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Gateway Computer Co-Founder Mike Hammond Dead At 53 (siouxlandnews.com) 77

damn_registrars writes: Mike Hammond, one of the three men who co-founded Gateway Computer, died over the weekend at the age of 53. Gateway started in an Iowa farmhouse in 1985 and shipped PCs straight to customers in boxes with a spotted-cow design. After retiring from Gateway, Hammond started Dakota Muscle to restore and repair classic cars.
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Gateway Computer Co-Founder Mike Hammond Dead At 53

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  • Such innovations (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hirschma ( 187820 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @08:06PM (#50851897)

    Innovation 1: Cow-spotted boxes.

    Innovation 2: Hidden cost reductions - getting Gateway boxes with "missing" SIMM slots, expansion card slots, etc.. I think that they were the first to quietly remove features that people took for granted - until they weren't there when you went to upgrade.

    • Re:Such innovations (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday November 02, 2015 @08:38PM (#50852047) Homepage Journal

      I got one back when a 486/25 was the very best a paper route income could buy (about three grand, as I recall). The IBM and Compaq's were 100 and 50% higher, at the time. The Gateway came with a big 330MB ESDI drive and a Targa true-color VGA card. Nice mobo, sixteen slots, as I recall.

      I never bought another one, but in this timeframe they were nice, well-priced machines.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      I also remember Gateway as being a) cheaper than Dell and b) more expensive than everyone else. Never owned one, personally. I always built my own and still do.
    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      I remember when Gateway 2000 was one of the more desirable brands. Granted this was the late 90's.
    • Innovation 2: Hidden cost reductions - getting Gateway boxes with "missing" SIMM slots, expansion card slots, etc.

      Also, using low quality/defective parts. I don't know quite what they were doing, but I owned one Gateway computer, and almost every part failed at some point. The hard drive failed 4 times. The tape backup drive failed twice. The CD-ROM drive failed 3 times. The video card died once. The monitor died at one point. All of this was within the first 2 years and was covered under warranty, but it was a mess.

      A few years later, my parents bought another one. Same basic deal.

      In hindsight, I wonder how t

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Having worked for them back around 2001 - 2004 before they laid us off in KC I saw them try everything to try to make profits by closing stores, getting out of the international markets, trying to get into the Consumer Electronic business, Buying eMachines (and letting there ownership take over), and finally closing locations and outsourcing. Some of the part failures were bad luck on their part (some were them being cheap) with Capacitor issues https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague and hard driv

      • I installed several dozen Gateways in around 1990-91 when I was working in the college computer center. The entire batch had memory that would start to fail when it reached a normal operating temperature. They refused to do anything about it until the administration threatened to not pay the bill and ship all of the computers back. We received an overnight shipment of new memory for the entire lot.
        • We ordered one for work, but it didn't play Doom. The tech support guy said they didn't consider Doom a necessary program to support, or a true PC-compatible program, I for get the terminology. We sent it back anyway. I suspect they got a lot of grief over that.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Yep, Gateway were notorious for shaving a few pennies here and there. Those missing AGP and PCI slots all cost a few bucks to fit, even in quantity, and the RAM sockets were even more expensive.

        The high failure rate was due to them using a lot of refurbished parts. They did deals with manufacturers to take refurbished drives with one year warranties. Later on companies like Magnetic Data Technologies started selling such drives to consumers (you would get a drive that was obviously a Seagate of WD, but with

      • For example, they used Western Digital hard drives.

        There's your answer. In the early 90's I worked for a company that was building systems that used WD drives and they had a 30% failure rate within the first week. My own desktop went down and took a month's work with it.

        More recently, got a laptop where about two thirds of the WD drive was bad. It spent more time attempting to repair filesystem damage than in doing actual work. Ordered an received a factory-sealed replacement and IT had more bad sectors than the original. Third time was more lucky and we fi

        • And oddly, in my 20 years of computer building experience, I've only had a WD drive fail once. I'm still using a 10 year old 40 Gig WD as an OS drive in a Dell Inspiron that I'm using as a BIND server. I also have several other WD drives from the late 90's and early 2K's that are just too small to be useful anymore, but they all still work and didn't have any bad sectors when I did my last scan on them (roughly a year ago). They're mostly used for archival purposes now, since I'll never discard an HD in

          • Oddly, you know what WD models to avoid, it seems. I haven't been given a choice.

