CORVUS - ONYX/IMI History
By: Barb Schexnayder
I worked with Onyx/IMI/Corvus for a combined 8 years.
For me the experience with Corvus Systems all began on March 18, 1982. I took a temporary position at a new company that was doing a lot of hiring. I had heard of the company from the files I used to file for a corporate loan officer at Lloyds Bank. While working there I got word of mergers, acquisitions. I was asked by the Loan Officer to create one new file from 2 existing files: Onyx + IMI. Curious and not challenged at all as the receptionist for the new Lloyds Bank, I read the content of these files. Dunn and Bradstreet reports. I learned then of the merger between the two. While working at Number 1 Almaden Plaza, I met Mr. Blickman and Mr. Turkus the Real Estate moguls of that time. I met Ron Sakaway, his family once owned and farmed a great deal of land in the “Golden Triangle”, the area between Highway 880, 280 and 237. I met the early Seagate financial officers and the Berg Family who owned the construction business who were actually still finishing the Lloyds Bank Building at the It’s now (2011) the home of First Bank. As fate would have it all these players I met were actually precursory players in my future. Goes to show you, it’s a small world and the Silicon Valley was young and fresh and new in those days.
I left the bank job in 1980 in pursuit of my dream job as a graphic artist. That didn’t go well, I was laid off, unemployed and took several temporary positions. One of those turned into a regular position in the marketing department of Onyx Systems. I was hired direct on March 18, the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Onyx was located at 25 Trimble Road. One of my jobs was to request via telex the stock quotes twice a day, send various sales leads out to sales distributors. The days were busy and included a great deal of overtime.
I met very eccentric hardware engineers who were so dedicated they spent long hours at work. They would walk around barefoot and grace us with Birkenstocks on formal occasions. At that time, there were two camps of Software Engineers in those days. There was the Unix operating system team and the DOS operating system team. I would have bet money at the time that Unix would be the operating system most preferred, but Bill Gates was using DOS and he was making quite a stir then. The DOS Engineers were not as friendly as the Unix Engineers. Imagine being exposed to the computer world and learning Unix first? It was such a powerful system and did so much. I used to have to enter strings of commands then in order to get reports to run. /l and the curser was called a “que demon”. We would loose the que demon and have to reboot. I thought computing was rather archaic and looking back now, it was.
I dated a technician who used to do burn in testing on the computer units. He walked me through the manufacturing process of those early units. The C8000’s, the S8000’s, the 4000’s and the cute little Sundances. These were the first truly personal computer. They had a CRT, a durable tape drive and a small hard drive. This old boyfriend showed me the intricate working parts inside. The small mother board, the power supply. We sold a good number of those units.
I transferred out of Marketing into the Customer Service area. While there I was in charge of the mail room which was a set of cubicles on the manufacturing floor. I was right next the assembly line and watched these little Sundance units zip by on their way to shipping.
While working in the mailroom I used an early DOS database, written by those same DOS Software Engineers upstairs. While working that position the head of the Technical Support Group asked me to go work for him. That group was right next to the Field Service Group. While there I had access to all the schematics for all the computers we manufactured. How free we were with that information then. We would send those schematics out to anyone who asked, provided they signed a non disclosure agreement. It seems so different than things are today.
I distributed the mail sometimes helping to relieve our receptionists and saw so many colorful trade magazines with ads for all kinds of products. I wish I had some of those now. I did save a piece of the Onyx letter head and a photo of all the employees just prior to the merger between Onyx and Corvus in 1985.
Carl Berg was the owner of both companies. We were little twins sitting on Trimble Road. Corvus was our next door neighbor. I guess Mr. Berg thought it best we were one company. All of Onyx was invited to board Mr. Berg’ss double decker British Bus and we toured the new building. The center had an atrium with plants and fountains. It opened to the second floor. It was airy and wonderful. I will never forget the incident just after we moved there. One of our Engineers, remember I said they were eccentric?, well rumors flew that the security cameras caught him peeing in the fountain. What a humiliating representative he was of the Onyx Group!! We weren’t all like that.
The merger was celebrated with a huge Chili cook off and barbeque on the back lot of the new building. We Onyx folks were afraid, timid, kept to ourselves. I tried to reach out a bit. They seemed just as uncertain as we were. That initiative paid off. Once the dust settled many of the Onyx Customer Service reps were laid off, I was one of two of us who were assimilated.
I loved what I was doing, customer service was MY thing. I was good at it. During my tenure there I saw so many changes. That was 1984-5. I was meeting a whole new crew of employees. Customer Service occupied the first floor right next to the cafeteria. I felt so privileged as they gave away free sodas. We could just walk in and fill a cup. They were good days.
The Field Service team moved again back to the Trimble Road address. We happily occupied that location until we moved again to a consolidated facility on Great Oaks -way out in South San Jose. While there our major selling point was the Corvus stand alone disk drive, sold widely with the early Apple computers. I was on vacation the day Bill Clinton came to visit. All the ladies were swooning at how handsome he was. At the time he was the Governor of Arkansas. He was purchasing disk drives for the school system in Arkansas. Too bad I missed that visit. Oh well.
Through out the late 1980’s we shrunk steadily from 2300 employees after the merge to merely 23 the day I left. It was only 2 yeas after my departure in May of 1990 that I heard of their final demise.
During my tenure I saw a series of CEO’s come and go. It was so funny to sit in meetings and hear each one say that he left in order to spend more time with his family. This happened about once a year. We waited that great savior but none ever came. We fell victim to the bigger players like IBM and the introduction of the Hub, to Novell and their network, to Microsoft and their Windows product. Desk side disk drives became internal disk drives and now it’s so funny that a flash or thumb drive contains more memory storage than any of those early Corvus Drives. They were durable units and the entire tenure taught me a great deal. I was happy to have been a part of history.
If you have any Corvus hardware, software, documentation, marketing/sales materials, photo's
or any other Corvus Systems related items that you'd like to sell or donate to this project, please
email: curt (AT) atarimuseum (DOT) com