• unknown (b.)


Best known for his role in the development and marketing of the Commodore VIC-20, the first microcomputer to sell one million units; and for his early role as a pioneer in telecomputing, More broadly, he has come to be known as a technology futurist through his activities as Managing Director of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the Wharton School, which he joined in 1995. Born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, he had planned to be a writer/journalist. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he majored in English Literature and minored in Journalism and Spanish. While there, he worked as photo editor for student publications and as a photojournalist for a local newspaper He enrolled in Army ROTC and graduated in 1970 as a Distinguished Military Student. He then served 3 years in the Army including a tour at Fort Bragg where he was Public Information Officer for the XVIII Airborne Corps, home of the 82nd Airborne Division. He helped launch the Volunteer Army (VOLAR) which was being piloted in 1970. He then served a tour in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in Vietnam (1971–72) and received the Army Commendation Medal for service in Korea (1973). After Vietnam he served in the U.S. Strategic Communications Command/United Nations in South Korea and rose to the rank of Captain. His experience in the military prepared him for the "business war" which was a key part of the corporate culture. He holds an M.B.A. from U.C.L.A. and earned A Master's Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2010 with a focus on technological solutions to environmental problems. His capstone project was entitled, "The Paradoxes of Global Warming". After earning his M.B.A. from U.C.L.A. in Los Angeles, where he also worked as a management consultant in Beverly Hills, he accepted a position as General Manager of a San Francisco based company called Metacolor. In 1979, the company was bought by Canadian investors who wanted someone to run the operation. Metacolor used NASA space technology to do special effects for motion pictures (they did special effects for "Logan's Run" and "Time After Time."). One of their clients, ATARI made a beta site to test a new game computer they had called the Atari 600. The Atari machine had a flat plastic membrane keyboard and came with a game called Star Raiders. It had a "star field" hard wired into the system - which made it look like the stars were whizzing by as you did battle with alien space ships. He and his staff were quickly addicted to the game and wouldn't put it down, so he took it home. Three days later after having been up for 3 days with almost no sleep, playing that game, he decided if he could get addicted to this, then the whole world is going to get into home computing and he needed to be in that industry. He quit his job and during the next 6 months took a course in BASIC programming at a local computer store, where he learned on both the Commodore PET and Apple. At this time, Commodore ranked third behind Apple and Tandy (Radio Shack) as a personal computer maker. He found the Commodore system to be the best because everything was integrated into a full desktop system, and it had a lot of user friendly features. He also started writing articles for computer magazines and spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, at Apple and other companies, doing stories and learning about new technologies. He did an article on the person who designed Star Raiders, a company that had a circuit board that converted Apples from 40 columns to 80 columns (most computers displayed 40 letters across the screen, compared to a typewriter which types 80 letters across the page). At the end of six months he had $10 in the bank and $6 in cash in his pocket, but he had job offers from Apple, Atari and Commodore. In early 1980, he joined Commodore as Marketing Strategist and Assistant to the President (Commodore founder Jack Tramiel). When Tramiel announced that he wanted to develop a low cost affordable home computer “for the masses, not the classes,” he embraced the concept and aggressively championed the new computer, insisting that it be “user friendly”. He and Tramiel named the new computer the “VIC-20” and set the price at $299.95 at which time he was given the additional title of “VIC Czar” (at a time when Washington had an “Energy Czar”). He recruited a product management team called the “VIC Commandos” and implemented a variety of innovations including a unique user manual, programming reference guide (which he co-authored), software on tape and cartridge, as well as a distinctive array of packaging, print ads and marketing materials. The new computer was introduced at Seibu Department Store as the VIC-1001 in Tokyo in September 1980, and as the VIC-20 at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1981; and subsequently in Canada, Europe and Asia. In 1981, he established the Commodore Information Network, an early implementation of an Internet-style user community. To enable adoption of telecomputing, he contracted the design of the VICModem, which became the first modem priced under $100, and the first to sell one million units, and negotiated free telecomputing services from CompuServe, The Source (online service) and Dow Jones. In 1982, the Commodore network was the largest traffic “site” on CompuServe. The VIC-20 was followed by the more powerful Commodore 64. These computers introduced millions of people worldwide to home computing and telecomputing, and laid the foundation for ubiquitous worldwide computing. His experiences are described in his 1984 book, "The Home Computer Wars". He left Commodore in 1984; six months after Jack Tramiel left the company. He subsequently served as a consultant to technology startups and international trade projects. He was a contributing editor of Export Today Magazine for nearly 10 years, and has written more than 150 articles including computer magazine columns (Compute! and Compute!'s Gazette, 1980–85), a business newspaper column, and numerous magazine articles. In 1995 he joined the Wharton School as Managing Director of the Emerging Technologies Management Research Program at the Wharton School, where he worked with a core group of faculty to develop a major management research program. The program subsequently became the Mack Center for Technological Innovation, which sponsors academic research and insight-building events to help organizations compete, survive and succeed in technology-driven industries. As Managing Director of the Mack Center, he serves as a bridge between academia and industry partners. In 1997 he originated an annual event called the Emerging Technologies Update Day, which showcases radical innovations looming on the near horizon. In 2000 he helped launch the BioSciences Crossroads Initiative in the Mack Center and in 2006 co-authored (with Paul J. H. Schoemaker) a major research report entitled: “The Future of BioSciences: Four Scenarios for 2020 and Their Implications for Human Healthcare” (May 2006). He has also written about gene therapy and a variety of other technologies. In 2010 (despite the recession) he led the recruitment of 10 new industry partners in the Mack Center, including General Motors, Lockheed-Martin, NASA, etc. Michael edits the Mack Center's website and an electronic newsletter launched in 2010; and teaches sessions on radical innovation in the Wharton Executive Education Program. In 2011, he authored a chapter entitled "Applying the Marketing Mix (5 P's) to Bionanotechnology" in the book "Biomedical Nanotechnology" (Springer 2011). He currently serves on the leadership committee for the IEEE/IEC initiative which is developing standards for Nanotechnology; he also serves on the advisory group for the Advanced Computing department at Temple University; and on the Commercialization Core committee developing translational medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Since joining Wharton in 1995 he has helped launch five successful technology startups, as an advisor and/or board member. During the 1990s he helped corporations develop and implement their Internet strategies. He advises companies and government agencies on international technology projects and the impact of disruptive technologies. He keynotes two or three industry events each year on emerging technologies and innovation strategies; and teaches sessions in the Executive Education program at the Wharton School. He posts examples of radical innovations, and insights on innovation strategy, on his personal website. He began his career as a journalist and has published more than 150 articles, including a monthly column (as Contributing Editor) for Export Today; a column on BASIC programming for Compute's Gazette (The VIC Magician); a business how-to column for the West Chester Daily News; and articles for Associated Press, the New York Times, Stars and Stripes, and many other publications. His memoir, “THE HOME COMPUTER WARS”, (1984) has become a collectible. His new book, “NanoInnovation: What Every Manager Needs to Know”, will be published in early 2013 by Wiley-VCH.
  • Noted For:

    Played a key role in the development and marketing of the Commodore VIC-20, the first microcomputer to sell one million units; and for his early role as a pioneer in telecomputing
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