The name change seem ed to signal a transformation in Watson. He began to develop an aura. For good measure, the mechanically inept Watson managed to bu m the family house down when he had trouble with the furnace. IBM ers even had their own rank in the navy; repairmen fixing the all-im portant calculating equipm ent wore a badge with an 1 in the middle, signifying that they were, say, yeomen, second class IBM. In raising his children, W atson got off to a slower start. But, as children, they rebelled at the discipline that his strict Scottish upbringing made him try to impose.
Even once he was out of college and working for IBM, young Tom spent half his day flying his plane and half in the clubs, where the tall, handsome young man flirted with models or just drank and smoked into the wee hours of the morning. Who wants to live forever? He also got his first exposure to the com puter.
His father moved him up through the ranks, recognizing that the war had given his son new confidence and even some discipline. Then Kirk died, quite unexpectedly, of a heart attack brought on by tension, exhaustion, and a heavy but forbidden drinking habit. Watson Senior was suspicious. Customers were hardly asking for these ungainly new devices, which included so many clicking mechanical parts that some sounded like a roomful of people knitting. The study was right, too, to an extent— the older tabulating devices rem ained ubiquitous in world business through the late s.
As Tom Senior prepared to hand the company over to Tom Junior, father and son had horrible battles. But Tom Junior was becom ing plenty formidable himself. The sibling rivalry turned out to get IBM so well established overseas that its international businesses survived any num ber of attem pts by foreign governments to limit U. Dick threw him self into the job, becoming fluent in F rench and nearly fluent in German and Spanish. Those overseas businesses were the only things that kept IBM from hitting the wall in the late s, when its U.
Dick died in when he fell down the stairs at his mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut. The new arrangem ent produced the M anagem ent Comm ittee, which allowed Tom Junior to share a little of his authority. Over the next twenty-five years, the idea provided extraordinary discipline for IBM.
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This is the sort of decentralization I want to have at the IBM company. He also gave each of the doubters one of the transistor radios just coming on the market at that tim e and told them to call him as soon as one failed. The gamble, a bigger undertaking than the M anhattan Project, which produced the atomic bomb, was designed to produce a whole new line of mainframes, called the The project looked shaky in because of software delays. Watson was panicky. But once the software problems got solved, the let IBM go from about a 25 percent share of the com puter industry in the late s to more than a 70 percent one.
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The magic of the was twofold. The line was also the first true family of computers. W ith the line, IBM customers could start with a small machine and work their way up as their needs grew, taking all their old software along with them. But he decided that his options were becom ing indecently lucrative, so he stopped taking them. Everybody gathered for the big Christmas party. Each child walking through the door received an IBM punch card with his or her name typed on it.
In what some rem em ber as a highlight of their childhood, they were directed by the card to go to a certain table to collect some gifts— whatever, say, the Com m ittee on Toys for Eight-Year-Olds had decided to hand out that year. It was, oddly enough, a fear of nuclear attack that helped foster this family feeling, at least in the hamlets of New York City where IBM settled its headquarters operations in the early s.
Armonk was just a few m inutes away. The Watsons fostered a sense of community by having employees start meetings by singing songs in praise of IBM. Hastings, Chairman, Scale Finance Com m ittee. Cary was the antithesis of Watson: professional, not visceral; calm, not fierce; a Stanford MBA, not the elder son of the form er chairman. Attorney General Nicholas deB. This is my problem, not yours. Rather than throw the upstart out of his office, Cary expressed curiosity. H eller went on to become a star scientist at IBM. W hen a delegation of senior U. W hen another of the U.
H e understands. W hen W atson used to blow, Cary was almost the only one who dared stand up to him. W hen he did, there was an audible gasp as everyone in the room sucked in their breath and waited to see what would happen— but Cary almost always prevailed. Pretty soon, he had cut through to the core of the issue. High school physics was as technical as Cary got; he had majored in political science in college. For instance, for years Cary protected Bob Evans, a senior executive with a technical background who used to blister his colleagues about their approaches on products. H e actually confessed to colleagues that he thought Evans had a lower hit rate than a few of his technical colleagues.
