Steve Frankel joined Micom in 1979 as head of engineering, taking over for company co-founder Bill Norred. Before joining Micom, Frankel worked for IBM, Hughes Aircraft and Tran Telecommunications. At Tran, he and another engineer built an early version of a data PBX. Later at Tran, he helped design and build multiplexers for the Canadian Government’s “Dataroute”, the first data communications service. He was also involved in the design of a X-25 compliant circuit/packet network for the South African Post Office.
His first task at Micom was to build an engineering team. When Frankel joined Micom, he remembers, “engineering was Bill Norred and one very capable programmer and a couple of helpers and that was it.” Their only products were a statistical multiplexer and some TDMs. Frankel managed the development of new products in the statistical multiplexer line, as well as the introduction of the Micro600 Port Selector and other data PBX products, and development of a line of modems. Frankel saw the company grow to over 2,000 employees with an increase in revenues from $5 to $133 million during the 5 years he was with them, helping to establish Micom as one of the industry leaders in the data communications market.
Frankel left Micom in 1984 for network storage company Emulex. He saw the threat that the introduction of the PC presented to the data PBX industry and thought that Micom was in need of an organizational restructuring. He and Micom co-founder, Roger Evans, had learned from Micom’s customers that with the advent of desktop computers, they wanted to transfer files, something that the emerging LAN technology did better than data PBX’s. As Micom realized they needed a systems-based solution, not just a hardware solution, to compete in the new LAN market, they went looking for a LAN company to acquire. But Frankel had seen the writing on the wall and mindful of the value of his investment in Micom at the time, left before the deal was finalized.
I helped recruit Steve to become the COO of Retix, an OSI firm, which he joined soon after this interview in September of ‘88. I had been involved with Retix since 1987, when Montgomery made an initial investment and I joined their board. The interview took place at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes. Readers interested in the history of Micom should also read the interviews with Art Wilkes, Bill Norred and Roger Evans.
Keywords: Tran Telecommunications, Micom, Micro600 Port Selector, Emulex, Retix