            I do get to choose Seagate drives, and although I've worn a few out over the years, they've generally done well for me. Although perhaps it's just because I'm the Seagate equivalent of you. One of Seagates's original selling points for me was that back then you had models with 7-year warranties.

      • Sounds to me like you were walking across a thick shag carpet in socks, then opened the case and started tinkering...
      • In hindsight, I wonder how they did it, picking so many failed parts. For example, they used Western Digital hard drives. Did they make a deal with Western Digital to buy defective drives at a discount? How did Western Digital sort out drives that would work for at least 3 months, but fail within the first 6 months? It doesn't really make sense. But Gateway sure seemed to know how to scoop up every defective drive Western Digital put out.

        Simple really. Every WD drive from that era was defective. Honestly i'm surprised they stayed in business. They seem to have fixed their QA (and image issues) since so good for them.

    • My first PC was a GW2K laptop in 1997. It was a neat little box. By the time I got my next computer - a Dell in 2000, GW2K was a shadow of its former self.
    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      Gateway were basically forerunners to Dell - offer a complete functioning solution for an affordable price (way lower than a store) but one assembled from cheap OEM components. My parents bought one and it worked fine but if you looked at any individual component it was very low spec stuff.

      At the time (in the UK), the main alternatives were to order a computer from Dabs or Evesham Micro, or buy an execrable Packard Bell / Advent computer from PC world. None of these options were as cheap as a Gateway by a

      • I had a Gateway laptop. It's under the desk somewhere. 233MHz CPU, 5G hard drive - the top of the range at that time.

        I know now that extended warranties are a rip off, but in this case it paid off. It died with about a month remaining and when it came back it was more or less a new machine. Only the CD drive (which I'd added some strips of burn dressings to for sound dampening) was original.

        Anecdotal, but I can't complain.

  • Lol Gateway (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 02, 2015 @08:14PM (#50851945)

    Gateway is for cows! MOO go the cows! You cows!

  • I feel bad because he died, but I also feel good because I outlived him.

    I mean, it's better that I read about his death than him reading about mine, right?

    • Re:Hmmmmmmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @08:45PM (#50852087)

      I feel bad because he died, but I also feel good because I outlived him.

      I mean, it's better that I read about his death than him reading about mine, right?

      As my late great hero Yogi Berra said, "If you don't go to your friend's funerals, they won't go to yours."

      R.I.P. Mike Hammond.

      • As my late great hero Yogi Berra said, "If you don't go to your friend's funerals, they won't go to yours."

        My favorite Yogi quote is, "You can observe a lot by watching".

        • As my late great hero Yogi Berra said, "If you don't go to your friend's funerals, they won't go to yours."

          My favorite Yogi quote is, "You can observe a lot by watching".

          He said the wisest stupid things ever

          Another was "No one goes to that place anymore - its too crowded."

  • it had a 400Mhz Celeron CPU, 32 megs ram and win98 it is also the PC that i did my first Linux install and learned to use Linux on
    • Mine too. It was a Pentium based laptop, w/ 16MB of RAM and Win95. I upgraded it to 98 later. It came w/ some neat side packages, like Monopoly.
  • by SylvesterTheCat ( 321686 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @11:28PM (#50852863)

    First, my condolences to his family.

    I worked at the North Sioux City facility from late 1990 to mid-96. It was my first full-time job after college. I started in manufacturing for about 6 months, then moved to tech support for a number of years before going to a couple of other places in the company.

    It was an interesting place to work and I have a lot of memories of working there. At first, the parking lot was still gravel and didn't get paved until the new manufacturing building was finished. Up until then, the existing building had at least 2, maybe 3 additions put on it. They had a monthly bonus program. It wasn't that much, but it seemed to give everybody an extra motivation to do better, that they had some skin in the game. I don't mean just push more systems out the door, although that was part of it, of course. But just to do their jobs better because it could affect the bottom line. The parking lot of actually a bit of a point of pride, i.e if we had a choice between the two, we would rather have a bigger monthly bonus over a paved parking lot. There was a story that Ted Waitt wanted to leave his spot gravel, but it was too much of a pain so they didn't. Maybe true, maybe not. I never interacted with him or his brother, although I did see them many times in the early days. Not so much later on.

