Edited by Lester Earnest [LES] <les at cs.stanford.edu>
Hans Moravec [HPM] at work
This is a work in progress that aims at listing all spinoff organizations and services that came out of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) and its related research groups called Spinners. As it stands, this listing is substantially incomplete in that a number of entries show only the name of an organization so far without the information on who created it and how that happened. There are also many entries that have been reported to me by email but not yet entered here. Note that three letter identifiers, such as LES and HPM above, were used to log into the SAIL computer system during its remarkable 25 year life.
This listing attempts to cover both first level spinoffs that were formed by SAILors and are marked below with “>” and second level spinoffs, marked with “>>”, that were formed by people from first level spinoffs or were first level spinoffs that were purchased by, or merged with, another entity. There also have been some third and higher level spinoffs but we won't go there for now.
These organizations are not all high tech. For example, LES lists several bicycle racing organizations that he founded or co-founded in attempts at reforming that sport, which has been corrupted by commercial interests led by a Turner Broadcasting executive and a San Francisco investment banker who developed teams with the most successful doping programs in the history of the sport, featuring Lance Armstrong and others.
Acknowledgement and Invitation. Some of this material draws on the writings of Carolyn Tajnai, a former Stanford Computer Science Department administrator. Readers are invited to notify the Editor about additional entities that fit the above descriptions and, where available, provide a listing of founders and what the organization did, either as a short description (up to a page) or a link to an external web page of any size. We are aware that we have barely scratched the surface of spinoff companies so far.
Spinoffs Identified So Far
>> 3Com was co-founded in 1979 by Robert Metcalfe, et al as a spinoff from Level-1 spinoff Xerox PARC and focused on deploying the Ethernet technology that Metcalfe had co-invented, which enabled local networking of computers.
> AcuityMobile, Inc. (2003-2009, originally named MobileComNetworks), founded by Chuck Rieger [CJR], designed and licensed a location-aware mobile information delivery platform named "MapPost", which was based on several of Rieger's U.S. patents. Using the platform an organization could broadcast a message to mobile users who were currently inside of a bounded map region, or who subsequently entered it. Acuity was acquired in 2009 by NAVTEQ/Nokia, which gave Rieger a position as an R&D fellow until he left in 2012. He filed several more patents on their behalf, covering a Bluetooth low energy system named "AisleCaster", for indoor use (stores, malls, etc.)and which could deliver information to users as they moved around, with a positional accuracy of about 5 feet.
>> Alphabet (formerly called Google) is composed of several semi-independent entities including >> Google, which continues to provide web-search services, YouTube, which originally arose independently, and > Waymo which is continuing to develop self-driving vehicles derived from those created by Sebastian Thrun and his Stanford students who recreated SAIL beginning in 2003.
>> Apple Computers was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976 after they were introduced to interactive computing by LES when they attended the Homebrew Computer Club’s early visit to SAIL in 1975. As soon as Apple started, a number of SAIL people joined in and did much of the early development. Larry Tesler who had earlier moved from SAIL to Xerox PARC, joined Apple to develop advanced interactive software for their Lisa computer, which turned out to be too expensive to succeed. Tesler had earlier done advanced program development at SAIL including PUB, a document compiler with futuristic formatting including the first spreadsheets. At PARC, he developed the first WYSIWYG text editor (What You See Is What You Get). In further work at Apple he helped develop their first tablet, the Newton. Another early contributor from SAIL was Jef Raskin [JEF] who initiated development of the Macintosh computer but was eventually fired by an arrogant jerk named Steve Jobs.
> Atherton Fiber founded by Mike Farmwald [PMF] in 2015, provides high performance internet service using fiber optics for the city of Atherton, California.
> Black Hole Fund created by Richard Weyrauch [RWW]. In the late 1970s RWW figured that money could be made by creating a computer program that spotted trends in the commodities market and generated trades. He put a program together, tested it on historical data and found that it made money like a printing press. He then organized an investment club within SAIL and sold shares for $5,000 each. Whereas most investment organizations warn new clients about the possible downside of investing, he built the warning into the name – the Black Hole Fund.
