5 Little-Known Facts About The PC Industry

I enjoy learning lots of random (I mean, totally useful) facts. So in this video I cover five of my favorite facts about the PC industry, ranging from Microsoft’s “illegal” Embrace Extend Exterminate strategy from the 1990s, Lisa Su’s cousin who also works in tech, one of the earliest (and most successful) tech start-up founders and more.

This video also takes a look at some quotes and emails from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who sometimes skirted the lines of what was allowed/acceptable.

If you prefer text over video, please read on for the guide/transcript version of this video.

Video Transcript And Guide

Hey everyone, every so often I come across a random (or some might say, useless) fact about the PC industry. For example, Lisa Su – who is ‘kinda a big deal – has a cousin in technology who is an EVEN bigger big deal.

Portrait of Lisa Su the AMD CEO
Portrait of Lisa Su the AMD CEO

Also Bill Gates used to say THIS to people a lot when working at Microsoft:

“You’re full of s. That’s the stupidest f thing I’ve ever heard”

Bill Gates, Microsoft

I’ll loop back to both of those things in a minute, but firstly I wanted to discuss Microsoft’s “illegal” ’embrace, extend and exterminate’ business strategy of the 1990s.

Microsoft’s Embrace Extend Exterminate

This was an international strategy designed to kill off competitors. The Department Of Justice investigated this under anti-competition rules, and ruled that Microsoft’s actions were part of a “predatory campaign” to “crush” competitors. The triple-E strategy (which was also sometimes called ’embrace, extend and extinguish’) had three phases. Firstly Microsoft would embrace an open or public standard that many people relied on, like ensuring that Microsoft Office documents opened in various browsers or that Java apps could run on pretty much any system worldwide.

Microsoft would then deliberately move onto the “extend” phase, where they would develop loads of ‘helpful changes’ to these technologies. They would THEN claim that these changes gave people “the latest, best way to write Windows applications” (in the case of Java). But what they were ACTUALLY doing was making it harder for non-Windows systems to interact with Microsoft’s now-modified standards. For example, Microsoft removed the Java Native Interface from Windows, meaning that various Java apps developed for Windows no longer worked on Apple or Linux.

Java Native Interface screenshot
Java Native Interface screenshot

They also made various proprietary changes so that Office documents would no longer load on rival browsers like Netscape. Never heard of Netscape? That’s ‘cos Microsoft killed it.

Markennamen
Markennamen

By “embracing” popular technologies that households all over the world relied on, and THEN making proprietary changes to them, households suddenly found that they HAD to use Windows systems and browsers like Internet Explorer. They had no choice. Microsoft were using their SUBSTANTIAL market power to kill off competitors, which is where the third phase – extermination – came in.

Microsoft would continue to push home their own anti-competitive ‘advantage’, making it harder and harder for rival technologies to stay in business. For example various “extend” changes from Microsoft led to a large decline in Netscape’s market share, and eventually the browser just died out. Equally Microsoft employed “embrace and extend” on their MSN Messenger chat program, breaking compatibility with the popular AOL software – resulting in various people effectively being forced to switch from AOL to MSN as part of the “extinguish” phase.

Bill Gates used to claim that this notorious ’embrace, extend and exterminate’ strategy was necessary to avoid damaging or destroying Windows, but the end result was that MANY other rivals went out of business due to Microsoft’s harsh changes to previous open standards. This led to various lawsuits that Microsoft lost, including needing to pay billions of dollars to Sun Microsystems, the developer of Java. The Department Of Justice also investigated Microsoft for many years, finding that they were anti-competitive, and this led to a slow but steady improvement in open standards again.

Robert Noyce

Portrait of Robert Noyce
Portrait of Robert Noyce

The second fact I wanted to cover is about one of the earliest ever tech start-up founders: Robert Noyce. That guy was a genius. He co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and then Intel, the huge CPU company that we all know and loathe (I mean, love). What was impressive about Noyce is just how much he accomplished in his life. He didn’t come from money but he still founded one of the world’s biggest companies. He did this through sheer skill and determination. At the age of just 12, he and his brother built a small aircraft – yep, a ‘freakin aircraft – that they used to fly off the nearby stable roofs. Noyce never gave up his creative spark, and in 1959 he co-invented the integrated circuit – basically the microchip. The thing that’s in EVERYTHING nowadays, from our phones to our fridges. Jack Kilby technically invented the integrated circuit, but Nocye developed and extended it so that it was much more useful, essentially.

Many of Noyce’s colleagues won Nobel Prizes in Physics for their contributions to technology, but some bad luck and bad advice meant that Noyce never won one. For example, a Japanese physicist called Leo Esaki won a Nobel Prize in 1973 – but for something that Robert Nocye pretty much invented a year before. Jack Kilby then won a Nobel Prize in the year 2000 for the integrated circuit work, but Noyce passed away in 1990 so missed out again. All in all, though, Noyce was such an inventive person and moved PC hardware forward SO MUCH in just three decades.

