The following e-mail was received from former IMS Associates programmer Doug Earp on June 18, 2002. In it, we get a glimpse of Bill Millard's organization, the early locations, and Joe Killian's work on the first version of the IMSAI 8080. An added bonus is a dated mention of the origin of the IMSAI name (which stands for "Information Management Science(s) Associates, Incorporated)
Doug Earp's account of the earliest IMSAI
Doug's first e-mail hit me between the eyes:
"You have a number of your "facts" wrong about the development
of the IMSAI. I was a programmer with IMS Associates in the summer of '74
(business application modifications) and worked on the IMSAI 108 project, doing
the first version of the host interface layer of processors.
After disarming Doug with a speedy, but reassuring reply, he graciously offered the following:
"I worked for Bill's company during the summers of '74 and '75 (if I recall
correctly). In '74 it was just Bill, Joe and a third hardware guy that I didn't
deal with. Bill, Joe and I (mainly Joe and I) worked modifying business
software as a subcontractor to Singer Systems [Note 1]. Joe also worked with
the other hardware guy part time. We were in an office suite (three rooms) on Estudillo and E. 14th in San Leandro.
Note 1: Singer Systems was a major player in the calculator and systems arena, and was a major employer in the San Leandro, California region. They had acquired the Frieden Calculator Company in the early 1960's and utilized those facilities for the emerging Data Processing technology market. Old man Frieden, flush with a sizeable fortune, retired and bought extensive property in Scott Valley, west of Yreka, California where he and his equally sizeable family grew hay and alfalfa, ranched, and raised beef in the best and proud traditions of good Mormons. I passed by his refurbished farmhouse many times during my days of prospecting in Northern California in the mid to late Sixties. I pilfered corn from his fields during the late Summers, too... nothing tasted better than purloined corn cooked out in the open!
Note 2: Timesharing gets little mention these days, but back then, a teletype or dumb terminal with printer, an acoustic coupler and a rather expensive dialup account bought you time on a DEC PDP-11 or better. And, if you were lucky, you had access to compilers, Inventory Management software, and many other pre-written business and utility programs at your disposal at no additional charge.
Note 3: When Charles Tandy visited us at IMSAI in early 1976, a deal was reached whereby he would sell IMSAI computers through his Allied Electronics division. One minor detail though; he felt that "IMSAI" sounded too "Japanese"! This was a source of much merriment and laughter as word of this judgment filtered down the ranks of this proud little company. The result of Tandy's decision is revealed in these scans from the "1977 Allied Electronics Engineering Manual & Purchasing Guide No. 770" (dated July 1976). I don't believe any actual Tandy orders came from this effort, but recall 3 or so "IMSAC" front panel masks floating around the IMSAI engineering area for a while afterwards.
Click on the images below for a larger view: