In recent weeks, we’ve seen the passing of many great individuals from the worlds of music, film, comedy, and world leaders. And the world of Information Technology hasn’t been immune from this sad news, either, with the recent death of Intel’s Andy Grove.
Working at Ziff Davis and PC Week Labs throughout the 1990s, I had a front-row seat for Intel’s rise to prominence. In fact, processor reviews were a regular staple of the labs reviews in those days.
During that time, Intel made a lot of interesting technological innovations, as well as astute business deals and partnerships, that put it in a leadership position when it came to CPUs and computer processing.
But Grove’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t in the technology, it was rather a marketing move. Grove is generally considered the main force behind the “Intel Inside” campaign, and, while this doesn’t seem groundbreaking on the surface, a little digging shows how unique a move this was.
Think about it. In how many things that you buy or deal with in your daily life are you aware of the products and technologies under the hood? Outside of devoted car enthusiasts, how many people know anything about the engine of their car? I’m not even sure if my car is a 4 or 6-cylinder! Even today, do you know the brand or type of the processor that’s driving your smartphone? Probably not.
But during the rise of the PC, the CPU, or engine of the computer, became as, or even more important than, the name of the company that built the actual PC.
This is probably one of the reasons that so many of the PC manufacturers of those days are no longer with us, or aren’t the companies they used to be. Back then, people didn’t even say they had a Compaq, Gateway, or Packard Bell. Usually, if you asked someone what kind of PC they had, the answer was that it was an Intel or Windows PC.
Today, this kind of dynamic is still true on the operating system side, especially on the Android side of smartphones. But, while processors are still vital, no one is putting stickers on the sides of phones or tablets telling consumers what kind of CPU is running the device.
But, for many years, the engine was as, or more important than, anything else in the computer.