Many people in SAIL each bought a share and some went for more. Happily, a month after launch these shares had appreciated considerably and as time went by they went up even more, reaching somewhere around $8,000 within a few months. They then began to slip at an increasing rate and, when the fund reached a preset cutoff, at around half the initial value, it was liquidated. We later learned that the automatic trading program had indeed spotted a trend but it turned out to be the attempt by the Hunt Brothers of Texas to corner the silver market, which failed spectacularly, bankrupted them and costing the investors big bucks.
> Catapult Communications founded by Dick Karp [RAK] made high-end telecom test equipment and went public in 1999. In 2009 it was sold to Ixia, another test equipment company, for $110 million.
> Cisco, a router manufacturer crookedly founded by Len Bosack [LB] et al. Here is more information, with still more to come:
Š A start-up's true tale by Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News, 2012.12.01. Often-told story of Cisco's launch leaves out the drama, intrigue.
Š Router Man by John Dix, Network World, 2006.03.07. The creator of the multiprotocol router reflects on the development of the device that fueled the growth of networking.
Š Cisco Fiasco to be written by LES. How to start a successful business by stealing technology and embezzling start-up money, then getting the victim organization to buy your stock and grant a very generous license, then put their Dean of Engineering on your Board of Directors and fund an Endowed Chair in the names of the chief crooks.
> Computer Center Corporation (CCC) recruited three SAIL people in 1968, namely Steve Russell [SRR], Dick Gruen [RPG] and Bill Weiher [WFW] to put together a commercial timesharing service in Seattle using a DEC-10 computer. They imported SAIL’s software and, following a SAIL tradition, they invited in bright high school students to play with the computer to see if they could break it. Among those who came from Lakeside High School were Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who later had rather successful careers in the computer software business. Gates said he particularly liked the SAIL programming language, a dialect of Algol-60.
> Computer History Museum co-founded by Len Shustek [LJS], LES, Ed Feigenbaum [EAF] & ?? The leading computer history museum in the world, which exhibits devices from SAIL, including robotic arms and the Stanford Cart.
> Copernican Group founded in 1988 by Earl Sacerdoti [EDS]. A consulting organization specializing in software technology transfer. Sacerdoti maintains that software is NOT at the center of the universe! Major clients have included Apple Computer, Ashton-Tate, Bell Atlantic, Pacific Bell, Schlumberger, SEMATECH, Sun Microsystems, and Yaskawa Electric.
> CSAIL at MIT co-founded by Rod Brooks [ROD]. This research group, named the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, was created from earlier separate Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Projects and since SAIL was, in effect, a spinoff from the MIT AI Project, this is a kind of loopback spinoff.
> Cuil co-founded by Tom Costello, Bruce Baumgart [BGB], et al. A search engine start-up that didn't make it.
> D.E. Shaw & Co. hedge fund investment firm founded by David E Shaw [DES], a talented young entrepreneur who, while working on his dissertation at SAIL, recruited several others to undertake profitable high tech projects. However he was eventually coerced into going out of business by his thesis supervisor, so he settled for a PhD.
Shaw later got some experience on Wall Street then formed the very successful hedge fund called D.E. Shaw & Co. that pioneered the use of automatic trading, as discussed in an interesting CACM interview .
> D.E. Shaw Research founded by David E. Shaw [DES], who created this nonprofit researh firm to focus on biochemical technology by creating Anton, a special-purpose supercomputer designed to speed up molecular dynamics simulations by several orders of magnitude, a remarkable accomplishment.
>> eQuorum came out of a merger with Level-1 spinoff Image Machines Corporation and continues to market their advanced generation ImageSite product line, which competes with SAP and several other international brands.
> Expert Support co-founded in 1990 by Denny Brown [DPB].
>> Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, copied the social networking idea from FINGER (just below) and, being a scumbag, used it to make a lot of money by collecting personal information from individuals and selling it to other corrupt corporations. However, LES has a plan to create better social networking services that keep personal information confidential while destroying the Facebook scam.
