SaaS Metrics – A Guide to Measuring and Improving What Matters

David Skok • February 17, 2010

This blog post looks at the high level goals of a SaaS business and drills down layer by layer to expose the key metrics that will help drive success. Metrics for metric’s sake are not very useful. Instead the goal is to provide a detailed look at what management must focus on to drive a successful SaaS business. For each metric, we will also look at what is actionable.

Before going any further, I would like to thank the management team at HubSpot, and Gail Goodman of Constant Contact, who sits on the HubSpot board. A huge part of the material that I write about below comes my experiences working with them. In particular HubSpot’s management team is comprised of a group of very bright individuals that are all very metrics driven, and they have been clear thought leaders in developing the appropriate tools to drive their business. I’d also like to thank John Clancy, who until recently was President of Iron Mountain Digital, a $230m SaaS business, and Alastair Mitchell, CEO and founder of Huddle.

Let’s start by looking at the high level goals, and then drill down from there:


Key SaaS Goals

  • Profitability: needs no further explanation.
    • MRR Monthly Recurring Revenue: In a SaaS business, one of the most important numbers to watch is MRR. It is likely a key contributor to Profitability.
  • Cash: very critical to watch in a SaaS business, as there can be a high upfront cash outlay to acquire a customer, while the cash payments from the customer come in small increments over a long period of time. This problem can be somewhat alleviated by using longer term contracts with advance payments.
    • Months to recover CAC: one of the best ways to look at the capital efficiency of your SaaS business is to look at how many months of revenue from a customer are required to recover your cost of acquiring that customer(CAC). In businesses such as banking and wireless carriers, where capital is cheap and abundant, they can afford a long payback period before they recover their investment to acquire a customer (typically greater than one year). In the startup world where capital is scarce and expensive, you will need to do better. My own rule says that startups need to recover their cost of customer acquisition in less than 12 months.
      (Note: there are other web sites and blogs that talk about the CAC ratio, with a complex formula to calculate it. This is effectively a more complicated way of saying the same thing. However I have found that most people cannot relate well to the notion of a CAC ratio, but they can easily relate to the idea of how many months of revenue it will take to recover their investment to acquire a customer. Hence my preference for the term Months to Recover CAC.)
  • Growth: usually a critical success factor to gaining market leadership. There is clear evidence that once one company starts to emerge as a market leader, there is a cycle of positive reinforcement, as customers prefer to buy from the market leader, and the market leader gets the most discussion in the press, blogosphere, and social media.

Two Key Guidelines for SaaS startups


The above guidelines are not hard and fast rules. They are what I have observed to be needed by looking at a wide variety of SaaS startups. As a business moves past the startup stage, these guidelines may be relaxed.

In the next sections, we will drill down on the high level SaaS Goals to get to the components that drive each of these.

Three ways to look at Profitability


  1. Micro-Economics (per customer profitability): Micro-economics is the term used to describe looking at the economics of your business on a single customer level. Most business models (with a few exceptions such as marketplaces) are based around a simple principle: acquire customers and then monetize them. Micro-economics is about measuring the numbers behind these two essential ingredients of a customer interaction. The goal is to make sure the fundamental underpinnings of your business are sound: how much it cost to acquire your customers, and how much you can monetize them. i.e. CAC and LTV (cost of acquiring a customer, and lifetime value of the customer). In a SaaS business, you have a great business if LTV is significantly greater than CAC. My rule of thumb is that LTV must be at least 3x greater than CAC. (As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, your startup will die if your long term number for CAC is higher than your LTV. See Startup Killer: The cost of acquiring customers.)
  2. Overall profitability (standard accounting method): This looks a the standard accounting way of deriving profitability: revenue – COGS – Expenses.  The diagram also notes that Revenue is made up of MRR + Services Revenue. Since MRR is such a critical element, there will be a deeper drill down to understand the key component drivers.
  3. Profitability per Employee: it can be useful to look at the factors contributing to profitability on a per employee basis, and benchmark your company against the rest of the industry. Expenses per Employee is usually around $180-200k annually for businesses with all their employees in the US. (To calculate the number take the total of all expenses, not just salaraies, and divide by the number of employees.) Clearly to be profitable in the long term, you will want to see revenue per employee climb to be higher than expenses, taking into account your gross margin %.

Drill down on MRR


MRR is computed by multiplying the total number of paying customers by the average amount that they pay you each month (ARPU).