The Robert Noyce building at Intel Corporate Headquarters
The Robert Noyce building at Intel Corporate Headquarters

Steve Jobs Emails

Moving on to the third thing I wanted to discuss. Steve Jobs – the co-creator of Apple – regularly used to email other tech bosses and rant at them.

at the premiere of Disney's "Finding Nemo" at the El Capitan Theater, Hollywood, CA 05 18 03
Steve Jobs portrait

For example on 3rd Feb 1998, Steve Jobs emailed Bill Gates, saying that he felt that the Microsoft team behind NetShow were “threatening and rude” about Apple’s QuickTime technology. Jobs pointed out that Apple don’t “trash Windows”… m’kay if you say so… and that it’s really bad that Microsoft are resorting to “dirty tactics and tough rhetoric” about Apple.

Steve Jobs also tried forming an “illegal” system whereby the big tech companies would work together to ensure that none of their high-tech employees were poached by recruiters from the other firms. Jobs enforced this system by emailing other tech bosses and moaning at them whenever he heard of a recruiter trying to approach Apple staff. For example, in 2005, Steve Jobs emailed the boss of Adobe to complain that Adobe are poaching Apple’s staff and threatening that Apple would start poaching Adobe staff, if Adobe didn’t knock it off. Equally when a Google recruiter approached a member of staff at Apple in 2007, Steve Jobs personally intervened and emailed the boss of Google (Eric Schmidt) asking them to stop this. This “enforcement action” wasn’t legal though and after a DOJ investigation, Apple had to pay many millions of dollars of compensation to the US Government, but it’s quite interesting to see a CEO get involved in such a micro level.

THAT Bill Gates Quote

The fourth fact is that Bill Gates had a reputation for saying “You’re full of s. That’s the stupidest f thing I’ve ever heard” to his staff.

Bill Gates awarded honorary doctorate of Tsinghua University
Bill Gates awarded honorary doctorate of Tsinghua University

Which, y’know, is not really ideal. But here’s the thing. Many people looked up big time to Bill Gates, and so if Bill Gates was ‘stunned’, hearing this was almost seen as a GOOD thing. It was a slightly joking way of saying ‘great job’. Scot Bayless, who was part of the team working on Flight Simulator 2000, said that Bill Gates loved seeing how much detail the game included, and so Gates trotted out the “you’re full of s” line to the team. But this wasn’t taken as a huge insult: Bayless pointed out that this was high praise, and it was seen as a big positive. Pfft. I personally don’t like managers saying that to me, but what-do-I-know, I don’t run a three trillion dollar company. Maybe that’s just the ‘done thing’ at big companies like that.

AMD CEO Lisa Su’s Cousin

My final fact is that Lisa Su – the boss of AMD – is actually COUSINS with Jensen Huang – the boss of NVIDIA:

Jensen Huang portrait
Jensen Huang portrait

Yep, AMD and NVIDIA are BIG rivals and yet they’re run by people from the same family. Family get togethers must be awkward. Joking aside though, they’re first cousins once removed as this family tree from Jin Chat shows:

Family tree of Lisa Su and Jensen Huang family from Jin Chat
Family tree of Lisa Su and Jensen Huang’s family from Jin Chat

Basically Jensen Huang’s mother, who was born in 1939, has a bigger brother born in 1921. That brother had three daughters, one of which is Lisa Su’s mum. It’s actually a pretty successful family all round, with the owner and co-execs of a large concrete company thrown in the mix too. So it’s pretty interesting to see, especially because Jensen’s two children work at NVIDIA – one as a product manager and one as a global product marketing manager:

LinkedIn screenshot showing Madison Huang
LinkedIn screenshot showing Madison Huang

It might seem pretty surprising that the bosses of two major tech companies are related, although it’s not overly uncommon: Adidas and Puma were founded by two rival brothers. This is known as the ‘Dassler brothers feud‘, with Adolf Dassler launching Adidas and Rudolf Dassler founding Puma. Heck in that case, they were ACTUAL brothers. Lisa Su and Jensen Huang aren’t as close to that: being first cousins once removed. Despite that though, I still find it pretty amazing that two of the biggest and most successful tech companies are related to each other.

That wraps up today’s video. If you have any interesting PC facts of your own, please do share them down in the comments. And I hope you enjoyed this video. If you did, please click the thumbs up button – this tells the YouTube algorithm that more people should see this video. Please also subscribe to my channel if you haven’t already and thanks for watching!

cropped A picture of me Tristan
About Tristan Perry

Tristan has been interested in computer hardware and software since he was 10 years old. He has built loads of computers over the years, along with installing, modifying and writing software (he's a backend software developer 'by trade').

Tristan also has an academic background in technology (in Math and Computer Science), so he enjoys drilling into the deeper aspects of technology.

Tristan is also an avid PC gamer, with FFX and Rocket League being his favorite games.

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