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Garage Startup Develops "Personal Computer" 80

Posted by timothy
from the doomed-from-the-start dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "In the summer of 1980, MIT graduates Donald Faber and Peter Haberle moved into an empty two-car garage and started work building the first-ever 'personal home computer.' Now almost 30 years later, what began as a humble two-man operation has since grown into an even more humble, even more cramped computer company, based out of an even smaller single-car garage. According to Faber and Haberle, a lot has changed since Xalaga was first founded. What was once a struggling $7,500-a-year business with only a dozen or so paying customers is now a desperate $6,400-a-year business with only a half dozen or so paying customers. Faber, who turned down a promising position with GE in order to start Xalaga, a decision he now says he regrets each and every waking day, told reporters that he knew almost immediately that his company had something not-at-all special on its hands. 'We sold only one computer that first year, then the following year it was three computers, then suddenly 10 computers, then just as suddenly five computers, then back down to three computers again, and finally only one or two machines every other year for pretty much the next decade,' said Faber, standing up from the plastic milk crate that now serves as his desk. 'Had someone told us when we first started that we'd be here today, operating out of a much smaller, somehow less expensive garage, we probably would have laughed right in their face.'"
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Garage Startup Develops "Personal Computer"

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  • What (Score:2, Informative)

    by jwinster (1620555)
    An onion article that I read IN PRINT yesterday is getting passed off as an April Fool's joke on slashdot? For shame.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zero_out (1705074)
      It's still funnier than the majority of the 'jokes' posted today. We always hear about the small companies that took a change, started from humble beginnings, and became a smashing success. How often do we hear about the failed ones that never get off the ground? It's comedy worthy of Brits.
      • Re:What (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mewsenews (251487) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @04:48PM (#31703214) Homepage

        I want to mod up your comment. The Onion is top-rate satire, this particular article is a send-up of every glowing story you read about the "garage tech company" that grows into a sprawling billion-dollar business.

        The horrible part is that The Onion posted it two weeks ago and Slashdot had to dredge it up to add some legit humour to this horrible April Fools day garbage on the front page :(

      • by Quirkz (1206400) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @05:56PM (#31703422) Homepage
        Well, I can tell you about the web design business I started with a couple of friends, where we landed one job, did the site, and the customer kept making changes and never got around to paying us the measly $300 we asked her for. Then I moved to another state and we broke up.

        Or the time I got into the business of a web site that would rate fine restaurants in large cities. We started in Chicago where we lived, and one of the partners insisted on spending $600 on flashy business cards (glossy, with embossed silver ink in the company name--1000 cards for each of the three founders. I used 2 of mine, total. Still have the other 998 because I'm a packrat). Then we stumbled along for a year putting together the site and doing legal stuff, only to realize that not a single restaurant wanted to pay for our services, primarily because no other restaurants were already customers. How do you get customers without having customers? There's probably a good answer, but about that time (2001) Zagat's got a few million in venture capital to go online and do everything we were doing and more. So we closed up shop, settled our bills (of which the business cards represented about 75%), and that was that.

        There's also the web site about nothing that a friend and I started with the idea we'd make a mint selling people themselves (if we're nothing, anything we sell had to come from the visitor, right?), but we got so bogged down in artistic philosophy and bad puns (nothing's better! nothing to lose! much ado about nothing ...) that we never even built the site.

        I also once wrote a novel, which remains unpublished. I think it's a good novel. A distant family connection who works in editing gave it decent marks. Somehow I've never gotten around to polishing it up and actually submitting the darn thing anywhere.

        I worked for some other guys, out of their basement, over the course of a year as they tried to start a "help people build online stores" franchise. The only customer was some neighbors who agreed to try it when we gave them the kit for free, and who then never did a thing with it. Literally zero minutes spent trying to use our stuff. Not that I blame them.

        Same guys hired me to write a book for their online darts store. Book never sold any copies. They had a plan to offer it as a bonus reward for large orders, but then sold the darts store. Come to think of it, that might not be entirely a failure. Except one of the two guys had to give up his part-time basement job and start commuting an hour and a half each way every day, and I'd call that a pretty big disappointment on his part.

        Same guys also had me start another online store. It sold some product, but the credit card fees were so ridiculous after a few months we realized we were actually losing money on every sale, so that had to go.

