Technology Reminiscing – Musings of an Old Woman

 This is the sixth post from our resident marketing superstar, Jane,  this year marks a major milestone for her. so without futher ado, on with the post.

With the advent of 2011, it heralds the astonishing data point that I have been on this earth for half a century – yikes, that’s frigging OLD! It has left me in a very reflective mood (unlike when I turned 40 and went into denial (and hiding) in Amsterdam, and where some of my lovely team at the time – Vicky Reddington, Siaron van Wetten, Gabrielle Seacy and Alison Smith – arranged a surprise party and arrived from the UK at the wonderful Indrapura restaurant on Rembrandstplein to help me celebrate along with the Citrix Dutch team. But I digress…….

As I say, this has let me feeling very reflective, particularly as it means I have been working in IT for nearly 25 years (must update my website, think it says 18!). During those 25 years I’ve seen some gargantuan changes in many spheres, but particularly in technology. So I thought that, rather than go into therapy for reaching the big Hawaii 5-OH, I’d jot down some of my memories to provide some history to all the “youngsters” out there in the world of technology today!


One of my first roles was as a Wang administrator.(Tom – comment: is that an euphanism Jane 😉 LOL) I was responsible for the weekly back-up and distribution of email. Distribution you ask? Yes, the emails would come in from other offices (we were not connected to the world-wide web in those days!) to my central console and I would print off the email and then take it to the recipient. This was seen as a major step up from the typing of internal memorandums and sending these in the internal post 🙂 . During my tenure at Sun Microsystems I witnessed the take off of “external” email , as when I first joined email was used prolifically for communication, but it was only internal. I can even remember my user name and machine name – Janie@ferrero!!

Today, email is not only widely available to everyone and anyone, but is now starting to be considered “old hat” with the advent of social media (SoMe) sites such as Facebook.

Hardware, software and peripherals

Unfortunately, I can remember the move from manual typewriters to the electric Golfball, but when I started at Sun Microsystems (God rest their Oracle-soul), I had a green-screen terminal and had to walk miles to the “computer room” where the networked Diablo Daisy wheel printer was located. It was a humungous thing with an acoustic hood to keep the noise levels down. In fact, we had a rather noisy sales manager in our office and one day we took the hood and placed it over him when he was on a phone call! But hey, those were the days when we went to the pub lunchtime and drank and on a Friday night at 5pm we had a “beer bus” with loads of alcohol provided by the company J

However, I quickly had my green screen replaced with a Sun Workstation. This completely flummoxed me – computers, I thought, were meant to be getting smaller, but this mahoosive thing arrived on my desk (I was one of the privileged few at the time to have a Workstation, as I needed it for DTP – desktop publishing – using Interleaf and FrameMaker!) We were very successful in selling these things into academia and publishing and at the time the SPARC chip – I remember it being all about the MIPS – and Solaris were leading edge, all this was well before the arrival of Java.

I moved internally at Sun to the “TOPS” Division, when they acquired the peer-to-peer networking company Centram Systems West (that produced TOPS ) and was the first company to network Apple Macs. So I became the proud user of a Mac SE and then a Mac Classic and absolutely loved the usability of Mac OS.

During my time focusing on the Apple market, I attend one of my first Mac User Awards where we won a statute (called an Eddy) that looked much like the Oscars of today, for best networking product. I have since attended many awards dinners but those early, heady days really were the best! It was in the late ‘80’s that I also saw my very first tablet PC with hand recognition – a prototype in the Alameda offices of TOPS – along with Apple bringing to market their PDA , The Newton, I recall it wasn’t very successful and was withdrawn from the market.

My final memory in this category, was when I took a bunch of European journalists to San Francisco for the launch of Sun’s Wabi (it stood for Windows Application Binary Interface internally, but externally we were not allowed to call it that!) and it was at this event that Scott McNealy uttered his now infamous comment “I’d rather my kids did drugs than Windows”! This was well before Scott had any children by the way, and one of my guest journos used to be the “Mole” on the back page of PC Week – he loved that comment and the fact that he was in the audience when this “historic” comment was made! This was my first introduction to emulation software with Windows running on UNIX, but it wasn’t to be my last. During my first year with Citrix we acquired Insignia and there began, arguably, the cusp of the virtualisation revolution – “abstraction, but not as we know it Jim”!

This was also the era that both Gates and McNealy professed to the coming of the paperless office – well two decades later and we still haven’t got there!

I’ve been on the amazing journey from green-screen terminals, the “Network is the Computer”, the Network Computer, the thin-client, the PDA to today’s awesome iPad – I wonder what the next fifty years will bring?!

Mobile phones and connectivity

I obtained my first mobile phone on a contract when I joined Citrix in 1996 – I have had the same number ever since, notwithstanding the provider pre-fix codes changing over the years. But, prior to that, I recall attending CeBIT in the late ‘80’s and renting a “mobile” phone from Vodafone. The thing was a BRICK. Now, I have more compute power in my mobile phone than I ever had in my early computers! While mobile phone technology has increased in terms of functionality and power (I also remember being in awe of my first camera phone!) I am still waiting for battery technology to keep apace, for laptops as well L My phone is a computer – I use it the least for making phone calls; SoMe sites, email, internet searches, photographs, are the norm.