> FIAC (Federation of Independent Associations for Cycling) co-founded by LES. Ran national bicycle racing programs independent of USA Cycling and overseen by Executive Director Les Earnest from 2000 to 2011, when it was blocked by an apparently erroneous court ruling granting monopoly power to crooked USA Cycling and subsequently donated its assets to NABRA to keep up the fight.
> FINGER social networking and blogging service. This program was originally created by LES starting in 1972 to snoop on SAILors, given that the lab operated 24/7. After other labs started using it independently, a networked version was created so that anyone anywhere on ARPAnet could keep track of their friends anywhere else on the net. However the users then flipped it over, turning it into a social network and started using its Plan file as a personal blogs. When the Internet was created FINGER moved there and came into widespread use and copycats began appearing following creation of the World Wide Web at the beginning of the new Millenium with mostly bad effects (e.g. see Facebook below). FINGER also came to be used to disseminate public keys for cryptography (see RSA below) and is still used a lot that way. For more background see How a nosy bureaucrat accidentally created the first social networking and blogging service.
> Foonly Inc., a computer design and manufacturing company founded by David Poole [DWP], Phil Petit [PMP], Jeff Rubin [JBR] that made computer systems functionally equivalent to the DEC-10 and DEC-20 families.
> Fund for Cycling Reform, a nonprofit partnership founded in 1999 by LES. Collected donations to support two successful lawsuits against the crooks who got control of USA Cycling.
>> Google, co-founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page who developed their search engine idea as Stanford students. Google was launched in August 1998 after they met with Andy Bechtolsheim [AVB] and David Cheriton on Cheriton's front porch and received $100,000 checks from each of them, drawing on funds they had earned from their Level-1 spinoff Sun Microsystems and Granite Systems, thus making it possible for them to start Google. Google has since been reorganized into a parent company called Alphabet with its ongoing search engine still being called Google.
A similar search engine called ROUT (Retrieval of Unformatted Text) had been developed about 30 years earlier at MITRE Corporation at the instigation of LES, for searching military intelligence files, but the Google founders apparently were not aware of it. ROUT used Boolean combinations of keywords and date ranges to retrieve documents.
> Granite Systems, co-founded by David Cheriton and Andy Bechtolsheim [AVB]. Developed gigabit Ethernet products and was acquired by Cisco Systems in 1996.
> Image Machines Corporation (1989-2003), founded by Chuck Rieger[CJR], designed and built raster image expand/compress accelerator boards for the (then) 386- and 486-based PC marketplace, as well as a Web-based engineering document management system named "ImageSite". IMC merged with an Atlanta-based firm (Cadnet) in 1999, and the merged organization was renamed eQuorum, which still exists and is still marketing an advanced generation ImageSite product line, which competes with SAP and several other international brands.
> Imagen Corp., laser printer manufacturer co-founded by LES, Luis Trabb Pardo [LTP], and Vic Scheinman [VDS]. (Story to be added).
> Information International Incorporated (III), also called “Triple Eye,” co-founded by Ed Fredkin [EF], John McCarthy [JMC] and Marvin Minsky [MMM].
> IntelliCorp, originally called IntelliGenetics, was co-founded by Ed Feigenbaum [EAF], . . .
> Intraspect Software
> iRobot, co-founded by Rod Brooks [ROD]. Makes the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner among other things.
> Kealia, co-founded by David Cheriton and Andy Bechtolsheim [AVB] and based in Palo Alto, designed a number of computer networking devices and was bought by Sun Microsystems in 2004, which was in turn gobbled up by Oracle in 2010.
> Logitech co-founded by Pierluigi Zappacosta [PLZ] to make mice and other computer peripherals.
> Midpeninsula Free University (MFU) Course Catalogs to be scanned and posted by LES. In the Hippie Era of the late 1960s a radical educational institution was self-organized and presented all kinds of courses, some using Stanford facilities such as SAIL. These courses included both traditional humanities, scientific and engineering classes as well as some far out topics.
