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After Hours

Geek Trivia: What was Steve Jobs's original business plan for Pixar?

Steve Jobs bought Pixar with no intention of making it a major animation house -- he had an entirely different business plan in mind.

When Steve Jobs took Pixar off the hands of Lucasfilm in 1986, he had one thing in mind: creating the greatest manufacturer of high-end digital imaging computers on the planet. Put more simply, Jobs bought Pixar with the intention of creating a hardware company.

Jobs focused Pixar almost exclusively on developing and selling the Pixar Image Computer (PIC), which debuted a mere three months after Jobs bought the company. (The product was in development beforehand, but Jobs shut down virtually every Pixar project but this one when he took over.)

The PIC was very clearly a Job-esque product, right down to its clean, gunmetal grey cubical design that is eerily reminiscent of the original NeXT PCs Jobs also developed. The PIC originally cost $170,000 when it debuted in 1987. Later versions of the PIC retailed for a mere $30,000, though that price could jump tenfold if you included the world's first RAID system, which offered a then-radical 3GiB storage capacity. The intended markets for the device weren't movie studios, but aerospace and medical organizations that relied on highly detailed 3D modelling.

To little surprise, the PIC was a total commercial flop, selling less than 500 units during its entire production life. Fortunately, the aforementioned John Lasseter developed a few promotional computer animations to demonstrate the power of the product. Principal among these was the famous Luxo Jr. short, which gave Pixar its mascot and wowed animation festival observers who saw it. This led to Pixar creating computer-animated commercials, which in turn led to a three-picture deal with Disney to produce some straight-to-video computer-animated movies.

The first of those films was a little classic called Toy Story, which proved too good not to put into theaters. The rest, as they say is, history. (Or, for bemused Apple critics who note that Pixar's marketing arm outperformed its manufacturing division, history repeating itself.)

This is not just some fiscally fortunate foreshadowing, it's a realistically rendered readout of Geek Trivia.

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About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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