  • Total Customers:  a key metric for any SaaS company. This increases with new additions coming out the bottom of the sales funnel, and decreases by the number of customers that churn. Both of these are key metrics, and we will drill down into them later.
  • ARPU – average monthly revenue per customer: (The term ARPU comes from the wireless carriers where U stands for user.)  This is another extremely imporant variable that can be tweaked in the SaaS model. If you read my blog post on the JBoss story, you will see that one of the key ways that we grew that business was to take the average annual deal size from $10k, to $50k.  Given that the other parts of the pipeline worked with the same numbers and conversion rates, this grew the business by 5x.  We will drill down into how you can do the same thing a little further on.

Drill down on Micro-Economics (Per Customer Profitability)

Our goal is to see a graph that looks like the following:


To achieve this, lets look at the component parts of each line, to see what variables we can use to drive the curves:


As mentioned earlier, customer profitability = LTV – CAC.

Drill down on LTV

Drilling down into the factors affecting LTV, we see the following:

LTV = ARPU x Average Lifetime of a Customer – the Cost to Serve them (COGS)

It turns out that the Average Lifetime of a Customer is computed by 1/Churn Rate. As an example, if a you have a 50% churn rate, your average customer lifetime will be 1 divided by 50%, or 2 months. In most companies that I work with, they ignore tracking the average lifetime, but instead track the monthly churn rate religiously.

The importance of a low churn rate cannot be overstated. If your churn rate is high, then it is a clear indication of a problem with customer satisfaction. We will drill down later into how you can measure the factors contributing to Churn Rate, and talk about how you can improve them.

Drill down on CAC

The formula to compute CAC is:

CAC = Total cost of Sales & Marketing  /  No of Deals closed

It turns out that we are actually interested in two CAC numbers. One that looks purely at marketing program costs, and one that also takes into consideration the people and other expenses associated with running the sales and marketing organization. The first of these gives us an idea of how well we could do if we have a low touch, or touchless sales model, where the human costs won’t rise dramatically over time as we grow the lead flow.  The second number is more important for sales models that require more human touch to close the deal. In those situations the human costs will contribute greatly to CAC, and need to be taken into consideration to understand the true micro-economics.

I am often asked when it is possible to start measuring this and get a realistic number. Clearly there is no point in measuring this in the very early days of a startup, when you are still trying to refine product/market fit. However as you get to the point of having a repeatable sales model, this number becomes important, as that is the time when you will usually want to hit the accelerator pedal. It would be wrong to hit the accelerator pedal on a business that has unprofitable micro-economics. (When you are computing the costs for a very young company, it would be fair to remove the costs for people like the VP of Sales and VP of Marketing, as you will not hire more of these as you scale the company.)

When we look at how to lower CAC, there are a number of important variables that can be tweaked:

  • Sales Funnel Conversion rates: a funnel that takes the same number of leads and converts them at twice the rate, will not only result in 2x more closed customers, but will also lower CAC by half.  This is a very important place to focus energy, and a large part of this web site is dedicated to talking about how to do that. We will drill down into the Sales Funnel conversion rates next.
  • Marketing Program Costs: driving leads into the top of your sales funnel will usually involve a number of marketing programs. These could vary from pay per click advertising, to email campaigns, radio ads, tradeshows, etc. We will drill down into how to measure and control these costs later.
  • Level of Touch Required: a key factor that affects CAC is the amount of human sales touch required to convert a lead into a sale. Businesses that have a touchless conversion have spectacular economics: you can scale the number of leads being poured into the top of the funnel, and not worry about growing a sales organization, and the associated costs. Sadly most SaaS companies that I work with don’t have a touchless conversion. However it is a valuable goal to consider. What can you do to simplify both your product and your sales process to lower the amount of touch involved? This topic is covered at the bottom of a prior blog post:  Startup Killer: the cost of acquiring customers.
  • Personnel costs: this is directly related to the level of touch required. To see if you are improving both of these, you may find it useful to measure your Personnel costs as a % of CAC over time.

Drill down on Sales Funnel Conversion Rates

The metrics that matter for each sales funnel, vary from one company to the next depending on the steps involved in the funnel. However there is a common way to measure each step, and the overall funnel, regardless of your sales process. That involves measuring two things for each step:  the number of leads that went into the top of that step, and the conversion rate to the next step in the funnel (see below).


You will also want to measure the overall funnel effectiveness by measuring the number of leads that go into the top of the funnel, and the conversion rate for the entire funnel process to signed customers.