Death of the Midpeninsula Free University (MFU) by Ed Fredkin [EF]. Here are my 45 year old recollections: The death of the Mid-Peninsula Free Universitywas actually inadvertently precipitated by actions of Stanford Professor John McCarthy and MIT Professor Edward Fredkin. John McCarthy [JMC] had introduced Ed Fredkin to MFU and Fredkin subscribed to the magazine published by MFU.
One day McCarthy called Fredkin and told him the following:“While the MFU magazine is quite a success with articles and art, there is a big interest in being able to publish it in color. Since MFU prints it themselves, what they needed was a color lithography printing system, at a cost of $5,000.” McCarthy asked if Fredkin could arrange to finance the purchase of that color printing system. He did so by giving the money to a charitable institution which was “encouraged” to give it to MFU for the new printing system.
Upon receipt of the money, the MFU leadership held an open meeting to approve the purchase. The Revolutionary Union packed the meeting, voted out the MFU leadership. Voted in new leadership and printed a black and white anti-establishment edition of the Magazine. The front page on one edition had an article titled “10 Ways to Off a Pig” which then listed 10 novel ways to murder a policeman and get away with it!
The RU later produced a revolutionary leaflet and used an airplane to drop those leaflets over Palo Alto. The police were furious, those responsible were arrested for littering. Since littering was merely a misdemeanor, the creative DA charged them with a more serious felony crime: Conspiring to litter! Meanwhile, MFU continued the process of disintegrating.
> Machine Intelligence Corporation (1978-1988) founded by Earl Sacerdoti [EDS]. Pioneered industrial machine vision. The company developed and marketed the first commercial vision-guided robot system together with Unimation. Sacerdoti said, "In 1988, we closed down after thirty-nine (!) consecutive losing quarters. Remaining assets were transferred to de la Rue Giori of America, which completed a project to develop a real-time money inspection system for banknote printing presses, now installed in several European sites."
>> Microsoft, co-founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who were introduced to computer programming in 1968 as high school students at Computer Center Corporation, a Level-1 spinoff operated by Steve Russell [SRR], Dick Gruen [RPG] and Bill Weiher [WFW] using SAIL software.
>> NABRA (North American Bicycle Racing Association), based in Oregon and a successor to FIAC, continues the fight for honest bicycle racing programs against the corrupt USA Cycling, which is affiliated with the corrupt U.S. Olympic Committee.
> Nestar Systems was founded in 1978 by Harry Saal (Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) researcher, 1969-1972), Leonard Shustek [LJS], and Nick Fortis (SLAC administrator, 1968-1972) based on their belief that the then-emerging affordable personal computers would evolve into more than toys, and that their usefulness would be multiplied many times by linking them to each other and to larger computers. According to Shustek, "We developed and sold what might well be the first networked client-server system of small computers, called the 'Cluster/One,' initially using local-area networks of our own design. The company was a classic case in which a few academic escapees, who know a little about engineering and nothing about business, get to learn on the job by making mistakes. Unfortunately, we made enough of them so that the company, although it grew to have 125 employees by 1985, was never a success. We, of course, like to think it was because we were ahead of our time."
> Netscape (1995-1999), founded by Jim Clark who had recruited Marc Andreessen as co-founder and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as investors. Made Netscape Navigator, the first commercial web browser. Eventually acquired by AOL . However Netscape released the source code for its browser and created the Mozilla Organization to coordinate future development of its product.
> Network General Corp. was founded in 1986 by Harry Saal and Leonard Shustek [LJS] after they left Nestar and decided to try again. Shustek said, "We saw that local area networks were becoming successful but were difficult to analyze and troubleshoot. We founded Network General Corporation to make tools to manage and diagnose problems in computer communication networks. The first product was 'The SnifferTM Network Analyzer,' a kind of microscope used to view the interactions between computers and tell you what's going on in understandable terms. We must have learned something from our Nestar experience--and/or gotten lucky--because Network General became an almost overnight success. We quickly dominated our tiny market niche and went public in 1989"
>> PARC, a spinoff from Xerox PARC which was a Level-1 spinoff from SAIL.
> Project ROSA (Reform the Olympic Sports Act), a secret national bicycle racing reform group founded by LES that is plotting to overthrow USA Cycling and the US Olympic Committee.
> Rambus founded by Mike Farmwald [PMF]
> Rethink Robotics co-founded by Rod Brooks [ROD]
> Robotics Institute at CMU founded by Raj Reddy [RAJ] & Hans Moravec [HPM]. Developed a number of robotic systems over the years and upon completion of his PhD there, Sebastian Thrun joined the Stanford Computer Science faculty and revived SAIL, then made the first successful automous road vehicle and took it to Google for further development.
> RSA public key cryptogrtaphy corporation co-founded by Ron Rivest [RLR] with Whit Diffie [WD] and Martin Hellman. Developed the first practical public key cryptography scheme, which many people and organizations now use to try to block snooping by U.S. governmental agencies such as NSA, CIA, FBI and others.
> SCION Corporation (1977-1985), founded by Chuck Rieger[CJR], designed and produced some of the early graphics products for the hobbyist S100 market (1977-1982), and the early PC market (1982-1985). Notable products were "Screensplitter", a text-based display card for S100 market with rudimentary windowing features - inspired by the early work at PARC, "Microangelo", a 640x480 monochrome raster display card with an onboard Z80 and firmware for drawing 2D graphics primitives like lines, circles, polygons with or without fill, etc., and "PC640, one of the first color adapters for the PC parket - 640x480, displayed 16 colors out of a 4096 color palette.
> Sequoia Systems, founded by Dick Karp [RAK], which made Unix-based fault-tolerant computers . sold to HP around 1982.
> Silicon Graphics (1982-2009), founded by Jim Clark who used to hang out at SAIL. It manufactured both computer hardware and software. Early systems were based on the Geometry Engine that Clark and Marc Hannah had developed.
> Softix founded by Bruce Baumgart [BGB] & Tom Gafford [TAG] with Bo Eross [BO]. Did Ticket Printer firmware.
> Sun Microsystems, co-founded by Andy Bechtolsheim [AVB]. See Sun Microsystem's somewhat crooked startup by LES. Due to mismanagement Sun later fell into hard times, then was purchased by Oracle and dismantled.
>> Symantec Corporation, founded in 1982, is a spinoff from Level-1 Machine Intelligence Corp. Earl Sacerdoti [EDS] believes Symantec is the first success of the US Government's Small Business Innovation Research program. Symantec develops, markets, and supports a diverse line of application and system software products designed to enhance individual and workgroup productivity as well as manage networked computing environments.
> Symbolics founded by Jack Holloway [H], who was also affiliated with MIT, made and manufactured a Lisp Machine that included a more radical version of the SAIL keyboard that, in addition to the Control and Meta keys had Super and Hyper keys which, singly or in combinations could make each of the regular keys do 16 different things, if you could keep track of all that.
> Tolfa founded by Larry Leifer (Mechanical Engineering Prof.), manufactures and markets a prosthesis that helps people with aphasia communicate, and is a commercialization of research performed at the Veterans Administration Rehabilitation Research and Development Center in Palo Alto under Leifer's direction. Earl Sacerdoti [EDS] was involved for a time.
>> Tymshare was a timesharing services company that developed its own computer network and, in 1969 acquired Computer Center Corporation (CCC), a Level-1 spinoff. Bill Weiher [WFW] moved to Tymshare as part of that acquisition. Tymshare was in turn acquired by McDonnell Douglas in 1984.
> USA Cycling the national governing body for bicycle racing, originated by LES but taken over by crooks.
> Valid Logic
> Vicarm robotic arm manufacturer founded by Vic Scheinman [VDS]
> Vidar Systems Corporation (1985-present), founded by Chuck Rieger[CJR], who left in 1989, designed and built large format engineering document scanners, and subsequently medical X-ray scanners and related software. Vidar eventually grew to about 120 people, and gained a second-place international market share behind a company named Contex.
> Xerox PARC started up with former SAIL Spinners Alan Kay [KAY], Bob Sproull [RFS], Dan Swinehart [DCS], and Larry Tesler [TES].