George Morrow (computers)
George Morrow (January 30, 1934 - May 7, 2003) was part of the early microcomputer industry in the United States. Morrow promoted and improved the S-100 bus used in many early microcomputers. Called "one of the microcomputer industry's iconoclasts" by Richard Dalton in the Whole Earth Software Catalog, Morrow was also a member of the Homebrew Computer Club.
Born in Detroit in 1934, Morrow was a high school dropout. At the age of 28, he decided to return to school, receiving a bachelor's degree in physics from Stanford University, followed by a master's degree in mathematics from the University of Oklahoma. He sought a PhD in mathematics from UC Berkeley, but while there became fascinated by computers and began working as a programmer in the computer lab there. Meanwhile, the Altair 8800 made its debut in 1975, and Morrow began attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club.
Starting in 1976, he designed and sold computers, computer parts, and accessories under several company names, including Thinker Toys (changed after CBS threatened a suit as it was too close to their trademark Tinker Toys) and restarted the business as Morrow Designs. His initial product was an 8080 board with an octal-notation keypad, but it proved unappealing to hobbyists who preferred the binary notation and flip switches of the Altair 8800. Afterwards, he attempted a 16-bit machine based on the National Semiconductor PACE CPU with the help of Bill Godbout, Chuck Grant, and Mark Greenberg. Differences between him and the latter two led to their leaving to found North Star Computers. He then sold 4 KB S-100 memory boards before attempting a new computer with Howard Fulmer in 1977.
The Equinox 100 was a powerful machine in an attractive cabinet, but failed to attract much attention as it used an 8080 at a time when the Z80 was rapidly taking over. Morrow turned to selling floppy drives for S-100 machines. The package (which proved quite popular) included an 8" external drive, controller board, CP/M, and CBASIC. In 1982, he issued the Morrow Micro Decision line, a group of single-board Z80 machines designed to answer the high price of computer hardware. A single-drive 200k system sold for under $2000 equipped with a terminal, which placed it squarely in competition with the other CP/M systems, they were respectable business machines with "no sex appeal" but an extensive software bundle, and came in a desktop case like the IBM Displaywriter they were intended to compete against.
The CP/M platform was rapidly displaced by the newer (yet very similar) MS-DOS/PC-DOS platforms. The 16-bit 8086 architecture of the new machines enabled them break the 64 KB RAM limit of CP/M and address up to a megabyte of RAM. CP/Ms fortunes weren't helped by the user-oriented marketing of Microsoft and IBM and the lack of same by Digital Research.
In 1986, Morrow released its first IBM-compatible computer, a lunchbox portable known as the Morrow Pivot II (based on its unique form factor where neither the keyboard nor the monitor folded away from the case). Produced by an outside OEM manufacturer, the same model was also sold by Zenith Data Systems as the Z-171. In addition to its lower cost and more prominent brand name, Zenith won an extremely profitable contract to sell computers to the US government, after the President of Morrow Designs left to go to work for Zenith. Morrow filed for bankruptcy by the end of the year.
Following the collapse of his computer businesses, Morrow devoted the rest of his life to his hobby of collecting original 78 RPM jazz and dance records from the 1920s and '30s. Until his death, he digitally transcribed and restored thousands of recordings using a computer system he developed, reissuing them under his Old Masters label. He died in May 2003 from aplastic anemia.
- "Whole Earth Software Catalog full text".
- "InfoWorld Jun 14 1982".
- "Morrow Designs advertisement". Byte. Vol. 8 no. 1. January 1983. pp. 362–363.
- John Markoff (2003): Computer visionary George Morrow dies or here
- Willams, Tom (February 14, 1979). "Hazards & Opportunities in the Micro Market: Interview with Thinker Toy's George Morrow". Intelligent Machine Journal. 1 (3): 2. ISSN 0199-6649.