage with all four of Sun's founders there - Andy Bechtolsheim, Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy. I learned about Vaughn Pratt and the huge contributions that he made to Sun Microsystems. Vaughn designed the famous Sun logo, which features four interleaved copies of the word "sun"; it is an ambigram according to wikipedia.

At the end of the evening, there was time for question and answer. I thought this was a great time to permanently capture the story of "The Network is the Computer". I went to the microphone and asked Bill and John to retell the story, which they did. Watch Sun Founders Panel and here the story behind the best company tag line of all time.