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Personal Computing, Not Personal Computers Norman M. Epstein* At E.F. Hutton we do not believe in personal computers, but we do believe in personal computing. This is more than a semantic difference. It affects the technology applied, the philosophy we adhere to, and the planning that went into our system. Although we think our approach is a very obvious and logical one, apparently others do not. It reminds me of the famous story of Louis Pasteur and the maggots. In Pasteur's day people be- lieved that maggots came from decaying meat because every place there was decaying meat there were maggots. But Pasteur, being a scientist, took decaying meat, put it in a large bell j ar, and covered the bell j ar with gauze. He came back three days later and found the maggots on top of the gauze, proving that maggots came from gauze. In short, the system has to suit you. And if you look around, no one is wearing the same suit. Our organization would seem to be a perfect cancliclate for personal computers. We have 400 branch offices around the world and a campus in lower Manhattan with 6,000 people in 12 buildings. We have 9,000 people in the field, 6,000 account executives, and 3,000 people in support positions. Our goal has been to automate the operation in the field. There *Norman M. Epstein is executive vice-president and director of E.F. Hutton Group and E.F. Hutton and Company, Inc., New York, New York. 130
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COMPUTING, NOT COMPUTERS 131 fore, our approach might not work for a company with 14,000 peo- ple in one builcling. Currently, each of our 6,000 account executives has a single ter- minal on a desk. These terminals are caller} branch information- processing system terminals (BIPs). The terminal comes out of a dual-port CPU (central processing unit), and (lata comes from two different networks, Bunker Ramo ant! our own. When our system is complete everyone in the firm except tele- phone operators and porters will have a terminal. Everyone. The multipurpose use of this terminal is the most important aspect of our system. We have a limited amount of space on a desk, and we are going to accommodate it by having one terminal. That one terminal may be supplied by Data General, by IBM, by Wang, by Bunker Ramo. But no matter who makes it, each terminal will have access into all the databases. The secondary function of each terminal determines the reason for selecting a particular product. For example, the Bunker Ramo terminal is selected because it is a market data system, the Wang terminal because it has certain word processing capabilities, the Data General terminal because it ties into our operations and communications. How are our operations and communications tied together? We start with head-end computers that create the databases and sup- ply information at corporate headquarters. The next level down consists of about 35 Data General Eclipses located at regional offices around the worIcI. Why do we have a distributed network around the world? Most people involved with personal computing know that when you hit the button and have to wait any length of time for a response, you're in trouble. The reason for the ctistrib- uted network is very simple: hit the button, get a response. Obvi- ously, when the computer is in the branch you can talk much faster. This part of the system provides only the data. There is nothing fancy about the technology, no state-of-the-art breakthroughs. We have simply recognized that if having data in a central Toca- tion does not give adequate response time economically, we must move the data out. At the next level is the branch information processing system. It is the integrated architecture of the network. It consists of 400 Data General MV-4000s, one in each branch. The MV-4000 is larger than the computer that ran all of E.F. Hutton's communi- cations a dozen years ago. It is basically a 2-megabyte machine, .6
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132 MANAGING MICROCOMPUTERS MTPS (mega-instructions per second), and 350 million characters of storage. This is an awesome box, and it is sitting in a branch office. The terminal hangs off this box, with high-speed, dual mode printers and a local database for very rapid response time and for personal computing. At the bottom of the hierarchy, the terminal level, the branch information processing system has the ability to grow whereas the personal computer does not. And the system can grow in the same box, for the terminals do not need to change. They are essen- tially just a light bulb and a screen. The brains of that terminal sits in the branch office. We estimate that one MV-4000 can ac- commociate 30 or 35 terminals. And, in general, we have three terminals to one letter quality printer. Theselevels headquarters, region, branch, anciterminal- are the fabric of our communications and data processing capability, ant! they are all interconnected. The host complex controls the distributed information system and the distributed information system controls the branch processing. Users can reach around it or through it to get to whatever level they want. From my perspective, the frequently asked question of who owns the data is the wrong question. We ought to ask who main- tains the data. With our system, who "owns" it is irrelevant, since anybody who wants it and is approved can get it. This system makes data available to anybody anywhere in the world. Each machine is individually adciressable and assignable and has its own name, and each user has his or her own sign-on cocle. The end result is that one computer communications resource is providing information to approximately 10,000 terminals. Basically, the hardware is secondary; primarily what we JO is provide a termi- nal, and the person using that terminal has the smarts of the com- puter behind it. One of the problems we used to have involved gateways. In the past there was only one way out of a branch office. That was via a teletype system that was part of our network. Information was passed from functional areas to communications areas and then out. The new system solves that problem. Everyone who has a terminal has a gateway out of the office. One of the most important management issues is that beyond a certain point you can't pay people more money to HO a better job. And people who are capable of doing a better job won't necessar- ily stay with a company just for more money. To solve the prob
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134 AIANAGING MICROCOMPUTERS branch offices, but also to our customers. With a million cus- tomers, we are looking for a reasonable response of 5,000 clients by the end of 1984. This system cost 40 million dollars. For us, the cost-benefits are really very simple. E.F. Hutton is a firm on the leading edge. As such, we cannot afford not to have such a system; we cannot af- forc3 to be second. Our alternative is not to be in business. There- fore, it is not a question of if, it is a question of who. We chose Data General because its hardware is significantly more powerful than the other computers we investigated. We received an operating system with add-one and improvements written in to keep us competitive. We estimate that we can justify the cost of the system over a period of three to five years, and we anticipate its life cycle will be more than seven years. This is unusual because we generally blow our computers before their leases expire. In fact, I have never kept a computer until term. The company simply cannot afford to keep computers that are no longer efficient and economical. The cost, as far as I'm concerned, is dependent upon the mis- sion. And realizing the mission of an organization raises the issue of management control. Yet, strangely enough, in all the talk about personal computers, we don't hear much about managers' ability to control the work. To me, on-line personal computing means giving away or abdicating a great amount of responsibil- ity. And, as a businessman, ~ must wonder how I can control what I have given away. For this reason I view the personal computer as a dangerous weapon and I treat it as such. I think the first and most important question to ask when considering a personal computing system is, can ~ control this? If the answer is yes, and I am satisfied with the level of control I can exercise over the system, then I would choose it. If not, I wouic3 look for something else. There is a vast array of options from which to choose. My advice is to take the best and leave the rest.