Another milestone for me was being able to “tether” my mobile to my laptop to connect to email at a tradeshow. But then I upgraded to a PCI modem and then finally a 3G card before the advent of built in wireless and “dongles”.

I am still technically challenged with internet connections – I live in a rural area (albeit 10 minutes from Junction 8/9 of the M4!) and BT just can’t get Broadband to us here L I rely on satellite broadband, and whilst expensive, it does the job for me, as the only other solution is to move – not an option! However, during my time at Hayes Microcomputer Products, I was involved in flogging 9600 baud modems for hundreds of dollars, the launch of 28.8Kbs (state of the art then!) v.34 modems and seeing the advent of ISDN. It wasn’t long before modems moved from being external peripheral devices to PCI cards to then being part of the motherboard, effectively free. But this was a time of enlightenment for me; I was responsible for European marketing and print advertising was the major way of promoting a brand and lead generation. However, our ads used to appear along with some very spurious BBS (bulletin board system, the predecessor of blogs and websites!) advertisements, where the majority of the ads contained naked women.


My career really took off when I joined Citrix, I went through the “Big on Thin” to “the Skinny on Thin-Client Server Computing” to many other renditions of Citrix taglines. I heard a rumour that Mark T said they’ve always been in virtualisation but it just wasn’t called it back then J but whatever, they were pioneers of a paradigm shift in computing. I joined when WinFrame 7 was launched, and I remember thinking “this stuff is back to the future”, very mainframe-esque. It was also a learning curve living and working through the Microsoft times of licensing MultiWin and continually combating the market’s view that Terminal Services would be the Citrix “killer”. They’ve continued to work in “co-opetition” with Microsoft and I’ve used their success in managing this relationship many times in analogous reference to questions about competitive situations.

Onward to VMware, I joined as employee number 2 in Europe in 2002 and ESX1.5 was just released. Interestingly, this was the second time VMware had attempted to have a presence in the EMEA market. While it was not successful the first time, I think history clearly shows second time around was a hit!

But it was, initially, a hard, up-hill struggle getting traction with customers, the press, analysts and recruiting the channel, at least from an enterprise perspective. VMware Workstation was loved and adored by the developer community, but I’d be very rich for every time I was told “ESX is not production ready, it’s only OK for dev/test” in those early days. However, I remember working with innovative guys such as Massimo re Ferre and Andy Groth at IBM – it was much easier working with believers! I was in complete awe the first time I saw a VMotion demo in late at our sales kick off meeting in Palo Alto and then VirtualCenter and Virtual SMP followed.

I was also part of the taskforce that developed the original channel program, the VIP Network. The EMC acquisition finally put paid to rest the questions surrounding the “future” of VMware – many times I’d be speaking with a customer or an analyst and they’d love the products and demos, but they’d question the longevity of the company. I was also responsible for launching the first TSX in Amsterdam at the request of Jeff Jennings. The first one was organised by myself and Diane Paternoster and we conducted a survey with the attendees to suggest a name for what would become an annual event. It was named TSX as a) a play on ESX and b) stood for Technical Solutions Exchange. It was another success that grew into bigger and better things, culminating in its demise when VMworld came to Europe.

The first VMworld was held in San Diego in 2004, where we had just over 1600 attendees and I attended with some of our big customers and partners from Europe, along with some key press and analysts. Mendl’s presentation discussed new technologies such as HA and DRS. However, I do recall the product marketing and PR folks getting a bit jittery as I *think* Mendl gave a little bit more away than he was meant to! And I also remember we had a big focus on ACE. I’ve attended every VMworld since (apart from the 2005 one in Vegas) on both sides of the pond and find them great events for networking, learning and creating business.

VMware has been very successful in picking up numerous industry awards. The first one that we won in Europe was the CNET Enterprise product of the year award. We were all happy to win and our PR agency took a video (which I can’t locate) of Mark and I collecting the award. I remember Karthik Rau being impressed by how loud the applause and cheering was in the video, but I think it was more for Mark and I as much as VMware, as we had many friends in the audience from Citrix J

On reflection, all these “defining” moments are now old hat too, but then I did leave VMware in 2005 J I will be eternally grateful to Diane Greene and Kirk Bowman for supporting Mark Stradling in hiring me as his first hire in Europe (it was meant to be a sales headcount!), as I learnt so much during my two years at VMware and have since worked with many great technologies in the VMware/Citrix eco-system.


I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me. If you didn’t, well tough, I don’t give a s**t, as I am now officially a GOW!! (Grumpy Old Woman) J Maybe one day I should write my memoirs?

Disclaimer: these are the memories of an old woman and I accept no responsibility for factually inaccurate musings or for any chronological deficiencies.

Toms comments:  Jane there is nothing wrong with being Hawaii 5-oh don’t you know it is the new 40 🙂 and that would make you younger than me.

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