The funnel diagram above shows a very simple process for a SaaS company with a touchless conversion. If you have a conversion process involving a sales organization, you will want to add those steps to the funnel process to get insights into the performance of your sales organization. For example, your inside sales process might look like the following:


Here if we look at the closed deals and overall conversion rates by sales rep, we will have a good idea of who our best reps are. For lower performing reps, it is useful to look at the intermediate conversion rates, as someone that is doing a poor job of, say, converting demos to closed deals could be an indication that they need demo training from people that have high conversion rates for demos. (Or, as Mark Roberge, VP of Sales at HubSpot, pointed out, it could also mean that they did a poor job of qualifying people that they put into the Demo stage.)

These metrics give you the insight you need into your sales and marketing machine, and those insights give you a roadmap for what actions you need to take to improve conversion rates.

Using Funnel Metrics in forward planning

Another key value of having these conversion rates is the ability to understand the implications of future forecasts. For example, lets say your company wants to do $4m in the next quarter. You can work backwards to figure out how many demos/trials that means, and given the sales productivity numbers – how many salespeople are required, and going back a stage earlier, how many leads are going to be required. These are crucial planning numbers that can change staffing levels, marketing program spend levels, etc.

Drill down by Customer Type

If you have different customer types, you will want to look at all the CAC and LTV metrics for each different customer type, to understand the profitability by customer type. Often times this can lead you to a decision to focus more energy on the most profitable customer type.

Drill down into ROI per Marketing Program

My experiences with SaaS startups indicate that they usually start with a couple of lead generation programs such as Pay Per Click Google Ad-words, radio ads, etc. What I have found is that each of these lead sources tends to saturate over time, and produce less leads for more dollars invested. As a result, SaaS companies will need to be constantly evaluating new lead sources that they can layer in on top of the old to keep growing.


Since the conversion rates and costs per lead vary quite considerably, it is important to also measure the overall ROI by lead source:


Growing leads fast enough to feed the front end of the funnel is one of the perennial challenges for any SaaS company, and is likely to be one of the greatest limiting factors to growth. If you are facing that situation, the most powerful advice I can give you is to start investing in Inbound Marketing techniques (see Get Found using Inbound Marketing). This will take time to ramp up, but if you can do it well, will lead to far lower lead costs, and greater scaling than other paid techniques. Additionally the typical SaaS buyer is clearly web-savvy, and therefore very likely to embrace inbound marketing content and touchless selling techniques.

From Alistair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle: “Just calculating CAC can be extremely complicated, given the numerous ways in which people find out about your service.  To stop getting too bogged down in the detail, its best to start with a blended rate that just takes your total spend on marketing (people, pr, acquisition etc) and split this across all your customers, regardless of type or source. Then, once you’ve got comfortable with that, you can start to break CAC down by the different customer types and elements of your inbound funnel, and start measuring specific campaigns for their contribution to each customer type.”

Drill down into Churn Rate


As described in the section on LTV, Churn Rate has a direct effect on LTV. If you can halve your churn rate, it will double your LTV. It is an enormously important variable in a SaaS business. Churn can usually be attributed to low customer satisfaction. We can measure customer satisfaction using customer surveys, and in particular, theNet Promoter Score.

If you are using longer term contracts, another key metric to focus on is renewals. From John Clancy, ex-President of Iron Mountain Digital: “

Non-renewals add to churn, but they can have different drivers. We spent a lot of time examining our renewal rates and found that a single digit improvement made a huge difference. Often times the driver on a non-renewal is economic – the internal IT department has mounted a campaign to bring the solution back in house. SaaS businesses need to identify renewal dates and treat the renewal as a sales cycle (it’s much easier and less expensive than a new sale, but it deserves the same level of attention) Many SaaS businesses make the mistake of taking renewals for granted.”

A good predictor of when a customer is about to churn is their product usage pattern. Low levels of usage indicate a lack of commitment to the product. It can be a good idea to instrument the product to measure this, looking for particular features our usage patterns that are correlated with stickiness, or a likelihood to churn.

Another measurement tool that can be very useful in understanding churn is to look at a Cohort Analysis. The term cohort refers to a group of customers that started in the same month. The reason for doing this is that churn varies over time, and using a single churn number for all customers will mask this. Cohort analysis shows:

  • How churn varies over time (the green call out below).
  • How churn rates are changing with newer cohorts, (the red call out below)  For example in the early days of your SaaS company, you may have serious product problems and lose a lot of customers in the first month. Over time your product gets better, and the first month churn rate will drop.

Cohort analysis will show this, instead of mixing all the churn rates into single number.


