Canion, (Joseph) Rod

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Joseph Rod Canion is the co-founder of Compaq Computer Corp., one of the largest personal computer (PC) makers in the world. Canion played an instrumental role in the launch of the world's first portable IBM-compatible PC in 1983. He also is credited with parlaying Compaq from a PC upstart into a firm largely responsible for wresting control of PC standards from IBM Corp.

Canion earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Houston. Eventually, he began working as an engineer for Texas Instruments. In October of 1981, he and partners James Harris and William H. Mutro approached venture capitalists with their plans to build a disk drive for IBM's new PC. When funding appeared imminent, Canion and his partners left their management positions with Texas Instruments. However, the anticipated financial backing fell through, and Canion began examining other options. According to Computer Reseller News writer Craig Zarley, "On Jan. 9, 1982, the idea that would change the PC industry forever came to him. He decided to make a better portable PC than the Osborne. But more importantly, it had to run IBM software, a concept of adhering to industry standards that would become Compaq's hallmark."

The idea garnered roughly $1.5 million in venture capital, allowing Canion, Harris, and Mutro to create Compaq Computer. In June, after a prototype of the portable PC had been completed, Compaq secured an additional $8.5 million in funding. The machine hit the market in January of 1983, and sales that year of $111 million set a record for highest first year revenues in U.S. corporate history. Also that year, Canion took his firm public, securing $67 million in fresh capital.

Compaq's early success was due in large part to its ability to bring new products to market in roughly six to nine months, must faster than the industry average of 12 to 18 eighteen months. In July of 1984, Canion oversaw the release of Compaq's first desktop PC, the Deskpro. Sales that year reached $329 million. Microprocessor giant Intel Corp. agreed in 1986 to partner with Compaq to develop its new microprocessor, shortly after IBM revealed its intent to postpone the use of Intel's 386 chip in its PCs. Compaq's Desk-pro 386, launched in September, was roughly three times faster than IBM's fastest machines. That year, Compaq became the youngest firm to join the Fortune 500. Sales in 1987 eclipsed the $1 billion mark for the first time.

During the late 1980s, Canion was instrumental in Compaq's involvement with the group of PC makers who championed the Extended Industry Standard Architecture (EISA), which undermined IBM Corp.'s effort to put in place its own private set of standards. As the new millennium arrived, he began to steer Compaq toward the server market, believing that PCs would play a pivotal role in the burgeoning networking industry. In 1992, Compaq's board of directors decided that Canion might not be the best person to lead the firm's foray into enterprise computing. Chairman Ben Rosen replaced Canion with Eckhard Pfeiffer that year. Eventually, Canion went on to create consultancy Insource Technologies Corp. From May of 1999 to November of 2000, he served as co-CEO of Tricord Systems Inc. Canion was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 2001.


"Compaq Co-Founder, Rod Canion, Named to 2001 Texas Business Hall of Fame." Business Wire. September 26, 2001.

Deckmyn, Dominique. "Canion Responds to the Lure of a Start-Up; Compaq Co-founder is Coming out of Semiretirement to Help Reshape Tricord." Computerworld. May 24, 1999.

Zarley, Craig. "Rod Canion." Compuer Reseller News. November 16, 1997.

SEE ALSO: Compaq Computer Corp.; IBM Inc.; Intel Corp.