Monday, October 27, 2014

Fixing IBM, Fixing America, Futility

How to Fix IBM:

I used to keep up with Cringely pretty well. His documentary movie, "Triumph of the Nerds" has Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and many other leading lights of the rise of the personal computer and the internet in it, well worth the time to watch it. The article is fine too -- although I suspect far too credulous and hopeful.

In a 34 year career with IBM, from say "late '80s" on I was always hatching schemes that I thought might return IBM to the former greatness that it had with the advent of the 360, and then again for a brief instant when the PC came out -- we seemingly ruled the world. Naturally, my scale was smaller than the whole company -- but dreams of a standard IBM kernel that could allow us to have a layer of isolation/recovery/performance tuning/compatibility/ etc that would run across all our computer architectures, a standard language (eventually partially embodied as Java), schemes to do things like cloud computing today, only leveraging more PC power connected to IBM main or mid-frames -- etc, etc. Such dreams were always exciting for me -- I used to be hopeful. Some of them even got somewhat implemented in some cases, and in a couple I had the joy of being in the thick of it.

But, much as in the US, success always carries with it the seeds of demise. "Full employment" and "promote from within" created a large drag of people that were just "hanging around for their 30". While non-productive, the worst were not really the ones that knew they were "just hanging around", but rather those that were certain that they were integral to the business but really had no clue. Their "skill" was working the organization -- very much the same as middle functionaries in the old USSR, or in the middle ranks of any large organization. The Catholic Church, the military, the US government, academia -- bureaucracy is a necessary evil of human organizations, but like oxygen to our lives, it tends to eventually kill.

Eventually, the primary skill that allowed continuation with IBM became "survival" -- a skill I was willing to partially succumb to to make 30 years and a pension, but jettisoned for a final fling in cellular technology that may well have been one of those "save the company" billions of dollars wins had we invested a few more 10s of millions over a couple of years. Instead, the project  was jettisoned, and ultimately me along with it. IBM had ceased to be fun anyway, and 34 years of computing is a lot.

A friend had a poster up at IBM that had a pair of buzzards looking down from a tree saying "Patience, Hell! I'm going to KILL Something" ... with the "kill" crossed out and replaced with CODE!

One can plan, manage, legislate, analyze, design, regulate, balance,  present, document, etc, etc, but EVENTUALLY, companies, nations and even people have to BUILD SOMETHING to survive, and certainly to grow.

Which involves INVESTMENT and RISK, and has no sort of guarantees of a defined returns for a known period of time, future profits, or even breaking even!! One can summarize IBM's supposedly now abandoned "2015 roadmap" as an exercise in gutting the company and using stock arbitrage in it's own and purchased company stocks to "guarantee" institutional (and execs at the right part of their career) a significantly larger than market return on investment in IBM. Like all effectively ponzi schemes, if you got in and out at the right time, it "worked" -- all be it at the expense of a lot of good people's careers, customers loyalty (and in many cases the customers careers as well) and the conversion of one of the great lights of American technology to a stock manipulation financial holding company.

But the IBM story is really just the same story as the US government along with the governments of Western Europe and Japan. Supposedly, those governments have "guaranteed" the "Baby Boom" (or equivalent in the other nations "post-war population increase cohort") a financially secure retirement on the backs of the young, the productive, the brown immigrant, and hopefully the continually benevolent Chinese debt investor. As both Hillary and BO have declared at various points, they just don't believe that it is business that creates wealth. No, they can print it, borrow it, or just plain steal it and pass it around as they see fit.

The assertion is that grubby, risky, sometimes very messy and ALWAYS less than "perfect" (by some unknown abstract measure) activity around "building something" is just no longer needed.

IBM was on a "2015 plan". How many years is there in the US debt / currency / bond manipulation plan before it is abandoned? Who do we plan to "pay" to take the decrepit pieces of this once great country away like IBM's Chip Fab, and just what do we think is the currency we will pay that tab with?

'via Blog this'

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