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Attic Items -- Item A131


Name: A131: IBM Internet Bronco Master Layout Mock-up Date: 1996 Location: box_A2

One of the projects I worked on was the IBM Bronco Master. The name was made up for obvious reasons.

It was a set-top box that would attach to your TV and a phone line and let you surf the web. The idea was that it ran on a 386 processor (that IBM had the rights to from Intel), and Windows 3 (that IBM had the rights to) and I think it was an early Netscape browser (no license fee). So there were no royalty or license fees. The idea was to sell them to telephone companies (acting as ISPs) who would sell them (and service them) to their customers. So IBM did the "wholesale" and the telcos did the "retail".

Basically like WebTV. But the Bronco had a disk (350 Meg!) and it would go out at night and pre-load pages so that when you used it in the morning everything was there!

The manufacturing of it was all outsourced to some Chinese/Japanese manufacturer. A mock-up of the Bronco which was produced to show how everything would fit and how it would look externally.

We had working units; everyone on the team had one at home and was supposed to use it. I was working on FTP code and even got a patent out of it -- US7020700: Client side socks server for an internet client.

The original idea was to use the remote to act as a mouse and do everything on screen. It quickly became apparent that typing by using a remote and an on-screen keyboard was the pits, so we also brought in a remote infra-red keyboard. The round button on the upper right is the mouse and the two buttons on the left are the mouse buttons. The keyboard says it is an engineering sample from Acer.

But then Microsoft bought WebTV and was selling the units for $99, even tho they cost like $400 to build. Our costs were around $300, but IBM was unwilling to sell for $99 something that cost us $300 just to make, and the telcos apparently felt the same, so the project was cancelled.

I put the Bronco we had at home back in the box when they closed things down. Everything is still there -- the Bronco unit, the remote control, all the cables, the keyboard.

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