Cary just w anted to keep things stirred up. U nder Cary, IBM researchers saw early on that personal com puters would becom e possible in the s. That was pretty simple. Those failures are why Cary kept at the issue so hard. Those assumptions were all near and dear to the hearts of every IBM product group, but once Cary identified them as the problem , he had no trouble tossing them out.
Cary did joke once about how he might have been able to keep pace with Watson. He walked into an IBM com puter facility in England, w here IBM had acres of mainframes and disk drives, seemingly being used by just a couple of operators. The governm ent collected more than million docum ents from IBM during that stretch. U nder pressure from the government, he looked at breaking the company up more, but when the lawyers produced their charts showing where each part of IBM sold its products, IBM appeared to ship products only to itself.
Cary and his advisers decided it would be just too hard to break IBM up further. D epartm ent lawyers offered to drop the case if IBM gave them a face- saving solution, so house counsel Katzenbach did offer to split off a piece of IBM. But it was just the small, money-losing Satellite Business Systems. The governm ent lawyers took the offer as an insult. Probably the biggest mistake that happened in the Cary era was F uture Systems, an attem pt to make the sort of breakthrough that the line made in the s.
This time, though, the idea was too bold. In the early s, the U. But FS had cost so much money and had been such a flop that it m ade it hard to take risks from then on. That was especially true because the person who bore the brunt of the problem s with FS was John Opel, who became the next chairman. W hen O pel succeeded Cary in , he seemed to be just an extension of Cary. O perating behind a stand-up desk that looked like a podium , the stiff, bespectacled Opel seem ed even more professional, even m ore cerebral.
Looks w ere deceiving. Opel was taking over a company very different from the one that existed when he joined in the late s. Electric typewriters were the exotic technology in business machines after W orld W ar II. Only a handful of com puters even existed. But at IBM, which was in an industry w here the technology turned over every few years, Opel was having to deal with technologies that w ere ten or more generations beyond those in the machines he started selling in Jefferson City, Missouri, as the soldiers came back hom e from the war.
Revenue and earnings soared. Then when the PC came along in and really kicked in in and , revenue took off. As the surge from the shift began to dissipate.
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IBM even changed its normally ultraconservative accounting policies so that it could treat some of its new leases as sales, counting all the revenue and profit up front rather than a bit at a time as the money actually came in. IBM also began to defer until later years more than three-quarters of the expenses from some big software projects, making results in the early to mids look b etter than they really were. The new policies artificially inflated results even more than the shift to leasing already had.
IBM settled into a feeling that it could be all things to all customers. Much like Ford s River Rouge plant, it would receive at one door the rawest of m aterials— sand, metal, and plastic— and pump multimillion- dollar machines out another door. U nder Opel, the company also settled into a golden age in dealing with employees. Everything might have been fine if Opel and his crew had realized how much the shift from leasing to selling pum ped up results and how vulnerable the loss of the leasing business left them.
In giving up on leasing, Opel relinquished a security blanket that m eant he began each year having already achieved 80 percent of his revenue target. Yet O pel invested as though he was guaranteed at least 15 percent growth a year. H e increased expenses an unsustainable 13 percent a year.
Opel also m ade m ore subtle mistakes. While Opel worried about Japanese companies so much that he was focusing on wavs to cut out the few percent of his costs that came from human labor, IBM put a lot of odd-looking products on the market or came out late with good ones. And the com puter market was becoming less forgiving; IBM studies have found that in recent years 90 percent of a com puter s profits are made in the six months after someone first brings the product to market.
Opel would muse about the possibility of problems, saying all the favorable publicity he was receiving em barrassed him, because he was sure that he, like everyone else, had feet of clay if someone chose to look hard enough. Some sort of breakup probably would have been a good idea.
Paul B. Carroll
The fourfold increase Opel saw as possible would never happen. Little did he know. Every hardware system m ore than a year old was called Gramps. Five years was forever. W ith com petitors seemingly vanquished, the only way for those inside IBM to measure their success was to see how high they could rise within the company. That took too long to becom e apparent. The best way to get ahead was to make good presentations. People began spending days or weeks preparing foils for routine meetings.
They not only made the few foils they actually planned to use but made a huge library of backup foils, just in case someone had a question. But they became such a part of the culture that senior executives began having projectors built into their beautiful rosewood desks. Typically, that meant the hugely profitable mainframe division paid the development bill. Everyone else got a free ride, making it hard to spot problems in, for instance, the PC business until much too late.
