Greetings from Bill
BY BILL GIBBS, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, GIBBS & ASSOCIATES
Optimism? Has it been a while since you felt optimistic about your business? If you watch the news you will constantly be reminded that our country, and most others, have big problems. National debt, unemployment, European debt, Grecian debt, global warming, rising health care costs, a dysfunctional government. The list seems endless. Is it really as bad as it seems? Is there no hope?
Let’s consider our sources of information. The media sensationalize everything to increase ratings. Our politicians radicalize everything to garner support for personal gain. Adjusting for these distortions, we are still left with serious problems, but I believe they are solvable, at least based upon some good news in manufacturing. To cite a couple of examples: Automotive manufacturing is coming back, worldwide, while efficiency is increasing in general manufacturing – think MTM machines – and manufacturing jobs are becoming more attractive to the young generation, who can’t find jobs in their primary fields.
So there is cause for optimism. Gibbs is enjoying its 2nd year of good growth and profitability since the collapse. I’m cautiously optimistic, and looking forward to a good 2012, not just for us but for all our customers.
While thinking about the state of the industry, I thought about our modest beginning, which closely follows the beginning of another company who lost its founder on October 5th. That led me to write the following.
From the Mac to CAM
It seems fitting, with the recent passing of Steve Jobs, for me to extend to him a posthumous “thank you.” Were he still here, he would not understand this. He and I never met, and to the best of my knowledge he was never aware of my business efforts. Yet, in a very real way, he is responsible for my lifetime of CAM with Gibbs and Associates.
In my early years (I am an old guy), I was exposed to the beginning of NC machining while I worked as a mechanical engineer and tried to earn a degree in Computer Science. I thought there were great things in store for computers even though the computers of the 1970s were big things programmed with punched-paper cards.
I was hired to develop CAM software in 1978. However, that educational experience ended in 1982 when my parent company, a machine tool dealer, went bankrupt due to the defense manufacturing recession in California. Unemployment wasn’t much fun, so I became a self-employed contract NC programmer. I used an early CAM system, which ran on a DEC mini computer. A monitor in those days was a display of 24 rows, 80 characters each. I had a pen plotter for graphics. (This was before the IBM PC and DOS.) I decided that there was good, honest money in programming parts for people and that I was done with the CAM software business because it hadn’t ended well for me.
This all changed in July of 1984 when a friend told me I had to find an Apple store and see this new thing called a Macintosh. I asked, “Whatever for? The Apple II and Apple III are no big thing.” He said, “Trust me. Go look at the Macintosh.”
So I did, and I fell in love at first sight. I had never seen a mouse before. I had never seen graphics on a monitor like this before, or ever seen a graphic user interface. The store had to ask me to leave after I had been playing with it for an hour or so. And damn! They were expensive. But I had a plan. I knew about OEM and VAR deals. I got five friends who all wanted Macs to chip in. I called Apple and spun a tale about wanting to develop CAM software on the Mac—something I could talk about. I wasn’t being especially honest with them because I had no intention of actually doing this, but their VAR program let me buy five Macs at half price. I said, “Great! Where do I send the check?”
Then, they explained that I would need to be surveyed by an Apple rep at “my offices.” What offices? I rented room for a desk in a small industrial space shared with a small, four-man software company and an accountant. The other renters offered to help, and for one day they acted as my employees. The rep showed up, thought I was okay, and we filled in the paper work. We got to “company name,” and I didn’t have one. Not to be deterred, he suggested “Gibbs and Associates,” and completed the form. And I got the computers.
I’m not sure when I changed my mind about making CAM software, but I knew the graphic interface would be so great for NC programming, I had to do it. And so, the tale became reality, and Gibbs and Associates started making CAM software.
As they say, the rest is history. We changed to the IBM PC and Windows in the ‘90s due to popularity issues. Today, we are part of the Cimatron Group, one of the largest specialty CAM companies around, still servicing our customers with great products. And it all started with Steve Jobs’ Macintosh computer. Thanks for everything, Steve.
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