PC Magazine Profiles in Excellence 1985
When he first conceived the idea for Framework, Robert Carr was working as
programming consultant on a different product?an integrated spreadsheet package
called Context MBA.
"I was convinced," Carr says, "that integration was a powerful idea that
brought many benefits with it. But I also thought that integrating around a
single large spreadsheet constricted the user. A more appropriate method would
allow the user to break information into many smaller chunks that could be
linked together logically." This, according to Carr, is the heart of Framework:
it permits you to break up your data into separate frames in any order you like.
"Based on that conviction, I thought, What the hell, why don't I Try programming
it? So I started programming it on my PC, hoping I could prove the idea
workable, implement it, and start a company to market it."
Carr, 28, had done a stint at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, where we
worked on predecessors of Xerox's Star and Smalltalk. He holds B.S. and M.S.
degrees in computer science from Stanford University.
In January, 1983, after a year of designing, Carr began to create a program
to embody his idea (which he called FRED for "Frame Editor") and by June it was
clear that the programming effort was even more successful than he had hoped. "I
was beginning to talk to some companies when Marty Mazner, who has more
marketing background than I have, came by, saw FRED, and asked "Do you know what
you have?" We got to talking and decided to co found Forefront."
Their goal was not to organize a software company that would superintend the
product through its appearance on the store counters, but to start a development
corporation that could finish the product and team up with a leading publisher.
"In July, 1983 we decided to go to Ashton-Tate first," Carr remembers. "We got a
terrific reception. Within 2 days we concluded an agreement stating that they
would both act as venture capitalists and get marketing rights to Framework and
would also get rights to buy Forefront in 1986." In fact, the product was so
successful that Ashton-Tate recently announced an agreement to buy out Forefront
So, beginning in September 1983, Carr and company spent a feverish 10 months
laboring to finish Framework ("It was the classic 7-day work week that you get
with fervent believers," Carr says) and were able to finish the work in a
relatively short period of time.
"Framework is certainly not a result of my efforts alone," Carr insists. "Six
other individuals worked with me day and night for almost a year. It's very much
a result of their good ideas and excellent work. They and all of the teams need
to be recognized by the software industry. Few products have been the result of
one individual's effort."
Since then, Framework has established itself as a major product in the
integrated software market. "Integrated is a very loose term," says Carr. "An
incredibly wide-ranging bunch of products fits under it. People who buy
Framework find that it's easy to learn and use. Most software packages demand
about 50 hours of training. But although you have to make a learning investment
the first time you come to Framework, that training applies to all the different
functions. If in the next week or month, you want to pick up say, the word
processing function, you'll find that it works very much like the spreadsheet."
Carr foresees an important role for integrated software in the move toward
widespread use of the local area networks. "The whole industry is moving from
personal to group productivity tools," he asserts. You can expect to find Carr
and Framework riding the crest of that wave.