James A. Katzman

For his accomplishments as co-founder of a premier computer company, and for his guidance and support of other entrepreneurs in high-technology industries, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to James A. Katzman.

Owner
James A. Katzman Associates
BSEE '68


On his experience at Purdue

As a college student I was conscientious but very social. I was a joiner. I was an officer in my fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. I worked on the Exponent and the Debris and belonged to Eta Kappa Nu [an electrical engineering honor society], Tau Beta Pi [an engineering honor society], Omicron Delta Kappa and Iron Key [both leadership honor societies], and Gimlet [a leadership honor society for fraternity members].

In 1967 I was race chairman of Purdue's Grand Prix. It was the second year of the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation; prior to that time, the race was just run for members of the auto club. The Grand Prix Foundation formed to make it something really big-have scholarships, have a golf tournament-and we did.

At Purdue I mainly thought about grades, the Vietnam War, and getting dates on a Saturday night. The male-to-female ratio at that time was six guys to one girl.

The war was a big thing. I graduated in 1968. ROTC became noncompulsory when I was at Purdue, and that was a big issue on campus. Whereas students at other universities held antiwar demonstrations, Purdue actually had a pro-Vietnam rally. When I graduated from Purdue, I moved to California and had a roommate who had just graduated from Berkeley. I considered myself fairly liberal, and he considered himself fairly conservative. It turned out that politically, we were just about the same!

On his career

At the time I graduated-1968-you could go to the East Coast or the West Coast to design computers. My view was that the East Coast represented snowstorms and cold. The West Coast represented beaches and parties. I went west and got a great job with Hewlett-Packard, and they sent me to Stanford for graduate school.

I learned at Purdue that getting in on the ground floor of something, like the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation, was always good. Hewlett-Packard was just getting started in computers, and I had lucked onto something pretty special.

Starting Tandem has been the highlight of my professional years. It was funded with venture capital money-that was the first time I'd heard of venture capital or met a venture capitalist. By the time Tandem was eight years old, we'd reached the Fortune 500, but Tandem as a big company wasn't as much fun as a start-up. I thought, "What better way to get companies started up than to be a venture capitalist?" so I found a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, California-Technology Venture Investors-and joined them in 1983 as a special limited partner. I found that the work was extremely interesting, as much as I expected it to be. I got to work with start-ups in other fields, not just computers. The atmosphere was smart, enthusiastic, visionary, exciting-very stimulating to me. I found the experience of getting a small company built into a big one very gratifying.

What's fun about this career is that your best accomplishments are still ahead.

On issues that concern him

There's no shortage of issues that concern me. I'm saddened by the amount of drugs, guns, and alcohol that kids seem to have to get through to be safe; by the AIDS epidemic; by the deterioration of family values and of the environment. A balanced budget and tort reform to cut back on frivolous lawsuits are other issues.

One difference between my generation and the so-called X generation is that the current generation has a much healthier attitude about balancing work and home. I've had the luxury of being able to spend more time with my family than others my age. It's important that corporate management focus on social issues, such as combining job success and family. I really worry about the kids; there are a lot of fundamental changes that need to occur, and there's a huge challenge going forward to corporate America.


1983- :
Founded and heads James A. Katzman Associates, a private investment business providing seed capital for early-stage technology companies.
1983-89:
Special limited partner, Technology Venture Investors. Directed eight technology start-up companies in businesses such as computer systems software, optical character recognition, computer imaging, scientific computing, and cancer pharmaceuticals.
1981-83:
Vice President, Management Development, Tandem Computers.
1980-81:
Vice President, Western Operations.
1978-80:
Vice President, Marketing Support.
1974-78:
Vice President, Engineering. Became one of six architects of the Tandem T/16 NonStop System, the world's first commercially available fault-tolerant system.
1974:
Co-founded Tandem Computers.
1971-74:
Design Manager, Amdahl Corp. Designed and patented the integrated I/O channel for the Amdahl 470V/6 computer system.
1968-71:
Computer Design Engineer, Hewlett-Packard. A principal architect of t he H-P 3000, one of the first computer systems permitting the use of several l anguages for control of automated systems.

BSEE '68, Purdue; MSEE '71, Stanford. Eleven patents.