Computer Chronicles Revisited 75 — Lotus Express, Re:Source, and Watson

Email is one of those technologies that has seemingly always been around in one form or another. The earliest electronic mail systems date back to the 1970s. But before the rise of the commercial Internet in the mid-1990s, the vast majority of computer users–to say nothing of the general population–had no access to email. There were several reasons for this, including the costs of additional hardware and email services, as well as the learning curve for using specialized communications software.

This next Computer Chronicles program, originally broadcast in December 1986, was all about the state of email as a product for consumers, businesses, and even nonprofit organizations. Jan Lewis of the Palo Alto Research Group made her debut in this episode as a co-host, filling in for the still-absent Gary Kildall. (No word where George Morrow wandered off to.) Cheifet began by showing Lewis InBox, a Macintosh-based electronic mail program that was used as part of an AppleTalk network. He showed how you could read and reply to a message using the Macintosh’s graphical interface.

Cheifet joked that when PCs were first introduced, people said it would lead to a “paperless office,” which never happened. Now, a lot of people were similarly promising that electronic mail would mean no more paper in the traditional office inbox. Did Lewis think that would ever happen? Lewis said that every new computer advance held the promise of the paperless office, but that was as likely to happen as the “paperless bathroom.”

On the other hand, Lewis said that email would greatly speed up the effectiveness and productivity of communication. Taking Cheifet’s sample email as an example, it probably took the sender 60 seconds to send him that message, and another 20 seconds for him to respond. That exchange would have taken longer by telephone.

Making Airplanes and Electronic Mail Systems

Wendy Woods presented her first remote report, narrating some B-roll footage taken at aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor McDonnell Douglas (which merged into Boeing in 1997). Woods said that computers were accused of all sorts of dehumanizing effects, maybe because of their inhuman way of communicating with people. On the other hand, computers were often the means to better human communication–especially over long distances.

In addition to airplane manufacturing, Woods noted that McDonnell Douglas was also a major supplier of communications networks both nationally and internationally. To exchange messages with its far-flung offices, the company used an electronic mail system called OnTyme. The system was available to anyone in the company with access to a terminal and a password. It provided each office with a secure way of transmitting data because the sender could address messages to as many or as few individuals as specified.

OnTyme was a “wide area network,” Woods explained, designed to link distant terminals rather than adjacent offices. Users around the world could reach the mail system with just a local phone call. And sending a message to Europe took about as long as sending one down the street. Along with messages and files, OnTyme was also capable of transmitting graphics, such as a chart made with Lotus 1-2-3.

The appeal of international electronic mail, Woods said, was growing with more than 500 countries in 68 countries using the Tymnet communications network to transmit over 1 million messages per month. And if suppliers and countries could ever agree on a standard protocol to simplify access, the number of online users would only increase.

MCI, Lotus Teamed Up to Expand Email Offerings

Stuart Davidson and Jeffrey E. Anderholm joined Cheifet and Lewis for the first studio round table segment. Davidson worked in product marketing for MCI Mail, a commercial email provider. Anderholm was a product manager with Lotus Development Corporation, overseeing its Lotus Express product.

Lewis opened by asking Davidson, “What does email really do for the computer user?” Davidson said it provided a way to send messages and files that was much easier than existing methods, such as courier, post office, or fax. Cheifet followed up, asking how MCI Mail in particular was used and what a computer user needed to use the product. Davidson replied that with Lotus Express, you could put software on your IBM PC and use it to compose messages and send files to anybody on the MCI Mail network.

Cheifet asked if there was a monthly fee for this service. Davidson said yes, by purchasing Lotus Express, that product came bundled with a one-year registration fee that would set you up for an MCI Mail account. Thereafter the user would then pay a per-message charge for each message sent. Lewis clarified that there was no charge for simply sitting online without sending a message. Davidson said that was correct.

Cheifet turned to Anderholm and asked about Lotus Express and how it actually helped a person do email. Anderholm said Express was a PC communications package that worked with MCI Mail and let users send and receive messages, telexes, and files.

Anderholm showed a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet running on a PC. He explained that Express was running in the background to monitor his email. By typing Alt-Shift-R, he switched to Express as the active program. This brought up an incoming folder listing new messages. Anderholm noted that Express pulled these messages automatically from MCI Mail at specified intervals. He didn’t have to tell the program to dial the server to retrieve his messages. (Cheifet seemed impressed that Express could actually download email while you worked in 1-2-3.)

