David Dicker is the first of three 2010 Hall of Fame inductees. The Hall of Fame recognises exceptional individuals who have contributed to the Australian IT industry over a significant period of time. Dicker was triumphant in winning the commendation of his peers to be recognised as a 2010 inductee. He spoke to JENNIFER O’BRIEN.
Despite a wildly successful career in the Australian distribution channel, David Dicker displays a tinge of sadness and regret as he laments his failed invention back in the '80s.
“I spent 10 years in the ‘80s trying to build my own computer in Australia and export it worldwide. And we’re not talking about a personal computer, we’re talking about a full-scale machine,” said Dicker, managing director and co-owner of Dicker Data.
“I designed the architecture of the hardware and the software, I wrote the operating system and I had engineers and programmers who did all the support work and we failed in that project. It was rubbish, but I made strategic errors in terms of the way I managed it, so it was basically my fault. Bitter is not the right word, but if we’d taken that approach to the US or even in Taiwan, I’m sure we would have succeeded. But I was hell-bent on doing it in Australia. In hindsight that was just a huge mistake.”
Indeed, this outspoken, no holds-barred character has been in the distribution game since 1978 when he set up shop after flying to the US to buy microcomputers from Vector Graphics, which he eventually won exclusive Australian distribution rights for.
The Sutherland Shire-bred character, who prefers a tracksuit to the typical casual business attire, had been working in his father’s business (making material for building timber roof trusses) when he watched the work being done by the consulting engineers using HP-97 programmable calculators – and figured he could do it better.
“I started to write programs and I had to relearn all the mathematics that I flunked out on in high school. Fortunately I’d only been out of high school for a few years and I still had the stupid text books. I managed it – God knows how. Anyway, I started writing the programs and after a short time it was obvious that it was going better with us doing it than the consulting engineers so we told them to stop.”
He soon realised the programmable calculators weren’t powerful enough so he started looking for microcomputers, which he found in the US thanks to Vector Graphics. He bought four computers, which he sold to customers of the roofing truss business, and had ambitions to sell 10 computers a month.
“Obviously, anybody could see there was going to be a market for these computers so we started to sell them and that’s how it all started.”