Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Apple and Intel are well established today, but when they first started up in their apocryphal
garages, basements and dorm rooms, what were the first products out the doors?
Here’s the answer for a dozen of today’s top tech firms. (Spoiler alert! If you’d rather take our quiz on these inaugural
products, click here instead of reading further.)
Perhaps the farthest afield from its current line of business is EMC, the storage/security giant that opened its doors in 1979 as a reseller of office furniture. It started the path to its current
product line when it became a memory-board manufacturer for Prime Computer, whose corporate headquarters were nearby in suburban
IBM traces its roots to the late 1800s and three different companies that eventually merged into Computing-Tabulating-Recording
Company, which in turn incorporated as IBM in 1911. Back in 1885, one of its predecessor firms, Dayton Scale Co., marketed
the Dayton Computing Scale that calculated how much to charge for the commodity being weighed.
In its earliest incarnation as Bell Telephone Co. in 1878, AT&T sold licenses to create telephone exchanges – a scheme with which founder Alexander Graham Bell hoped to develop a market for his recently patented invention, the telephone.
Cisco shipped its first product, the Massbus-Ethernet Interface Subsystem (MEIS), an Ethernet adapter for DEC computers, in 1985, a year after it was founded by Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner. Although the
company has diversified greatly over the years, multiprotocol routers remain the heart of Cisco’s success.
Microsoft opened shop in 1975 with Altair BASIC, interpreter software for running BASIC on MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer hardware. Founder Bill Gates contacted MITS, offering
to demonstrate the product despite the fact that it didn’t yet exist. He managed to create it before the meeting eight weeks
later. It worked.
Apple, now famous for its distinctively styled products, brought out the Apple I in 1976, a naked motherboard with nothing much to distinguish it aesthetically.
Iron Mountain made a gradual transition from storing paper business records when it was founded in 1951, to storing digital data today.
Dell launched the Turbo PC in 1985 when its founder, Michael Dell, dropped out of college to make a less expensive IBM-compatible personal computer.