        Then they started a dog frisbees store. Business was good, but the hosting company was so messed up when we tried to cancel a few other domains they simply canceled everything, and then held the site name hostage for thousands of dollars when we wanted it back.

        Then they tried some other frisbee stores. Despite bountiful volumes of sales, neither they nor the shipper bothered to keep track of actual sales or profits--for a few months they kept all the money that came in, and then the shipper realized he was supposed to be getting reimbursed for the cost of shipping and the original cost of the frisbees he was buying to ship on their behalf. So he started keeping all of the money that came in, to make up for back payments, trying to calculate what was owed by weighing the stack of printed invoices and guessing at the number of pieces of paper and the average sales value. Last I heard, it had been 3 years, and they still hadn't gotten back up to even.

        ... so, uh, yeah. I think that's why we don't hear about most of those failed business stories.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      At least this story made me seriously think WTF and even made me smile. A bit.

      And with that it beat the rest of this year's April Fool's stories hands down. The rest wasn't even remotely funny. Let alone believable.

  • by Jazz-Masta (240659) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @04:04PM (#31702948)

    Sadly this is the story of 99% of all start ups and home based businesses.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by need4mospd (1146215)
      That's not sad. Most people have no business, running a business.
      • by tsa (15680)

        Like me. I'm so happy I could fold my company after three months! No one was interested in what I had to offer, and I learned that I much rather work for someone else than myself.

    • by arielCo (995647) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @04:50PM (#31703230)

      More often than not, non-slapstick humor stems from insight, even if shallow. The Onion relies solidly on this effect and it may get old; I noticed their style before hovering my pointing-thingy over the fine link.

      Now, this is a deserved slap in the face to the romantic visions we're in love with. Every year we dismburse large sums in movie theaters to see renditions of David-vs-Goliath, rags-to-riches, where the underdog wins through skill, perseverance or just being the good guy. Wake up and smell the (occassional) fail!

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @04:04PM (#31702954)

    It took me time to realize this is "April Fool's Day." Dear editor, please warn members because it's quite frustrating to realise much later on that it's April Fool's day. Now I do not know which story to believe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by c++0xFF (1758032)

      Now I do not know which story to believe.

      None of 'em. Seriously.

    • by jwietelmann (1220240) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @04:10PM (#31702994)
      Just go back to the Onion site and search for articles that aren't filed on April 1st. Those are the real ones.
      • by craznar (710808)
        Well given this article was filed on April 2nd (according to Slashdot) - makes it difficult to see the joke.

        Note to slashdot - preserve original data/time zone information for April fools crap.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      your better off just treating everything on the internet as a joke no matter what day it is.

    • You take stories seriously any other day?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by redkcir (1431605)
      Did you notice that it was on "the Onion" website? That's all "the Onion" is, a site with a comedy take on everything. Check out some of their vids and you will understand.
    • by aftab14 (1386467)

      It took me time to realize this is "April Fool's Day." Dear editor, please warn members because it's quite frustrating to realise much later on that it's April Fool's day. Now I do not know which story to believe.

      The story has been posted on 'Friday April 02, @01:58AM' on /. and the TFA has been posted on March 22, 2010. So, 'April Fool's day' joke does not apply to this article, IMHO.

  • The Onion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday April 01, 2010 @04:07PM (#31702978) Homepage Journal

    I always thought the Onion should post real news on April 1st, not that their rendition on the news is that far from the truth anyway. And not like this article is even from today.

  • OLD STORY!! this is 2010!
  • Redwood City, CA -- dateline. Geek who's been around for any longer than a couple years decides not to ignore Slashdot on April 1, and weed through all the lame jokes looking for actual, interesting stuff. Haha! April Fools!

  • Who would buy a computer called, "Xalaga".
  • by e2d2 (115622)

    Slashdot editors - I will come to your house and battle you in PVP until I chop off your arms you sick sons a bitches.

  • Slashdot sucks on April Fools day See you guys tomorrow.
  • /. is failing to entertain in this April fools day.
  • Is that some sort of typo or something? That's just crazy-talk, that's what that is! Who ever heard of such a thing! Who would need something like that, anyway?
  • It's last week's news...

  • by pspahn (1175617) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @08:20PM (#31704000)
    There is pizza and drinks in the lunch room. Come help yourselves.
  • The article says *their* first personal computer. In 1980, the Apple II was 3 years old and VisiCalc had been out for a year. Nobody was creating *the* first PC at that time.

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