Historic lessons — When Intel employees figured that processors would sell memories, and other devices

During the days of Operation Crush, Intel leadership prepared the whole company to align in an endeavour of survival amid growing forces in the competition. The problem they had was evident and coming from the field, the people trying to sell. The message was that software engineers started to figure the interesting aspects in other new architectures such as Motorola 68000. By the way this was back in the 80XX days of Intel chips.

In their quest to survive, and to differentiate from the growing danger of the competition, they had to become again stronger. They end up focusing in a new target audience — CEOs, not engineers — and they had to understand their weaknesses and their strengths.

When listening to these protagonists and witnesses, it’s so clear that they were all aligned into that “operation crush” quest.

Turning the Company Up Side Down — Without Changing Products

They have turned the company up side down but in another way — that seemed to be the up side down of the narrative as they didn’t change their products. Some of the key aspects I felt when watching the video:

  • They believed that something needed to be done —Meaning that everyone became involved and that they believed that their future was depending on the operation.
  • The company was engaged in a mindset of analysis — They were not working for working, fighting for fighting. On the other hand many were involved in serious analysis.
  • They had a mindset of being focused — Working in objectives, managing by objectives. Measuring and delivering. This relates to Andy Grove ways of operating Intel at the time [see High Output Management.]

Inflection point — from memory producer to chip producer to selling more memories

Aside from the many amazing discoveries in the panel one special moment was the inspiration for me to archive this note and also to close it. It is that special moment when they acknowledged that they figured, or augmented, the role of the microprocessor:

I remember earlier, earlier years, whenever Mike Markkula was product manager of memory components. That’s what his job was. And he was telling me that we’ve got this new thing, called the 8008 at the time that was going to sell a lot of memory. So the whole idea of the microprocessor originally was it’s going to sell a lot of memory. McKenna @ Computer History Museum 2014. 28min45sec

It’s important to recall Intel’s context at the time — that Intel moved on from the memory business. So it’s quite difficult (if a clear message and analysis is not in place) to be able to see what was happening. A processor as an element to sell more memories was not a message to go back to be stronger in memory. It was, on the other hand, an inflection point and a learning of a phenomenon happening: Intel was on top of a category in development, yet surfacing the beginning. That processor could have “legs” to devices, interoperation, driving sales to all sort of peripherals at micro level to the macro level.


Computer History Museum (2014). Intel Crush Panel. Mountain View, California. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvCzdeDoPzg. See video transcript http://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/access/text/2015/09/102746836-05-01-acc.pdf