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George Morrow, 69; Designer Helped Start PC Industry

May 12, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

George Morrow, who helped create the personal computer industry in the 1970s, has died. He was 69.

Morrow died at his home in San Mateo, Calif., on Wednesday. For the last year, he suffered from aplastic anemia.

A native of Detroit who dropped out of high school, Morrow resumed his education in his mid-20s, receiving a physics degree from Stanford and a master's in mathematics from University of Oklahoma.

Later, when he was in the mathematics doctorate program at UC Berkeley, he became active in the Homebrew Computer Club, an informal group of engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs who ultimately formed dozens of companies at the core of the fledgling PC industry.

Morrow founded MicroStuf, later renamed Thinker Toys, then Morrow Designs. The company sold expansion cards and add-on products for the first generation of PCs.

The self-taught computer designer helped to create a standardized S-100 bus, an internal hardware design that supported expansion card slots to add functions to a computer.

Morrow also introduced a portable computer to compete with the popular Osborne 1 computer and later sold a popular portable design known as the Pivot to Zenith Data Systems. But in 1986, as large electronics companies such as IBM Corp. began to dominate the market, Morrow Designs filed for bankruptcy.

"No one ever promised me a rose garden," Morrow once said about the bankruptcy. "I think that I have to blame myself more than anyone else for it."

The quotable Morrow, who compiled a little red book called "Quotations from Chairman Morrow," also once said, "Being in the microcomputer business is like going 55 miles an hour 3 feet from a cliff."

In recent years, Morrow spent his time maintaining a collection of 70,000 78-rpm recordings. He also did audio restoration work on 1920s and '30s jazz and dance-band music recordings under his label, the Old Masters.

Of this, he told Billboard magazine, "We all sort of know that we're in the process of preserving this music for coming generations -- whether they appreciate or want it" or not.

His wife, Michiko Jean Morrow, said Friday: "He lived life very fully, going full speed all the time"

"I think the PC industry benefited from his enthusiasm," she added.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons and a daughter.



In His Words

Quotations from George Morrow:

"Being in the microcomputer business is like going 55 miles an hour 3 feet from a cliff."

"The only industrial costs software companies have is the printing of serial numbers."

"A consultant is someone who's called in when someone has painted himself into a corner. He's expected to levitate his client out of that corner."

"I believe in standards. Everyone should have one."

"Computer companies are like desert flowers. They bloom overnight, and they're gone."

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