Claris / Apple

Claris Logo

Apple Computer Logo

Claris (now FileMaker, Inc.)
5201 Patrick Henry Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95054
February 1989 to February 1992 (3 years)
Software Engineer II

I was one of five engineers on each team, led by Glenn Brewer and Kate MacGregor. My ownership areas included GUI design, dialog layout, security UI, printing, the charting engine and graphic subsystems. FileMaker Pro was written in Pascal back then, and I quickly learned C upon joining the Resolve team.

The Backstory

By now I had memorized Inside Macintosh cover-to-cover. It was our Bible, after all. And just in time for the Mac SE/30.

My old friend Rick Boarman and I were recruited by an Apple Evangelist to leave Gibbs and Associates and help spin up Apple’s software spin-off in Santa Clara. I was also being flown in by MacroMind and Autodesk, and while I loved animation and 3D graphics they simply couldn’t compete with Apple’s stock option grant in the end. Claris’ stable of MacThis and MacThat products also meant a bigger audience for my work. So Rick and I found adjacent apartments in Sunnyvale and we left L.A. and (most of) the glorious 1980s behind.

I acquired two Siamese kittens in the spring of 1989, and promptly named them Undo & Redo once I realized my mistake. I took them to work one day and no one else got anything done either.

I’ve seen a lot of lame team-building exercises at tech companies over the years, but Claris pulled off a memorable one. They sent three of our engineering teams off to Santa Cruz where sailboats and skippers awaited. They taught each team the ropes, and then we put our newfound skills to a test in a regatta-style race. It was quite the bonding experience, followed by beer and sports on the beach. But one rather timid soul (who we’ll call… Tim) was given the task of steering our boat. He froze under such enormous pressure and we wound up way off course and lost the race. Even though nobody cared, I guess he was so embarrassed that he resigned the next week.

I became friends with Pierre Omidyar and his future wife, Pam. Pierre worked on the MacWrite team with Rick. Pierre of course went on to found eBay, while the rest of us… didn’t. But before that we would play poker in my apartment on Fridays, go to softball games and sneak into double features on the weekends.

Poker night with Pierre Omidyar & Steve Singh
Poker night with Pierre Omidyar, Steve Singh, Rick, Maria, Bob & Marie

That summer, Rick and I conspired to throw Pierre in our pool on his birthday—clothes, wallet and all. But Pierre took that grand gesture totally in stride, because he was the epitome of class. I nicknamed him Perrier® after the French sparkling water. But unlike Pam, it didn’t stick. Sorry, Pierre!

DogCow_from_LaserWriter_8Practical jokes were en vogue back then and Rick was a favorite mark. He was very proud of his new vanity license plates that said “MOOF.” You see, that was the sound made by our company mascot, Clarus the Dogcow—although the number of Os was a subject of debate. So I went to the DMV and acquired plates that said “MOOOOF” and swapped them onto Rick’s car under the cover of night.  Some time later he told us that a cop had detained him at a 7-11 because his plates didn’t match his registration. Poor Rick couldn’t explain how the extra Os got there. I can still hear Pierre snickering, “Must have been a typo, man.” Sorry, Rick!

I have very fond memories of my Claris days and the friends I made. Claris had a unique work-hard, play-hard culture. But unlike the antisocial culture depicted on Silicon Valley, we were actually physically active. I managed Claris’ coed and men’s sports teams in softball, basketball and flag football.

Our first coed softball team (and fans) — Me, Bob, John, Marie, Rodney, Shawn, Pam, Maria, Janie, Greg, Pierre and others
Our first coed softball team (and fans) — Me, Bob, John, Rodney, Shawn, Pam, Maria, Janie, Greg, Pierre and others

I was at work during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Claris’ headquarters was known as “The Wedge.” It was a long building that tapered from one floor in the front up to three floors in the back. Inside, it resembled a cruise ship that had run aground. I remember staggering outside when the quake hit. I turned to look back and was shocked to see our building shaking lengthwise, framed by tall light poles whipping back and forth. Surreal…

Bay Bridge World Series Party
Bay Bridge World Series Party — John Kinder & wife, Rodney Furmanski, Bob & Marie Hunter, Maria Duran, Pierre & Pam Omidyar, Rick Boarman, Brian Schipper

I lost touch with many friends over the years: Renee Fondacaro, Maria Duran, Janie Palin, David Kay, Mike Hilton (yep, another billionaire), Bob & Marie Hunter, John Kinder, Dennis Cohen, Dave KrichBrian Krich, Brian Schipper, Steve Singh and the late Rodney Furmanski who challenged me to be a better sportsman. Claris was also the first company I knew to have Beer Bash Fridays and Halloween costume contests that I could easily win by being as un-PC as possible.

Halloween 1989 — Me as an airline crash survivor and Rodney as George Steinbrenner
Halloween 1989 — Me as an airline crash survivor and Rodney as George Steinbrenner

When Apple decided to spin Claris back in, they cashed out everyone’s stock options immediately. So we got a nice windfall while still in our twenties. Many of us Dogcows would leave for greener pastures once the culture changed abruptly under John Sculley, and upon realizing that real estate in the Bay Area was prohibitively expensive. If only we knew what was to come!

Someday I’ll have to scan the rest of my photos from my Claris album because hey—that was the heyday.

Macintosh LogoI still have some prize possessions from this era: My original 512K “Fat” Mac and all the accessories. I have my lucite “CLARIS” cube, earthquake survival backpack, softball jersey and my football trophy with a piece of fabric torn off when I scored the winning touchdown in four inches of mud. It’s funny the things we keep, isn’t it? And—oh yeah, I kept my premier issue of MacWorld Magazine, personally autographed by Steve Jobs.