HOW IBM STARTED LEXMARK-CORP IN THE 80's ….
HOW IBM STARTED LEXMARK-CORP IN THE 80's ….
2009-10-16 at 10:45:57 am #22623http://www.kentucky.com/101/story/973871.html
HOW IBM STARTED LEXMARK-CORP IN THE 80′s
been 20 years since a small team of IBMers released a product that
eventually became the cornerstone of Lexmark International.Lexmark, one
of Lexington’s largest private employers, is looking back this week at
the production of the IBM 4019, the company’s first desktop laser
printer.It hit the market in 1989, when typewriters remained the norm
and personal computers were what some might have called newfangled
technology.”We started from scratch with no technology and did the
whole thing in three years,” said Lexmark chief executive Paul
Curlander, who was product manager for the printer at the time.IBM,
which eventually spun off Lexmark, had launched the PC and introduced a
dot-matrix printer in 1981, Curlander said.
By 1984, Hewlett-Packard had developed the first LaserJet laser printer using a printing engine produced by Canon.
about $3,500, it offered users their first look at the advancements of
laser printing compared to dot matrix. A year later, Apple introduced a
similar device with some added functions that sold for more than
$7,000.At the time, IBM worked on high-end laser printers that worked
with minicomputers, devices far more powerful than PCs, and sold them
for more than $20,000 each, Curlander said. IBM got into the laser game
with the 3812, a $7,000 device that could sit on a table.But beginning
in 1986, Curlander and a team of about 100 employees were given the
task of producing a desktop version.
The team’s goals were clear.
printer weighed about 75 pounds. The IBM version needed to weigh half
that.The LaserJet printed pages out of order. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it
be nice if it came out in order?’” Curlander said.And if you tried
printing an envelope on the machine in those days, the printer would
heat up the envelope so much that it sealed. The IBM version needed to
remedy that.”We could see this was big because the PC was going through
the roof,” Curlander said. “We put together a proposal for what we
viewed to be a fairly revolutionary new design.”Once approved, the
question came of just where to build this new printer. A facility at
Boulder, Colo., had developed the 3812, but Lexington was the
typewriter hub and had a history of office products. And the design
team was starting from scratch to build the printer from the ground up
and would benefit from the strong material science knowledge in
Lexington, Curlander said.
August 1986, work had begun with Curlander as product manager. He and a
few others moved from Boulder.”I came on a two-year assignment, and I’m
still here,” he said, laughing.
As time passed, the team encountered
a number of struggles.IBM had developed its OS/2 operating system,
making it necessary to have printer drivers.”It was the first time I
heard about drivers,” said Harry Cooper, who managed software and
firmware development. “We all take drivers for granted today.”The first
time they tried the printer’s fusers, which seal the toner to the
paper, they “didn’t work at all,” Curlander said. The group reacted by
staffing a whole department to work exclusively on that technology.The
team had constant reminders of the printers they were determined to
best. Cooper said Curlander bought HP LaserJets and installed them in
everyone’s offices.”It was a completely positive thing,” he said. “We
were all very, very focused on making it better than HP. Twenty-five
percent faster … that was the mantra.”
The first test print came at 5:09 p.m. on April 14, 1987.
still tucked away in a binder kept by Cooper, who is now Lexmark’s
director of digital imaging systems.By May 6, 1987, the printer was
producing pages with text and pictures. Cooper, looking back, thought
it might have been the date of a big executive review, because one of
the pictures was of IBM executive Marvin Mann, who approved the project
and eventually became Lexmark’s first CEO.
A solution a day
project was “intense,” Cooper said, “but it was great because you would
come in each day, and you wouldn’t really know how you would solve the
problems you had to solve.”A lot of us would come in and say, ‘I just
need to come in today and solve today’s problems, and then tomorrow is
another day.’”Despite the struggles they encountered, “everyone on the
team acted as though there would be no impediment to getting this out
of the door,” said Gregory Ream, who at the time was senior engineer in
electrophotographic technology development.Launched in October 1989 and
priced at $2,600, the 4019 sold about 100,000 units in its first year
and was honored as laser product of the year by PC Magazine.It became
the building block for IBM’s printers, which expanded to far faster
speeds and improved print quality. In fact, the technology was so
adaptable that several more years passed before the company built
another from-the-ground-up printer, said Ream, who is now a Lexmark
Laureate in laser technology development. The laureate designation is
an honor given to scientists, programmers or engineers for
extraordinary achievement in technical innovation and implementation.
Toner cartridges for the 4019 are still sold today.
By 1991, IBM had spun off Lexmark into a standalone printer business.
the laser technology was the jewel of Lexmark when we launched it in
1991,” Curlander said. “In terms of spinning off Lexmark, this was
integral to making that happen.”Cooper said he thinks the 4019′s
development and legacy “really was the salvation of the
site.”"Undoubtedly we might have done other things, but with where the
typewriter was heading, we eventually moved all the other printers from
IBM from Charlotte to Lexington,” he said. “It became the cornerstone
of the business here.”
That business has grown, although it has suffered with the economy’s drop in recent years.
has focused on becoming the standard printer in certain industries as a
way to carve out its segment of the market. And the investment to
develop its own patented laser printing technology is what has aided
that and differentiated Lexmark from competitors, Curlander said.The
fact that we had our own technology really allowed us to advance into
things HP couldn’t match,” Curlander said, noting that HP buys laser
technology from Canon. “Everything we do started with the fact that we
developed the technology.”