Real Innovators Ship: Innovation versus Invention

Most people have heard something of the incredible story of the PARC division of Xerox and the Apple MacIntosh computer but it is a wonderful story to illustrate the difference between innovation and invention.

Xerox invented the Mac

That seems a strong statement. But read the excellent account that I have ripped from the WSJ:

“At Xerox in the 1970s, a group of brilliant researchers invented the personal computer—they called it the Alto—complete with onscreen windows, menus, icons, graphics and the mouse, all more-or-less as we know them today. Alan Kay was foremost among these genius innovators. Mr. Kay built, in turn, on the 1960s inventions of Douglas Engelbart. Mr. Engelbart was first to develop the mouse, the onscreen window, and the whole idea of computers that did more important things than compute. He wanted computers to solve everyday problems, do word-processing and make pictures and graphs instead of (only) performing complex numerical calculations, controlling intricate machinery, and keeping inventories and payrolls up-to-date.

Corporate Xerox was unimpressed with the Alto. It was expensive, and who needed a personal computer anyway? “Personal computer” sounded like “personal aircraft carrier.” The market had to be smallish. Xerox accordingly made a deal with Apple whereby a group from Apple was ushered into the top-secret research boudoir in Palo Alto and allowed to look and ask questions. Jobs led the Apple group, and he understood right away that the Xerox researchers had done something tremendous. They had made an easy-to-use computer that spoke pictures instead of numbers. Jobs saw that a cheap version of this elegant computer might be gigantically popular and hugely important. And he ran the project that rolled out the Apple Macintosh in 1984.” (see full WSJ article by David Gelernter at GelernterArticle )

Xerox saw no potential in the device so they let the Apple Engineers come in and see their wonderful invention!

“Real artists ship” or Real innovators go to market!

Steve Jobs and Apple did not invent the GUI, or the Icon, or the mouse, or really any of the features that made the Mac revolutionary – the guys at PARC did – but Jobs and Apple brought the Mac to market. As Steve jobs said in the Atlantic link below: “Real Artists Ship”. Xerox invented; Apple innovated.

Coolest Show on earth (WSJ)   GelernterArticle

Praise for Bad Steve – The Atlantic

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4 Responses to Real Innovators Ship: Innovation versus Invention

  1. As a writer, this speaks to me. I don’t want to write in my closet hiding my thoughts, I want to “take them to market” and give them room to wander and change lives.

  2. gschirr says:

    Wow! Thanks!!

  3. gschirr says:

    Thanks for the GREAT feedback!

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