Anderholm continued his demo, which was essentially explaining how to open and read an email message with a binary file attachment. In this case, the file was a 1-2-3 spreadsheet. To work with that spreadsheet, he pulled up a menu in Express and selected an option to save the file to the hard disk. Cheifet asked if you had to actually save the file before looking at it. Anderholm said yes, you had to save it so you could access it using 1-2-3. He then switched back to the spreadsheet program and opened the file.

Cheifet clarified that Express was not a 1-2-3 add-on and that Express would work with any application. Anderholm said that was correct. You could transfer any PC file using Express, such as a dBase III or WordStar file. Cheifet asked if you could send a graph. Anderholm said you could send anything.

Cheifet asked Davidson about the security of email systems and “sending your private messages up there in space.” Was that a valid concern? Davidson said it shouldn’t be. Obviously, there were some issues that all PC users were familiar with when it came to the security of their machine. Within public email systems and networks, they were usually very secure thanks to password protection and the format in which the data was stored.

Cheifet said one complaint email users had was that it was not very easy to use and that online editing was a mess. Davidson agreed there were a lot of basic adoption problems tied to ease of use and functionality. Lotus Express made it very easy to send a message, send a file, receive a message, and receive a file, he said. It also took care of some of the convenience problems, like having a tone play when a message arrived. The program also checked email for the user so they didn’t have to remember to do it.

Lewis asked how often did Express check for email. Was the program online all the time? Did it check at intervals? Davidson said Express checked at user-specified intervals.

Cheifet asked about MCI Mail’s relationship with CompuServe. Davidson explained the two services had an interconnection agreement. This meant that CompuServe’s 300,000 subscribers could exchange emails with MCI Mail’s 100,000 subscribers. Even if the MCI Mail user was not a CompuServe subscriber, that MCI Mail subscriber could still send a message to a CompuServe user.

What about sending a message to someone who wasn’t an MCI Mail user, Cheifet asked. Davidson said absolutely. There were a couple options. As previously noted, an MCI Mail user could send a message to someone who was on CompuServe. They could also send emails to someone on a private server within their own company. Or you could use a postal option, which would print out the message and send it by courier or postal service. If the recipient was overseas, you could also send the message to a telex terminal.

User-Friendly Email at The Source

Lloyd Kreuzer joined Cheifet and Lewis for the next segment. Kreuzer was president of Kreuzer Software–go figure–which developed re:Source, a mailbox program for users of The Source online service. Lewis asked Kreuzer what problems he was trying to solve with re:Source. Kreuzer said re:Source was a front-end for The Source that used the power of the IBM PC to make online communications easy for the user. The Source provided a number of electronic services, including email, access to airline schedules, news, a bulletin board of free software, and so forth. Having a front-end made it easier to access all of these services.

Cheifet asked for a demonstration of how re:Source could be used to make email more user friendly. Kreuzer walked through a “typical scenario” of opening an email, selecting the reply command, and using a full-screen editor to type that reply and attach a file. (In this case, Kreuzer imported a text file, which was then added to the reply email he was typing.) Kreuzer then saved his draft message, returned to the main menu, and selected his outbox. He then selected the message he just typed from the outbox screen and re:Source automatically dialed The Source and sent the message. The program would then also check for any new incoming messages.

Cheifet noted that everything Kreuzer just did was offline. Kreuzer said that was correct. Cheifet observed the advantage of this was that you weren’t spending online charges while doing the composition and entering commands. He asked Kreuzer about the use of a word processor to write the message as opposed to a cumbersome online editor. Kreuzer said re:Source had a number of built-in features, including a “pop up” text editor. So you could write messages all day long and send them in one batch. You could also cut-and-paste items into messages.

Cheifet asked about retrieving incoming mail. Kreuzer said that as soon as re:Source completed sending any outgoing messages, a screen would come up and show any inbox messages.

Cheifet noted this program was specifically designed for The Source. Did Kreuzer see the same kind of user-friendly interface becoming available for other communications services? Kreuzer said yes. One of the things that was truly unique about his program was that the interfaces were based on a scripted programming language. This meant it would be very easy in the future to develop additional interfaces for other services. He added The Source would also be offering a new special interest group to make additional interfaces available for re:Source users.

