NeXT’s Black Monday
Today’s the 28th anniversary of the day in 1993 that NeXT decided to
- stop making its iconic black computers
- abandon work on a PowerPC-based workstation
- try selling its hardware business and factory to Canon
- focus on software
- rename the company “NeXT Software”
and not insignificantly
- lay off 300 of its 540 employees.
Including me, Systems Engineer for NeXT Canada.
(Later on, of course, Apple purchased NeXT and its software became the core of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS, all running on hardware that was inconceivable to any of us in 1993.)
or possibly Sunday
Looking back at my calendar I see that February 7, 1993 was actually a Sunday, so I might be off by one in my reminiscing. But still. It was kind of a big deal, personally.
vague reminiscences, previously tweeted
I remember we all got an urgent voice mail and the entire NeXT Canada office – all 3 of us – were instructed to fly to Chicago immediately for some news.
That was an interesting trip as Phil, Paul and myself debated exactly what was going on and who was going to be left standing. We knew that the regional manager was out.
And we all got let go, effective immediately, and – I still can’t believe we felt we needed to do this – we went to visit our big customers back in Toronto in person the following day to let them know what was going on.
You know those tables where they assign numerical values to various stress factors? Getting laid off was one thing but we had also (2) just bought a house and (3) were expecting child #1. I needed a bigger chart.
I remain, however, eternally grateful to Trimark Investment Management, one of our biggest NeXT customers, because when we visited them to tell them all of NeXT Canada had been let go, they said “Huh. That’s unfortunate …. Steve do you want to do some consulting for us?”
Thus began the historic short life of the consulting firm of Steve Hayman and Associates *
One thing I remember from the layoff meeting in Chicago, where somebody I had never met before told me I no longer had a job. “I want to keep my computer.”
— OK … what computer do you have?
(Changed the subject quickly. I think I actually had two computers.)
One other thing I remember. Consulting for Trimark, they had a fleet of NeXT computers, I had one at home, so I bought a portable SCSI hard drive to carry my work back and forth because how else were you supposed to do it in 1993
a ONE GIGABYTE SCSI hard drive. Massive! And it was only $1000!
Today for $1000, you’d get, what, 50 terabytes? 50,000 times as much? Storage is 1/50,000 th of what it was? How many other things are 50,000 times cheaper? That’s basically FREE now.
I know this will come as a surprise to nobody but Steve Hayman and Associates was not exactly a huge success. (I blame the associates, of course.)
18 months later, as NeXT pivoted to software, the regional team – from Michigan – came to Toronto to present to, I forget who exactly, some bank or something. They kindly invited the entire Steve Hayman and Associates team to attend.
Before the session started, the NeXT team said in a kind of off-hand way, “Hey Steve, how about you do the presentation?”
I guess in retrospect it was kind of an audition.
And, whaddya know, I guess NeXT saw (one of) the error(s) of its ways, and offered me a job again.
note: it is possible I am still telling the same jokes in presentations, because, you know, Object Oriented programming encourages re-use
So, miraculously, even though this day in February 1993 was a very stressful low point for me and hundreds of others, I was lucky enough to get drafted by NeXT a second time.
For a while, NeXT Canada was me in Toronto, and a guy in Vancouver (hi Scott.)
We’d phone each other on Memorial Day, or July 4, or US Thanksgiving just to verify the other guy was actually in the office.
I still have a surprising quantity of NeXT business cards. I keep those with my SCSI cables. Hey, you never know.