The CIA was the customer that launched Oracle, co-founder Larry Ellison said on stage Sunday night during the opening keynote for the company’s massive customer conference in San Francisco.
“Our very first customer was the Central Intelligence Agency,” he said.
He and his co-founders sort of tricked the world into buying their first database, by not naming it version 1.0 as was the norm back in the day.
“The very first version was Oracle version 2. We knew no one would want to buy version 1. Low and behold the CIA was our first customer.”
Ellison also mentioned writing that database with his co-founders for the best computers of the day. “The first generation, ran on DEC [Digital Equipment Corp.] mini-computers and IBM mainframes … there were no such things as PCs at the time.”
The story goes something like this: Ellison had twice dropped out of college before moving to Northern California at age 22, in 1966. In California, he began to work here and there as a computer programmer, eventually landing at Amdahl, a company that made mainframe computers. That’s where he met his Oracle co-founders.
Ellison read a paper published by IBM about a new kind of database programming language called SQL. Ellison took that paper and turned SQL into a database. In 1977 he founded Software Development Labs with his former boss, Robert Miner, along with Ed Oates and Bruce Scott. The CIA hired the young company to build this new kind of database that they code-named Oracle. A few years later, when Oracle was still tiny, IBM signed on to use Oracle and Ellison later renamed the company after its best selling product.
Flash forward to 2014 and Ellison is worth about $US50 billion, mostly thanks to his 26% stake in Oracle.
His company now makes its own computers to run his database and he competes directly with IBM in that market, and in the database market.
Meanwhile, the CIA has continued to invest in new tech, too, everything from a massive new $US600 million cloud being built by Amazon to its In-Q-Tel venture fund, which has backed nearly a 100 tech companies.