Using Email to Connect the International Food Research Community

Wendy Woods presented her second remote segment, which focused on the international use of email. The opening shot was of the International Rice Research Institute, an agricultural research organization based in the Philippines. Woods said that to get a letter from any of 131 agricultural research stations in places as remote as Nairobi or the Philippines now just took an instant. They were all connected via an electronic mail system by Dialcom, an internationally accessible database.

Woods said that might sound simple, but it wasn’t. The network had to link local, national, and regional telephone systems. Problems ranged from poor transmission quality to government regulations. CGNET Services of Palo Alto, California, set up the Dialcom network, a job that took three years. And the job wasn’t done yet.

Georg Lindsey of CGNET Services told Woods that some of the places that you would think would be easy like Rome, for example, took a couple of years because they were embedded within a large organization that required approval for buying a modem.

But Woods said the main hurdle was not the hardware or the software but the people–specifically, getting them to use computers and modems. That job took Lindsey and his associates to nearly all the remote sites worldwide. CGNET provided all the equipment and the training necessary to operate it. This network–a low-cost, fast method of transferring large amounts of information–was now nearly complete. Lindsey said it had been incredibly successful and that email was now just a normal, accepted thing. And that in turn meant freeing up millions of dollars for research into growing more food and feeding more people.

Was “Talking Email” the Future of the PC?

Charles Foskett and Carl Berney joined Cheifet and Lewis for the final segment. Foskett was president of Natural MicroSystems. Berney, the vice president of Speech Plus, Inc., was a repeat guest, having appeared in a first-season episode on speech synthesis.

Lewis opened by telling Berney that she loved the idea of electronic mail. But suppose she was on the road and didn’t have a computer with her. How could Berney’s product, the CallText 5100, help her? (It should be noted Berney discussed an earlier version of the CallText in his first appearance.) Berney said the CallText allowed any caller from any telephone in the world to call a computer containing information in text form and have that information read back to them using synthesized speech.

Cheifet clarified that the information didn’t have to be stored in any unusual way. Berney said yes, it was the same information that would otherwise appear on a terminal. Cheifet asked for a demo using a telephone in the studio. Berney called a CallText system that was in turn connected to an electronic mail system. The CallText then read back a message–in a synthesized voice similar to that of the late Stephen Hawking, who also used a CallText–to Berney from a Computer Chronicles staff member regarding today’s taping. The message said the taping session would start at 1 p.m. and that Cheifet “manages the production schedule very efficiently, and will be sure to start on time.”

Cheifet noted you could actually control the CallText system through the touch-tone telephone. Berney said yes, he could use the telephone keypad to have the system read back messages faster or spell out specific words, to give two examples. Cheifet then asked about voice recognition: How far were we away from being able to pick up a phone and call-in a message that would then be stored in ASCII in a computer. Berney said the capability to do speech-to-text over the telephone was still a little bit away, though the ability to recognize individual digits–i.e., touch-tone pad replacement–was close at hand.

Cheifet then turned to Foskett and asked about his two-way voicemail system, Watson. Foskett said that Watson was a voice-digitization system that collected voice and stored it on the computer disk for forwarding to another person. This could be done locally or over any telephone. He demonstrated a sample screen from Watson, which displayed a telephone contact book in a Rolodex-style card file. There was a search system to look for individual numbers. There were also separate files for outgoing and incoming messages. Foskett said the system basically provided a way of collecting voice information in the computer in sort of a “talking email” system.

Cheifet then used a telephone to dial the demo computer running Watson. The computer played a standard greeting message. Cheifet then entered a code and the system played back a message that Foskett left regarding today’s taping. Cheifet then left a reply message on the system for Foskett. Watson recorded that message, which Foskett could then access from his computer or by dialing in from another phone. Foskett said this sort of “talking email” system was of particular benefit to people who worked in sales who were often away from their desks and had to travel a lot. Cheifet noted that Watson was itself a plug-in card for the IBM PC. Foskett showed the actual card to end the program.

Although the main episode was taped and initially aired in December 1986, the recording from the Internet Archive was from a rerun that was broadcast in June 1987. Susan Chase presented this “Random Access” segment, which was recorded on the latter date.