Until the mids, there was just a single profit-margin goal for the entire company, rather than a variety, depending on how competitive a market segment was. That single goal made it hard for IBM to get into businesses, such as personal-com puter printers, that would have initially provided modest profits but that turned out to be strategically important. Salesmen, for instance, lost their commission if a product they sold was ever replaced by something else.
Big blues : the unmaking of IBM
That was fine in principle. It used to be that leases gave each salesman 80 percent of his quota at the start of the year, as long as the custom er stayed happy with the equipm ent that was already there. The effect was to make the salesmen focus awfully hard on keeping the custom er happy. W ith leasing goije, though, the salesmen had to start from scratch each January 1. They had to push so many boxes at customers that they no longer cared so much about existing equipm ent.
The change was so subtle that it took IBM a few years even to realize that it had a problem , but the change was serious enough that the company spent the final years of the decade and the early part of the s trying to figure out how to restore those precious ties with its main corporate customers. U nder Opel, IBM becam e lazy. IBM had also becom e so entrenched in corporate America that it could usually have an executive ride to the rescue if some salesmen actually lost a sale. A study in the late s found that more than half the chief information officers at F ortune companies were IBM alumni, susceptible to pressure from friends at IBM if they should ever consider committing an act of disloyalty.
M att Fitzsimmons, when he was chief information officer at Bums International Security in , tried to buy some disk drives from Mem- orex after IBM was repeatedly late in filling an order. The next thing he knew, he got an angry call from the chairman of Bums, who was phoning from a golf course, w here an IBM executive tracked him down to complain.
After Evans carried on a three-year-long harangue about the im portance of using a new technology, Opel finally blew up at a M anagem ent C om m ittee meeting in The only thing IBM really needed to worry about in those days was stranding a custom er by not delivering on a promise. So IBM came up with developm ent processes that, above all else, delivered products on time.
The processes often turned one-year development projects into three-year ones, but who really cared? People writing software had their work checked for bugs, because the custom er would notice those, but not to see w hether the software was fast enough to really sizzle. IBM had a monopoly on the market for software for its big systems, so who cared about speed?
Everything that could have a rule established for it, did.
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Even the speech writers, a generally unruly group, found themselves caught up in the rules. Only one is worth repeating. The joke has an executive, presumably from IBM, arriving home drunk at A. Estridge drew that reaction throughout IBM. The more coverage he drew, the m ore he angered people in other parts of the company. The people who made memory chips at IBM hated Estridge; he apparently never placed a single order with them.
They assured him this would be for the best because it would give him access to technologies that would let him improve the perform ance of his machines faster than he could if he relied just on what his bosses saw as the inferior, off-the-shelf parts that he had cobbled together in his initial machine. Pretty soon, layers of m anagement appeared beneath him. He wanted to stay independent. Even once he started expanding, he just moved across the road to a small building near a shopping center.
Now he found him self with two headquarters buildings, complete with fountains and atria. The decision to make the business a division occasioned remarkably little debate. All the senior executives appeared to think the idea made good sense. They seem ed to feel that a couple more layers of staff would help Estridge catch the sorts of mistakes that were starting to happen on products like the PCjr. N or did they understand that the only big product successes IBM would have in the s and early s would come when some group disdained the IBM rule book.
W hen the PC business became a division, Estridge picked up enough extra staff that he w ent from an already-bloated four thousand people to ten thousand overnight. Estridge also lost his direct line to the chairman. Now he had to wade through three or four layers of m anagem ent before reaching the top of IBM. It always takes a while for problem s to appear in a high-tech business, because operations can coast for a while on the developm ent work that is in progress, but the change to division status m eant the problems were now sure to come.
The XT, whose development was begun months before the PC was even announced, appeared in early , only about a month behind schedule. IBM was furious when it heard about the problem , but the delay turned out to be minor. All was forgiven. Like the PC, it sold like crazy. This one was aimed at the hom e market and would ultimately be called the PCjr.
