The first hard disk I ever owned was a MiniScribe. It was a “hard card” arrangement from some mail order place with a shamrock / Irish themed magazine ad [UPDATE: apparently, Shamrock Computers]. The 30MB drive cost, I think, $350 and was for my Tandy 1000TL. I managed to convince dear old ma’ to order it for me as a Christmas (’88) present. It arrived in early December and had been sitting under the tree for a week when I mentioned how hard it was to wait until Christmas to open that lovely piece of tech porn on a local BBS, The Blues Exchange in Williamsburg, VA.
The SysOp, a guy by the name of John Trindle or “The Bluesman,” laughingly suggested I go ahead and open it, remove the drive, place a brick in its place, close the box, and rewrap the lot. Who could tell I’d gotten the goods early? It was a perfect plan and I set it in motion at once. Less than an hour later I was installing XTree Pro onto my capacious storage device. (And no, mom was never the wiser!)
So the other day I was browsing through a few retro computing photo pools on Flickr when I ran across an image of an old MiniScribe hard disk. This triggered all the above memories and I wondered just whatever happened to MiniScribe. I hadn’t seen a sign of them in years. So I hit Wikipedia and what I found just made me laugh out loud.
It seems the company went bankrupt in 1990 and was subsequently purchased by Maxtor. But the circumstances surrounding the company’s demise are rather bizarre. And particularly amusing to me, given the method of deception I employed in order to gain early access to that lovely Christmas present.
The primary scandal erupted in the final weeks of 1989, when after failing to procure short-term financing, the company executives decided to embark upon a fraudulent course of action to bring in the financing unwittingly from their customers. As each unit sold was tracked via serial numbers and also sat uninspected for some weeks inside warehouses in Singapore awaiting use in production, the decision was made to ship pieces of masonry inside the boxes that would normally contain hard drives. After receiving payment, Miniscribe then planned to issue a recall of all the affected serial numbers and then ship actual hard drive units as replacements, using the money received to meet financial obligations in the short term.
Astoundingly, Miniscribe embarked upon a round of layoffs just before their Christmas shutdown, including several of the employees that were involved in the packaging and shipping of the masonry. These people immediately called the Denver area newspapers, which broke the story during the holiday season. Following immediate investigations in Singapore and in Colorado the fraud was confirmed. Miniscribe lawyers filed for bankruptcy within minutes of the start of business on January 2, 1990.
So there it is. I snuck down to swap in a brick for the real goods when there was a half decent chance that MiniScribe’s execs had already done me the favor!