  • Commodore International responded to a lawsuit brought by its former president and CEO, Thomas J. Rattigan, by filing an $18 million counterclaim alleging that he failed to carry out the decisions of the board of directors. Commodore alleged that Rattigan cost the company $15 million by importing the low-selling IBM-compatible PC-10, most of which had not been sold.
  • In more positive Commodore news, software support for the company’s Amiga continued to grow. Chase said WordPerfect Corporation planned to ship an Amiga version of its best-selling word processor starting in July 1987, which would have all of the features of the existing PC version plus additional features to take advantage of the Amiga’s qualities. WordPerfect also planned to release updated versions for the Macintosh and Atari ST later in 1987.
  • The Federal Communications Commission was considering a proposal to end free telephone access for online database systems. The Commission voted 4-0 to support a plan forcing packet-switching networks like Telnet and Tymnet to pay local telephone companies for access to their phone network. Industry analysts said the new fees, scheduled to begin on January 1, 1988, would substantially raise the cost of telecomputing.
  • A California state legislative committee passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand the rights of freedom of expression and privacy protection to electronic communications and databases. Chase said the bill still needed to go through a round of ratification votes in the legislature before being submitted to the voters in 1988. She added the proposal was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and computer bulletin board system operators. (From what I can tell, this proposal never made it to the ballot.)
  • Paul Schindler reviewed TMPC (Acroatix Corporation, $50), a “simple yet effective time management program” for the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer. The program included an appointment book and to-do list.
  • The Associated Press unveiled a new method of digitally transmitting pictures and graphics to its subscribers via satellite. Chase said the new GraphicsNet system was slated to start in the fall of 1987 and would deliver camera-ready artwork directly into a Macintosh computer. And beginning in 1988, subscribers to the AP’s Photostream photo system would be able to receive a black-and-white picture in one minute and a color picture in three minutes.
  • Emergency room doctors, ambulance drivers, and trauma center personnel would soon be able to access a patient’s medical background almost instantly due to a new computer-based service recently introduced by Los Angeles-based Med-Fax Corporation. Chase said that for a $35 fee, medical personnel could phone a Med-Fax computer, enter the patient’s ID number, and receive a voice-synthesized message with the patient’s medical and emergency contact information.

MCI’s “Metered” Email Model Failed to Survive Internet Transition

You wouldn’t necessarily get this from watching the episode, but consumer email services were still very much a niche business in late 1986. In March 1987, a newsletter called Electronic Mail & Micro Systems released a survey of email use. It found that CompuServe was the largest consumer-oriented email service in terms of number of mailboxes–300,000 total–while The Source had just 65,000 subscribers but reported the highest amount of traffic with 1.4 million messages sent each month. To put that in comical perspective, there were an estimated 319,600,000,000 emails sent each day in 2021, according to Statista. And the largest email provider, Google’s Gmail, currently has about 1.8 billion active users, according to SaaS Scout.

Of course, one major difference between today’s email services and those of the 1980s was that services today are fully interconnected. That is, you can send and receive messages between different email providers without any friction. That was not the case when this Chronicles episode aired. As Steve Bosak noted in an April 1986 feature for the Chicago Tribune, there were a plethora of companies that had jumped into the electronic mail business, including AT&T, Dialcom, General Electric, GTE, McDonnell Douglas (which Wendy Woods profiled), Western Union, Dow Jones, and of course CompuServe and The Source. But for the most part “subscribers to one mail service are virtually locked out from the others.” Even the MCI Mail-CompuServe inter-service connection discussed in the episode was limited. Bosak said that MCI Mail only offered the ability to email CompuServe users to its corporate customers. Individual “hobbyist” account holders were still limited to only communicating with other users within the MCI network.

MCI was, at the time, not the biggest business email provider. It ranked third behind Western Union and US Sprint, according to the Electronic Mail survey. But MCI was one of the first companies to promote email as a standalone service for business customers. Founded as Microwave Communications, Inc., in 1963, venture capitalist William G. McGowan took over as chairman in 1968 and reorganized the company into MCI Communications Corporation, which led the successful antitrust fight to break up AT&T’s long-distance telephone monopoly.

Benjamin Schwantes explained in a 2014 paper that while email had been around since the 1970s, it had “largely been the realm of computer scientists and academics, hobbyists with access to dial-up bulletin board systems (BBS), and a small number of corporate intranet users utilizing systems such as IBM’s PROFS.” The first two business email services to emerge were GTE’s Telnet and Western Union’s EasyLink. Such “pure” email services were not popular with early 1980s consumers, however, who still wanted physical delivery of certain letters and documents.