The original plan seem ed to make sense. The PC had turned out to be more of a business machine than one for the home, so why not take another shot at the home market? Let them build up the system as required by adding peripheral devices, so thev can eventually make their PCjr the equivalent of a PC. Let people run all the software that the PC could, so they can do the same things at home and at work. The Junior was supposed to be announced in Julv , in plenty of time for the Christmas season. The idea mav, in fact, have fit in too well, because the Junior drew a lot of attention from the M anagem ent Committee.
The original idea began to change. The MC apparently never ordered Estridge to change his plans, but the product began to be scaled back. There was initially supposed to be a full-sized keyboard for the Junior, but that got knocked out. The Chiclet keyboard was initially intended only for grade schools and young children. Dozens of peripheral devices that would have allowed the Junior to be upgraded to a PC were scrapped.
Prices were raised. The plan to sell through the K Marts of the world was scrapped. IBM w ent from the idea of a full-featured, cheap product sold like television sets to a crippled, expensive product sold like mainframes— yet manufacturing plans were scaled back only modesdy. The Junior also came out just late enough to miss the Christmas season.
After more than a year, IBM tried some price-cutting, added back some features, let departm ent stores carry the product— and actually generated some interest. But the campaign raised enough hackles that it wound up in front of the MC. The MC had recently formed a corpo- rate-image group, so it kicked the campaign over to that group for more study, and the idea eventually died.
The Junior quickly lost steam again, too. It just had too bad a reputation, and competitors had come out with products that were more compelling. But IBM consis- tendy underestim ated how quickly costs would fall, so it also consistendy underestim ated how big a market would becom e— a five- hundred-dollar product sells a whole lot more units than a one- thousand-dollar product.
W hen IBM brought its system out more than a year after Compaq, in February , the system was too heavy and the screen was fuzzy. It died quickly. The idea here was to get to market as fast as possible with the next- generation Intel processor. For one thing, under pressure, he began moving toward the slow, more formal way of developing products at IBM. The work would have solved a fundam ental problem with the chip known as the , and IBM would have been the only one with access to its version of the chip. No clones, at least for a long time.
IBM, not Intel, would have also controlled the most im portant part of the AT generation of technology. A custom er, however, needed to be able to move between first and fifth gears. They borrow ed an idea from Intel, which, when testing its chips, placed an extra pin on the bottom the pins are used to plug the chip into the circuit board inside a PC, much as the prongs on an electrical plug fit into a wall socket.
H e found Letwin lying in wait, spoiling for a fight. Letwin raged in front of his bosses, with some reason, that software he had done on his own was b etter than what Gates was peddling. Letwin s idea about the AT chip came to him while playing around on his own. If he owned them , no one else could buy them. If no one else could buy them , nobody else could make PCs competing with his machines. The idea actually worked for a while.
It was some months after the August AT introduction before competitors began announcing their own AT-class PCs, and it took rivals almost a year to produce the machines in volume. As clone makers began to come out with their own versions of the AT, Estridge found him self stuck with a mountain of chips that were both more expensive and slower than those com petitors were using.
Estridge the risk-taker created a bigger problem for him self by ignoring standard IBM discipline, which requires that there be two suppliers w hether internal or external for every part of a system, in case one supplier develops a problem. Estridge contracted with only one company for hard drives for his AT and one for the chips that control the workings of the hard drives. The AT came out in August , but then customers started having their disks crash— making a sickening sound like a needle on a record player scraping across a record.
Customers lost data, perhaps the worst thing IBM could do to a customer. IBM had to stop putting disk drives in its ATs until it figured out what was going on. Estridge kept flying to Armonk and heading to M anagem ent Com m ittee meetings in the sacred com er of IBM to insist that his problems were almost over. Instead, the problems dragged on for nine months. By late , he began to get more malleable, even buying parts from other units of IBM.
Two things saved Estridge, at least for a while. Com petitors were slow enough that the AT still qualified as a raging success. The PC market was beginning to look very big indeed. IBM, believing it could impose order on the chaos it found in the PC world, once decided that Software Publishing had to knock a feature out of its word processor— such as the fairly straightforward ability to hyphenate words when they are w rapped from one line to the next. IBM crippled its own Displaywrite word-processing package by limiting its ability to handle electronic mail, which became a hugely popular application.
