Today is Blue Moon Day. It's the eleventh Blue Moon Day in fact. My how time flies.
I have a very busy day planned today, so I'm afraid I can't spin this tale from scratch this year, I'm cribbing from previous years. Please forgive me.
But this year is a very special year. It's the eleventh Blue Moon, and that means it's been ten years, to the day, since we shipped the very first TiVo DVR. Ten years. Wow.
We held a great lunch yesterday offsite for the TiVo ex-pats, just an informal kind of thing, but boy it was fun seeing all of those faces from long ago. TiVo has always been blessed with great, talented people. So much fun.
But those ex-pat folks have to go to work today. We don't. Here's why!:
What is Blue Moon day? How did it come to be? Why 'Blue Moon'? Gather 'round, and I will answer all your questions.
Blue Moon is a TiVo National Holiday. It marks the very first shipments of production TiVo DVR's to paying customers. Our first orders fulfilled. We actually were in business then, and getting there was a huge effort!
While TiVo came to be the first, and certainly the most well known DVR on the planet, we weren't alone in those early days. There was another startup company, ReplayTV, that was nipping at our heels. In true Silicon Valley tradition, two startups were in a race...for resources, money, partners...you name it. We were well aware of them, and I'm sure vice versa. Now we had kept our powder dry, not spending much of our marketing money at all thru 1998 (well, we did spend some here and there, mostly on PR trips, a partner conference in SF, etc). But Replay struck first publically with a full page ad in a magazine right at the end of 1998. Now, putting an ad in a magazine is something that's easy to do, no product is actually required. But the perception it left with some people is, well, that Replay was ahead. That was not going to happen. No way. It was Christmas, but people kept working. It was a race!
In early January we went to the Consumer Electronics Show, our first tradeshow booth, and we demo'd tons of working product there. But right down the aisle from us...was ReplayTV's booth. Their product looked pretty solid as well. There's a fun story in there about a bit of partner wooing (Sony), but that will have to wait for another day.
So, they were real, and not far behind us. Our goal had been to ship in the first quarter of 1999, but there was so much work left to do. Especially when you factor in that we'd landed Philips as a manufacturing/distribution partner, bringing in loads of structure (and work) for our QE, Operations and Manufacturing teams. Oh, and we needed a program guide on the product. That wasn't done yet, we better get one of those before March.
The execs pulled us all into a big meeting, a 'reality check'. Were we going to make it? Could we ship by the end of March? It didn't look promising at the rate we were going (and people were working long hours as it was). Maybe April. Or May. The summer is a slow time to launch, how about waiting until Fall? Ouch.
Nope. We would make our date. Every one of us was challenged to make it happen, get it done. We knew that we had the best product, we'd seen the competition. And we'd all worked far too hard for too long to be second to market. Someone had brought a copy of Henry V to the meeting, and we all watched Olivier deliver the St. Crispin's Day speech. We were a band of brothers, and we would be remembered.
In that meeting we decided upon the final code name for this project. Oh, there had been other code names for bits and pieces of the development. But the final push needed something special. One of our engineers had noticed that March of '99 had two full moons in it - the second full moon of a month is known as a 'Blue Moon'. We had our code name - Blue Moon. It's really nice when the code name has the launch date built right into it, eh?
From that moment on we completely abandoned the outside world. January through March people lived, slept, ate at TiVo. The futons in the common area were great for naps (if you could get one). The coffee pots, and that wonderful first espresso machine we had were in constant use (every floor of our buildings at TiVo has a commercial espresso machine to this day). The closet near my office became storage for pillows and blankets (we had to clear out all of the exercise gear and engine parts that normally were there...hey, engineers like to tinker). The company brought in breakfasts, lunch, dinner...we were well fed. Our normal lives were set aside, everyone in the company found a way to pitch in and do whatever was necessary to move things forward and hit the date.
And we did it. At the end of March '99 we all met at the manufacturing line (Our products were built at a subcontractor, and one of their lines happened to be in east San Jose). Everyone from the company converged on the place, donned blue lab coats, and toured the line. We watched those first TiVo DVR's rolling down the line, and boxes piling up on pallets at the end, going out to customers. We drank champagne and cheered. Hugged our partners. Hugged each other. And collapsed. We were so exhausted. Everyone signed the very first box down the line. That TiVo DVR still sits in a glass display case here at TiVo, surrounded by photos of the day. It's a very special thing.
We'd done it. We were first to market. Replay would come out about a month later with their DVR, but we were first, and it was sweet. Mike Ramsay, our CEO, announced that the last Friday in March would be a TiVo holiday, forevermore. Blue Moon Day. He ordered us all to stay home, he was padlocking the doors to the office. Nobody was to come in, for any reason. Go home and see your family & friends. Tell them the stories. Enjoy the daylight and fresh air. Do whatever you want - but don't come to work.
Those that have heard the story before may remember that nine months following that first holiday five Blue Moon babies were born. So not everyone took the advice about daylight and fresh air.
So today we're at Blue Moon number ten. TiVo is closed for business today, we're all off having a bit of fun. Today's the day we remember not only the Blue Moon launch, but all of the effort that has gone into developing and launching each and every project here at TiVo since. We even move our payday up a day here so our finance folks can take the day off. The only people working - our customer support team. Someone has to answer the phones. So if you have to call today, please be extra nice to them. It's a special day, and they're working away.
Give your TiVo DVR a dusting today. Pat your TiVo doll on the head. Change the batteries in your remote. Think good thoughts, post good things. Remember that not that long ago, controlling your television at all simply wasn't possible. But for the efforts of that small band of brothers, it might still not be possible today. Enjoy Blue Moon Day!