Five of the Most Amazing Things About Jacksonville

April 3, 2013 15 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Without Jacksonville the world would be a poorer and less interesting place. It is no exaggeration to say that some of the most important cultural and social trends of the past hundred years are rooted either in Jax or people from Jax. Without Native Jaxson Don Estridge, for example, would we all be connected online right now? What would people yell at concerts around the world, "Blackbird!"? Join us after the jump as Stephen Dare compiles five amazing facts that no one seems to know about Jacksonville!

1.  It is the birthplace of the Father of the Personal Computer, Don Estridge.

Philip Donald Estridge (June 23, 1937 - August 2, 1985), known as Don Estridge, led development of the original IBM Personal Computer (PC), and thus is known as "father of the IBM PC". His decisions dramatically changed the computer industry, resulting in a vast increase in the number of personal computers sold and bought, thus creating an entire industry of hardware manufacturers of IBM PCs.

Estridge was born in Jacksonville, Florida. His father was a professional photographer. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1955, and from the University of Florida in 1959. He married Mary Ann Hellier in September, 1958, and they had three children: Patricia Ann, Mary Evelyn and Sandra Marie.

He completed a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Florida, and worked at the Army, designing a radar system using computers, IBM and finally NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center until he moved to Boca Raton, Florida in 1969.

Before being the leader of the team to develop the IBM PC he had been the lead manager for the development of the IBM Series/1 mini-computer. After this project was unsuccessful, he was said to have fallen out of grace with IBM and was reassigned to headquarters staff - a position that IBM employees often considered a form of penalty.

His efforts to develop the IBM PC began when he took control of the IBM Entry Level Systems in 1980 (and later named President of the newly formed IBM Entry Systems Division (ESD) in August 1983), with the goal of developing a low-cost personal computer to compete against increasingly popular offerings from the likes of Apple Computer, Commodore International, and other perceived IBM competitors. To create a cost-effective alternative to those companies products, Estridge realized that it would be necessary to rely on third-party hardware and software. This was a marked departure from previous IBM strategy, which centered around in-house vertical development of complicated mainframe systems and their requisite access terminals. Estridge also published the specifications of the IBM PC, allowing a booming third-party aftermarket hardware business to take advantage of the machine's expansion card slots.

The competitive cost and expandability options of the first model, IBM PC model 5150, as well as the cachet of being an IBM product, led to strong sales to both enterprise and home customers. Over the next several years, Estridge received a string of promotions, and by 1984 was IBM Vice President, Manufacturing. Steve Jobs even offered Estridge a multi-million dollar job as president of Apple Computer, which he turned down.

Estridge and wife Mary Ann were killed when the plane they were traveling on, Delta Air Lines Flight 191, crashed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on August 2, 1985. He was 48 years old. The Estridges were survived by their three daughters. At the time of his death, IBM ESD (which included the development and manufacturing of the IBM PC, PC DOS, PC LAN and TopView) had nearly 10,000 employees and had sold over a million PCs.

Estridge has been honored many times. In 1999 he was identified in CIO magazine as one of the people who "invented the enterprise". The Don Estridge High-Tech Middle School—formerly IBM Facility Building 051—in Boca Raton, Florida, is named after him, and on the occasion of its dedication was given by Don Estridge's family his own personal IBM 5150 computer

He is often considered the father of the open source code movement because of his early insistence that computers should be programmed in BASIC, which should be free and taught to every school child in America.

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