This was back in the days when IBM still thought of typing as something to be done on a mainframe or minicomputer, and the mainframe people w anted to protect their mainframe-based e- mail system, called PROFS, by keeping e-mail off PCs. Joyce W ren, who started the software business for Estridge in , found herself spending two to three days a week in Armonk throughout , , and For instance, W ren says she once needed a graphics program done in a hurry, so she found a couple of brothers, put them in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale for eight weeks, and got her program.
They climbed all over her for not consulting them first. It was like we were on completely different timetables. IBM would have had the whole PC industry under its thum b. A form er cabdriver, stand-up comedian, and teacher of transcendental meditation, he was portly and, even in those days, given to wearing Hawaiian shirts. Still, he had won some impressive backing from Sevin Rosen and Kleiner Perkins, venture-capital firms that would finance Compaq and most of the other successes in the early PC days. Kapor also had a dynamite business plan that produced the greatest first-year sales that any company in history had yet seen.
Kapor initially tried to see Estridge himself. Kapor and Lally arrived in Boca on a brutally hot, hum id day in July , only to find that the person they were supposed to see had no interest in seeing them. They were bucked down another level. But back in , IBM was too cautious to use its far greater visibility.
So many start-up companies had sued IBM for creating products that resem bled their ideas that the IBM executive was allowed to hear from Lotus only information that was already public knowledge. Kapor says he lied and insisted that the whole briefing he was about to give was widely known. Even then, the IBM executive just listened politely for a few minutes.
At the end, he told Kapor and Lally that he had some neat demos of new IBM equipm ent; would they be interested in viewing them? After half an hour, Kapor and Lally were shown the door. They arrived back at the airport so early for their departing flight that they just sat in the coffee shop in the tiny Boca Raton airport, shaking their heads and wondering how they had failed utterly to make their case. So we re forever in their debt and hold them in the highest possible regard. H er replacem ent decided it was unprofitable and killed it.
W ith problem s mounting, Estridge was losing his sense of humor. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs had come up with a cute idea, putting the three up on the stage at a gathering in Hawaii to introduce the Mac to his employees. As it happened, Estridge was staying at the hotel on vacation and bum ped into Jobs in the lobby. They recognized each other and chatted briefly about nothing in particular.
Afterward, Jobs did a point-of-sale poster along the same lines. At about the time the poster came out, Kapor found him self in Boca Raton— having becom e such a star by now that he had no trouble getting attention. H e was surprised to find himself pulled out of a m eeting to go see Estridge, whom Kapor had never met. Estridge lit into him about the poster. Why was he messing around with Apple? Kapor— normally very confident and, in this case, sure he had done no wrong— found him self reeling, edging backward toward the door, apologizing all the way, just hoping to escape this onslaught.
Gibbons, who was fortunate enough not to visit Boca during this stretch, nonetheless picked up the phone one day, to find Estridge on the other line, giving him a similar earful.
Sun came after him. In less than a decade, Estridge had gone from almost being fired by IBM for messing up the Series 1 operating-system project to a position where almost any job in the industry could have been his. But he never listened to a com petitor for long. Estridge was pulled from his job running the PC business in early As usual, IBM disguised the demotion. W hen he said good-bye to an assembly of the group in Boca Raton in March , the group rose to its feet twice for long ovations.
H e had to educate him self on manufacturing processes and had much to learn about sitting in meetings all day— after all, he had spent a career trying to avoid the bureaucracy that now engulfed him. People working with him at the time say Estridge failed to make an impression on his bosses. They wound up on a Delta flight that tried to land in Dallas in stormy w eather on August 2, As the plane came in for its landing, just seven hundred feet above the ground, a powerful downdraft knocked the plane toward the earth.
The pilots fought back, but the plane was out of control. The wind shear was making the plane speed up or slow down as much as twenty knots a second. In seconds, the plane had spun out of control and smashed into the ground. The crash killed people, among them Don and Mary Estridge. Estridge had seen some red-rose lapel pins and, on a whim, had bought a bunch. W hen someone did something special or was especially down, Estridge gave the person a pin and told him to w ear it with pride, as a m em ber of a team that was shaking up IBM and the whole industry. As Don Estridge s casket was about to be lowered into the ground, Wilkie took his rose pin out of his lapel, walked over, and laid it on the casket.
