Claris Corporation – 1991

Wait, I was still working for Claris…

After we shipped AppleWorks GS 1.0, we dispersed to various teams within Claris. I ended up on the FileMaker team, got called back to do the last versions of AppleWorks GS, and then rejoined the team. We were a great team, but I was a latecomer, and was finding difficulty having any positive impact on the team other than fixing really, really hard memory bugs (a skill that I just don’t need much anymore. Modern environments are SO much better).

At some point in late 1990, the team was ushered into a room, where the director of our division (my grand-boss) and the CTO gave a presentation on this new threat to Mac OS. It was the first time I saw Windows 3.0. It was in beta.

Introducing Microsoft Windows 3.0
From my mother’s papers

It was good enough. You could do any basic thing in Windows that you could do on the Mac. One could imagine that if the big Mac apps, like Framemaker, Photoshop, Quark Express, etc., made a Windows version, it could be viable. And it ran on cheaper hardware than a Mac.

Management was telling us that they were going to start work on porting FileMaker to Windows. To be fair, when Claris purchased FileMaker from Nashoba, there was already a skunkworks project to do just that (based on Windows 2). And one of my StyleWare colleagues had been working in what amounted to an internal lab to help that process out. The plan was to take the former Nashoba manager who had kept the project alive for years, the StyleWare guy, and hire a couple more programmers to make this real.

As the meeting ended, I went up to the assembled FileMaker managers. There was the aforementioned director, the CTO, my boss, and the Nashoba manager.

“I want to work on the Windows port.”

They looked stunned. They looked back and forth to each other.

I continued.

“I am not yet contributing features to FileMaker on the Mac; I am doing bug-fixing and tools work. While I have no Windows or DOS experience, I do have experience with low-level logic, compilers, and assembly. I would love the opportunity to get in on the ground floor on this project. I don’t see that opportunity on the Mac.”

My manager spoke up and said, “Let us talk about it. Give us a couple of days?”

They took me up on it. So, I got a Dell PC, and started work (I got the first 486 at Claris… It was sweet…) I won’t go into the details much, but I did manage to get in on the beta of Borland Pascal…

Things looked good.

Meanwhile, Claris was ramping up to go public. While Apple owned the company at this point, the plan all along was to spin it out so Apple would have a good stories when its developers claimed that Apple’s software was competing with theirs. And they were looking into doing that. The executives had a traveling road show that they were showing investors, and some people in suits would be shown around the building.


One Monday morning, that abruptly changed. We were called into an all-hands meeting, where it was announced that Apple was not going to spin us out. All outstanding Claris stock was going to be converted to cash, and the IPO was cancelled.

The FileMaker teams were then immediately called to another meeting. It was announced that we were cancelling plans for all Windows products that we had been working on (FileMaker, though first, was not the only one). I asked what was going to happen to the three of us who had been working on it, and was told to sit tight. Document everything we can; get all of our code checked in, but hold tight…

I started working on a resume for the first time since college. I also scheduled meetings with the directors in software engineering, and eventually, the VP of Engineering. All of the directors told me that hiring was frozen until things shook out with the Apple buyback.

It took several days to work through all of them. On Friday, when I met with the VP, he told me to “hold off on floating my resume”, and to “go home early today and enjoy the weekend”, and that “I think Monday will bring about some big changes.”

Huh.

I went to work on Monday, and we had yet another all FileMaker meeting. We were told that when the Claris management had told the Apple Board of Directors that all of the Windows products had been canned, the Board told them that they had missed the point, and that one of the reasons that they had spun us back in was so that Apple had something generating revenue from Windows. The long-term strategy had FileMaker Pro for Windows as a key piece.

Huh.

So. I got to keep my job. And we had positions open up. And we hired a team. And I eventually got a modest cash payout for my Claris stock options. And an Apple stock grant (which was worthless for 10+ years but would have been worth a boatload today). And they level-adjusted our salaries, which meant that most of us got a significant raise.

We shipped FileMaker Pro for Windows in October, 1992. It turned out to be a good thing, but it was sure scary there for a while.

FileMaker Pro 2.0 for Windows (1992)
Yeah, I know I posted this picture before, but I am posting it again just because I can.
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2 thoughts on “Claris Corporation – 1991

  1. Pingback: Apple Computer – 2000 – Recruited by Tech

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