Bob Frankston

After the webloggers roundtable 14 of us went to dinner at Bombay Cafe on Mass Ave. I ended up sitting next to Bob Frankston, who, with Dan Bricklin (also in attendance) invented VisiCalc, setting fire to the personal computer revolution and effectively defining the very essence of “killer app.”
I have a lot of respect for Bob. He talked a mile a minute, so fast that words slurred, especially while eating, and he’s full of ideas. We talked about abstraction, .NET, shipping prototypes, “datoids”, innovation, the tension of “management”, writing, essays and editing. It was an honor, in a way. Not hero worship – enough time backstage at rock conerts will get you over that – but more along the lines of “what a learning experience!”
He gesticulated wildly – more than a dozen times he came within an inch of hitting me in the face while swinging his arms. After a while it became normal, and I stopped flinching, but I also noticed that sub-conciously I was leaning into my plate of food only when he was eating.
At one point he said, I paraphrase, “All these ideas, I don’t have any time to create them. I’m just trying to leave a trail so other people can run with them. They’re all opportunities, some big ones, for someone else. I can only define them.” Having just turned forty, this comment struck me. Bob’s not got enough time _in this _life__ to realize all his ideas. Neither do I. He’s solved the puzzle in one way. I’m still young enough to solve it in another way, potentially, for now.
At the very end, several of us were commenting that only two women came to the roundtable, and only one came to dinner. And Betsy, at dinner, was the one who coordinated ordering, paying, etc. Bob said, with all ernest intent and goodwill, “You know the real value of women?” – a couple of us exchanged glances and rolled eyes, this was dangerous territory and we’d never go here – “The real value of women is that they hate dirt more than we do!” After the stunned laughter and awkward silence, Dave said, “That’ll never get you laid Bob.” Betsy said, “So true.”
I should also note that on the other side of me at dinner was Mike Rogers who is also a great guy. We had lots of run talking about how 4D hits a nasty scaling wall when your app gets too big or has too many users. Mike’s really into software project management and development team coaching, and I get the sense he’s good at it.