Seven others followed in silence, leaving a tiny circle o f eight rosettes as everyone said their good-byes. An engineer by training, he had spent thirteen years working his way through some equipm ent-testing operations, then got an early break in when he wound up on the staff at the Atlanta headquarters of the General Products Division, the grab bag of low- end businesses.
H e got a bigger break when he moved to Boca Raton a year later with the m andate to try to find a way to get into the high- profile personal-com puter business. W hen he w ent off to Rochester, Minnesota,, in the sum m er of after getting the PC operation going, he earned credit for launching a successful m inicom puter, the System Akers, Akers perked up.
A decent golfer and sometime poker player, Lowe was friendly in private, but he never figured out how to make a big audience feel any of that warmth. Perhaps the only time he managed to do something out of the ordinary was years later when he left his wife and went to Georgia with his thirtyish executive assistant, whom he married in Lowe never dem onstrated any of the vision that Estridge had of a world full of PCs operated by the common man. Lowe barely touched his own PC, except for electronic mail. If Estridge was a true believer in PCs, then Lowe was an agnostic.
Arriving in the PC job in Boca Raton in spring with a mandate to bring the business to heel, Lowe quickly put in place the typical mechanisms. But when Lowe moved into the large office with the plush peach carpet, he set up two rows of secretaries outside, forming a gauntlet that anyone wanting to see him would have to run. Armstrong was a forceful presence. He was a vicious tennis player in a business w here most executives preferred the more sedentary game of golf.
W hile some executives had themselves driven around in limos during the week and tooled around in their M ercedes on the weekends, Armstrong might hop on his Harley motorcycle. Armstrong described the draconian cutbacks he planned to make through the whole company and said that, to set an example, he had decided to cut the group in the room in half.
H e had been a slick salesman, then moved up through the ranks into more senior marketing jobs, where he set pricing, determ ined what requirem ents the product groups had to m eet in defining various products, and so on. Armstong and Lowe knew they faced a smart negotiator in Bill Gates. In fact, Lowe and Armstrong were at a horrible disadvantage. They were used to treating all outsiders as suppliers. That still worked on the hardware side, but software was more subjective.
Instead, the IBM com mittees decided that IBM should merely start doing some of the software writing itself, rather than just telling Microsoft what was needed and letting Microsoft do all the work. While IBM studied, Gates acted. He knew all along what his prime directive was and he never wavered. Then he would leverage that relationship as hard as he could. Lowe and Armstrong were also ham strung by the smugness still prevalent among IBM ers at the time.
As the passionate Gates and Ballmer prepared to m eet the professional Lowe and Armstrong in the spring of , both sides had to deal with some difficult recent history. The idea would have let people use more than one program at once by allowing them to divide their screens into various windows. As the months w ent on, however, IBM began to botch its latest software project for all the usual reasons— it put too many people on the project, the work took too long, the software operated too slowly, and it turned out that customers wanted something much glitzier than IBM provided.
IBM wound up giving away most of the copies of TopView that it produced after its introduction in , but the financial bath it was starting to take on the project was only the beginning. Never mind. We m eant Windows, Windows, Windows. Even before IBM em barked on its TopView failure, Gates and Microsoft were taking a more difficult but ultimately successful route that com plicated their dealings with IBM more than anything else ever would. Jobs and Gates turned out to be very right. The fundamental insight that Jobs had first and that Gates had a bit later was that the situation should be reversed— that com puter makers must go to the trouble of adapting their machines to the users.
By late , Gates had a team working on a project for the PC world that would becom e known as Windows. In late , at the huge Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Gates saw a com peting product called VisiOn, which, unlike Windows, was far enough along that it was being dem onstrated. But Gates then got lucky— something that has happened to him more than once. VisiCorp, the maker of VisiOn, began to self- destruct in because of lawsuits that senior executives filed against one another. Unlike the com placent executives at IBM, Gates had always lived in fear that someone would come along and do something b etter than he had if he let his guard down for a second, so he put the Windows group on what they called a death march.
Windows finally made it out the door in Gates and Estridge learned they were on different paths when Gates flew to Boca to show Windows to Estridge in late At that point, Gates got a shock, because Estridge showed him TopView. Gates decided that IBM would never be interested in Windows. I am an experienced writer, providing top quality assignments, free of plagiaris More.
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