    There was also a sense of purpose in the first few years I was there. When I worked tech support (especially consumer before going to corporate support), I remember talking to people who was happy to be able to afford a computer to help them run their small businesses that they would not otherwise have been able to buy.

    The cow spotted boxes. Yeah, at first, I remember thinking that it was dumb. It got people's attention and I talked to people who had bought from them after seeing many deliveries in their neighborhoods. I remember seeing all of our competitors with the ads in Computer Shopper. Back then, Computer Shopper was like the Montgomery Wards catalog for geeks. Talk about dating myself. -sigh- Over time, the number of competitors dwindled. I remember the owner of at least one of them saying that he was going to bury Gateway 2000. That business closed a couple of years later.

    I remember when I started, working with ESDI drives, 5 1/2 floppy drives, Windows 3.0 (oh, the horror), motherboards with DIPP memory (up to 72 DIPP chips of horror for a whopping 8 meg of ram). I also remember in the early days, having production waiting on a shipment of something (motherboard, hard drives, etc.) to land at the Sioux City airport so that it could be trucked to North Sioux City. Talk about "Just in time inventory." I think that was the first time I heard that term and that was probably 1991.

    Others have commented about failure rate of components. Yeah, I remember some of that. Not to excuse the problems inflicted on customers, but that was the very early days of WD IDE hard drives. I'm not sure if the first ones were 20 MB or 40 MB. Some of the boards (sound cards especially come to mind) had different revisions that just showed up with little, if any, documentation. Drivers... yeah... drivers were problematic. Motherboard BIOSes. This was before they were flashable and chips that were socketed (if you were lucky), but an upgraded BIOS meant swapping out the whole motherboard.

    The company kept growing and the quality of some people definitely went down along with the sense of purpose. On the other hand, the manufacturing line had a number of improvements that did raise the overall quality. I think the Waitts (directly or indirectly) made some poor choices of hiring some key people to help manage the growth. I remember a few people from some big name companies at the time (HP, maybe... definitely one from Compaq who came and left). That's not to say that all of them were bad, it's just the bad ones that stick in my memory. There were also consultants, like Ernst & Young. They would bring in a team consisting of some very junior people who we

    • Thanks for the recollections, Mine are more tangental as I just helped a few friends who had Gateway computers but I don't think I ever owned one directly... I did have a friend who worked for a time at a Gateway store. I was always sad they vanished as they seemed to be one of the better companies, sadly as you noted beset by management problems.

      Also sad he died so young.

    • by Dynamoo ( 527749 )
      The cow-spotted boxes were marketing genius. Also I seem to remember cow-spotted mouse mats. The AnyKey programmable keyboard was.. interesting too.

      Gateway boxes were sporadically available in the UK in the early to mid 1990s, imported from the US via a grey imported. They were a much higher quality than anything else we had, especially in terms of industrial design. The first Gateway box I had (I 386SX I think) lingered for years, but people often commented on how nice it looked ("Is that new?" "Errr.. n

    • "There were also consultants, like Ernst & Young. They would bring in a team consisting of some very junior people who were obviously had no clue to as to what they were doing and were learning on the job." - This sounds typical. It is amazing to me how these clowns exist. It's always the same pattern. Bring in two or three senior people that get all the client face time. The rest of the crew is right out of school and training on the clients nickel.

      By the way, I worked at the Gateway facility for a per

  • Acer owns the brand for the past several years and the computers are actually pretty good.

    The laptops are very affordable, it's their value brand, with Acer the high value brand.

    Not great, but not terrible, either.

  • by edibobb ( 113989 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @01:36AM (#50853211) Homepage
    1. Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ
    2. Confirmed Dead In Shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College
    3. Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting
    4. Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour
    5. How To Execute People In the 21st Century

    Excellent work, Slashdot.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @07:51AM (#50854187) Journal

    I'm betting the cause of death was bad caps/capacitor plague... [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can I assume he will buried in a cow box?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Back in the day, computers were EXPENSIVE. Companies like Gateway and Packard Bell allowed people to buy cheaper computers. They weren't as great as the real-deal IBM PC or high-end Dell computers, but they ran the same programs and opened the door for many of us. One of the times we can actually celebrate capitalism helping people.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas