How Jim Starkey remembers it
I founded the company the day after Labor Day weekend in 1984. I had been at DEC for almost 10 years, had loved it, but didn't love it that much. I decided that if I were doomed to suffer, I would rather suffer from my own mistakes than somebody else's.
The company was originally called Groton Database Systems after my then town, Groton, MA. That is where the ubiquitous "gds" comes from. We had no intention of leaving the company with that name, but the first three good names failed name search, and I got tired of paying for searches.
I started the company in the second floor spare bedroom working on a Pro-350 (a bastard pdp-11) running something called zenix.
I started alone, but was soon joined by Don DePalma, a long term DEC crony and cat hater, and two Siamese cats, Cassandra and Hector. I wrote the code, Don wrote the books and tried to lure the cats off the balcony.
Our first major deal was with Apollo. The plan was that they would private-label the product, peddle it for us, and send big checks.
To keep me honest, they held my wife (Ann Harrison) hostage. I delivered the beta version of the product about a year after startup (not bad, Virginia). After a successful external Beta, Apollo suffered a corporate hiccup, reorganized, got a new president, a new business plan, and out of the private-label software biz. Gulp.
Ann had been working for a fellow named Dave Root at Apollo. Post-hiccup, he found himself manager sans department and defected to Groton Database Systems. Being otherwise decent folks, the Apollo guys also released Ann from hostage escrow, and she joined too.
This had Don, Ann, Dave, Hector, Cassandra, and myself working out of what had become known as the Reedy Meadow Research Center. To reclaim our house, we moved to Tynsborough, MA, over a pizza shop. Bad pizza, but we got the house back. Moving forward, we conned Kathleen Sullivan, another DEC crony, to join as Support Czar, Larry Weinszczak (a.k.a. Larry Wiggle) as head of sales, and Maggie Hinkle, in charge of everything else. Now we were seven.
Next came the name change. We made a list of names we liked, and picked a syllable from column a, one from column b, and one from column c and got Interbase. Don and Ann cooked up the dumb schema of the company being Interbase and the product InterBase, over my objections. We eventually got an Esther Dyson award for flaky capitalization.
Intimate has its advantages, but lucrative isn't among them. We went looking for partners. We found Cognos and Ashton Tate found us. Dazzled by California ** we went with Ashton Tate. We were looking for instant credibility. Little did we know that two years later they would be looking to us for credibility. Strange place, California.
Ashton Tate exercised an option to buy the company in 1991. Ashton Tate planned to leave Interbase where is, as is, but with a new president. (I bowed out due to philosophical disagreements with A-T's president. Or was it to spend more time with my family? Pursue other interests?) In any case, my last official act was to sign both sides of my separation agreement.
Shortly after the acquisition, Borland ate Ashton Tate, ergo Interbase. That, however, happened on somebody else's shift.