Schwantes explained that MCI’s plan was to leverage its long-distance telephone network to make both electronic-only and hybrid delivery services available to home and business customers:

In order to develop their new system, MCI officials turned to two firms with experience in computer networking and software development, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and BBN, and an individual with extensive first-hand knowledge of data networking to lead the team effort, Vinton Cerf. Together, DEC, BBN, and Cerf created a unique electronic mail platform that helped to popularize electronic mail among individual computer users and within the broader small and medium-sized business community. However, the metered-service model that the firm adopted failed to become the standard paradigm due to growing competition from alternate email service providers and the growing popularity of Internet-based messaging in the 1990s.

William McGowan formally announced the launch of MCI Mail in September 1983. An early advertising blitz touted the $40 million electronic mail service as “[t]he Nation’s new postal system.” MCI Mail would let you send to anyone, anywhere, “[r]egardless of the kind of equipment they have.” So an Apple user could communicate with someone using a Wang computer. And even if the recipient didn’t have a computer, MCI Mail would still deliver the message in hard copy.

As Schwantes noted, MCI Mail used a “metered service” model. Jim Seymour, writing about MCI Mail in 1986, explained that the service itself cost $18 per year. The long-distance connection time to send and receive messages was 5 cents per minute. Sending an “under-750-character” reply to a message cost 45 cents. Longer replies cost $1 for every 7,500 characters, or about three typed pages. And having MCI Mail print out and deliver a paper copy cost an additional $1. And you also had to factor in the costs of buying special communications software and a modem, which Seymour estimated could run you about another $350 to $600.

Given the expense, it’s perhaps not surprising that MCI Mail failed to meet its early projections in terms of customers and message volume. Schwantes said that after its first year, MCI Mail only had 35,000 “voluntary subscribers.” (Another 65,000 were “enrolled automatically” by using an online database partnered with MCI.) And out of those 35,000, only about 12,000 used the email service regularly, generating about $500 per person in revenue.

By April 1986, MCI had folded the MCI Mail unit into its main sales organization, according to Michael Schrage of the Washington Post. One analyst told Schrage that while electronic mail would “eventually become a billion-dollar industry,” adoption was still slow because email was “still difficult to use” and “involves a cultural change.”

Lotus Express was an attempt at changing that culture. It was an effort to specifically promote adoption of MCI Mail by taking advantage of the existing customer base for Lotus 1-2-3. Indeed, while MCI Mail claimed to have about 100,000 subscribers in late 1986, there were nearly 2 million copies of 1-2-3 sold. Martin Levine, writing for Long Island’s Newsday in December 1986, said Express retailed for $100 plus $1 per transaction, with the revenues split between MCI and Lotus Development.

MCI Mail took a much more significant step, however, when it joined the Internet in 1989. According to Peter Geiger of the Akron Beacon-Journal, two computer scientists at The Ohio State University played a key role in making that connection, which enabled both MCI Mail and CompuServe users to exchange messages with “more than 1,000 independent electronically connected networks.”

The Internet helped MCI Mail stay afloat. But it also spelled its ultimate doom. By the 1990s, new companies had entered the market for providing email accounts using the Internet, and MCI Mail’s metered connection model quickly fell out of favor. As Benjamin Schwantes noted, after MCI merged with WorldCom in 1997, the combined company “devoted less attention to their increasing anachronistic product and eventually decommissioned MCI Mail in 2003 during the fallout from the WorldCom bankruptcy.”

Notes from the Random Access File

  • This episode is available at the Internet Archive and was recorded on December 6, 1986. As noted above, however, the Archive’s version of this episode is a rerun dated June 18, 1987.
  • Stuart Davidson shifted his career from marketing email systems to promoting cutting-edge biotechnology. In the late 1980s, he joined Alkermes Inc., a biomedical research company, as its president. Davidson later founded and served as CEO of Combion, Inc., a company spawned out of the California Institute of Technology that invented a device to analyze human genes. Combion went public and was sold to Incyte Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 1996 for $3 million in stock. Since then, Davidson has been living the venture capitalist life, notably as co-founder, chairman, and managing director of Sonen Capital in San Francisco.
  • Jeffrey Anderholm left Lotus in 1996 to join Fidelity Investments, where he served as vice president of electronic marketing for a short time. He followed that up with a stint at a Boston-area e-commerce company before joining Davox Corporation in January 1999 as vice president of marketing. Davox primarily developed software for telephone call centers. Anderholm quickly worked his way up to executive vice president for products. But it appears from SEC filings that Anderholm left Davox in 2002 after the company acquired Cellit Technologies and renamed itself Concerto Software Inc. I could not locate any record of Anderholm’s employment or activities since then.
  • Lloyd Kreuzer is actually a physicist, having earned his PhD from Princeton University in 1966. While working at Bell Labs in the early 1970s, he designed a device to analyze air pollution using a computer. Kreuzer left Bell to commercially develop the device through his own startup, Diax Corporation, which only lasted a couple of years. He later joined Hewlett-Packard Labs and rose to be a vice president of advanced development before leaving in 1981. Kreuzer had a couple of different startups during the 1980s, Menlo Corporation and the aforementioned Kreuzer Software, neither of which lasted long. After the end of his brief foray into email software, Kreuzer joined Acuson Corporation, a manufacturer of ultrasound imaging equipment, as director of business development. He held that position until 2003, during which time German conglomerate Siemens acquired Acuson in 2000 for $700 million in cash. In 2006, Kreuzer started his current company, Imorgon Medical LLC, where he continues to develop ultrasound technology.
  • I’m not sure Kreuzer’s re:Source ever made it to market. I did find some newspaper advertising by The Source touting the new front-end service for a January 1987 launch. But in April 1987, the Reader’s Digest Association sold The Source to a private venture capital firm, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. Two years later, in June 1989, Welsh sold off The Source to CompuServe, which shut the service down that August.
  • CGNET is still around today with Georg Lindsey as its CEO. Like Lloyd Kreuzer, Lindsey worked at Bell Labs before striking out on his own. He co-founded CGNET in 1983 to create the email network described in Wendy Woods’ report. CGNET has continued to manage and expand its network ever since, today supporting 30,000 users representing 200 organizations in 130 countries.
  • Charles Foskett and three others co-founded Natural MicroSystems Corporation in 1983 to market Watson, which was basically an early PBX system. Foskett told the Boston Globe in September 1985 that the $700 Watson system sold about $2 million in units during its first year on the market. Natural MicrSsystems continued refining and selling Watson well into the early 1990s. By 1997, the company’s sales reached about $75 million annually. Robert Schechter, who took over from Foskett as the company’s president in 1995, decided to pivot from selling to business customers to supplying telecommunications gear to larger networking companies. By March 2000, the plan seemed to be working as Natural MicroSystems’ stock price reached $76.25 a share. But the collapse of the dot-com bubble brought that down to just $9.82 the following January. The company–renamed NMS Communications in 2002–still managed to chug along until the Great Recession of 2008. In September 2008, NMS sold its telecommunications business to its main competitor, Dialogic Corporation, for $28 million. NMS then renamed itself again–this time after its surviving business, LiveWire Mobile, which primarily marketed ring tones for cell phones. In 2003, India-based OnMobile acquired LiveWire for $17.8 million. As for Foskett, since 2000 he’s served as CEO of RailRunner N.A., Inc., a provider of bi-modal transportation technology.
  • Thomas J. Rattigan was the second CEO brought in to revive Commodore following founder Jack Tramiel’s resignation in 1984. The first, Marshall Smith, was a steel industry veteran with no experience in computers and technology. Smith brought in Rattigan, a Pepsico executive who also had no computer industry experience, to run the company’s business machines division. (Hey, it worked for Apple!) Rattigan quickly rose to become president and chief operating officer before replacing Smith as CEO in March 1986. But like Tramiel, Rattigan clashed with Commodore chairman and controlling shareholder Irving Gould, leading to Rattigan’s sudden dismissal in April 1987, only a year into his five-year contract. Rattigan went on to win a jury verdict against Commodore for breach of that contract in 1991. Oddly, the trial featured two men best-known for serving as cabinet members to Republican presidents. Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general of the United States under President George W. Bush, was the federal judge who presided over the trial. And one of the witnesses was former White House chief of Staff and Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who was a member of Commodore’s board.
  • In the cold open for this episode, Stewart Cheifet demonstrated a GRiD Systems Compass II laptop, which he noted could send an electronic mail wirelessly “through radio waves.” Spooky.