Here’s a comment on Cohort Analysis from Alastair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle: “I actually think this is more important than churn, for the simple fact that churn varies over the lifetime of a customer cohort, and just looking at monthly churn can be very misleading.  Also, given the importance of payback in a year – you really want to look at churn over the course of a 12 months cohort. For instance, in the first 3 months of a monthly paying customer you will see high churn (3 is a recurring ‘magic’ number in all of retail), then reduced churn (sometimes even positive churn) over the next 3 months less and then probably more stable spend over the next 6 months. The number you really care about is the % of customers spending after 12 months (not necessarily on a monthly basis) as that’s what matters for your CAC payback calculations.”

Two variables that really matter

As we saw above, there are two variables that have a huge effect on a SaaS business: funnel conversion rate, and churn, and it is not a bad idea to graph them as shown below.


Drill down into ARPU (Average Revenue per Customer)


ARPU is often different for different customer categories, and should be measured separately for each category. It can usually be driven up by focusing on:

  • Product Mix: adding products to the range, and using bundles, and cross-sell and up-sell
  • Scalable Pricing:  there are always some customers that are willing to pay more for your product than others. The trick is developing a multi-dimensional pricing matrix that allows you to scale pricing for larger customers that derive more value from the product. This could be pricing by the seat used (, or by some other metric such as number of individuals mailed in email campaigns (Eloqua).
    If you are using scalable pricing, it will be valuable to measure what the distribution is of customers along the various axes. You could imagine taking an action to do after more seats inside of existing customers as a way to drive more revenue. etc.

Drill down into Cash


We already discussed Months to recover CAC as a key variable. There is another way to affect Cash: which is using longer term contracts and incenting your customers to pay for 6, 12, 24, or even 36 months up front in advance. This can mean the difference between needing to raise tons of venture capital and giving away ownership, or being able to grow the business in a self-funded manner. Given the cost of capital, you can often calculate what discount makes sense. (If capital is cheap and freely available, it doesn’t make sense to give much discount.)

If you do use longer term contracts, it will be important to measure “Discretionary Churn”. Since some of your customers are locked in and cannot churn, they could artificially lower your overall churn numbers. The way to understand what is really going on is to look at the discretionary churn, which is the churn rate for all customers that are at the point where they have the option to churn, removing those whose contracts would have prevented them from churning.

Cash Management and forecasting

Cash is one of the most important items to get right in any startup. Run out of cash, and your business will come grinding to a halt regardless of how good any of your other metrics may be. One of the most important ways to run a SaaS company is to look at CashFlow profitability (not recognized revenue profitability). What is the difference: If your business only gets paid month by month, there will be no difference, but if you get longer term contracts, and get paid in advance, you will receive more cash upfront than you can recognize as revenue, so your cash flow profitability will look better than your revenue profitability, and is a more realistic view of whether you can survive day to day on the money coming in the door.

Here is another comment from Alastair Mitchell of Huddle on this topic: “SaaS companies tuning their model should think not just in terms of the months to recover CAC, but also the topline amount of cash required to get to cashflow profitability (or the next funding round). This is probably the single biggest mistake I see in early stage companies. They don’t look ahead, using these metrics, to figure out that if the time to repay CAC is 12 months, then in aggregate they are going to need 12 months of CAC spend PLUS the number of months required of further growth to cover their operating costs (mostly engineering) BEFORE they are even cashflow positive (let alone revenue profitability). Most businesses I see fundamentally miss this and end up short; frequently through under-estimating the time to recover CAC, and churn. The readers of this blog should be focused on cashflow profitability, not revenue profitability. (Hence why your point about annual/upfront contracts is so important)”

Drill down into Growth


Focusing on Growth as a separate parameter can be highly valuable. It is the nature of a SaaS business to grow MRR month on month, even if you only added the same number of customers every month. However your goal should be to grow the number of new customers that you sign up every month. You can do this by focusing on:

  • Improvement in the overall funnel conversion rate
  • Lead Generation Growth
  • Growth in Funnel Capacity

The first two have been covered already. The last bullet: Growth in Funnel Capacity is an often overlooked metric that can bite you unexpectedly if you don’t pay attention to it. In my second startup, I had a situation where sales growth stalled after growing extremely rapidly for a couple of years. The problem, as it turned out, was that we had stopped hiring new sales people after reaching 20 people, a number that felt very large to me, and had maxed out on sales capacity. We started sales hiring again, and a couple of years later the business hit a $100m run rate. I witnessed a similar phenomenon at Solidworks, when after 2-3 years of phenomenal growth, their growth slowed. It turned out that their channel sales capacity had stopped growing. Solidworks started measuring and managing something that would later turn out to be a critical metric: channel capacity in terms of the number of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) sales people in their channel, and the average productivity per FTE. This has helped propel them to over $400m in annual revenues.

Another great way to grow your business is by adding new products that can be up-sold, or product features that can lead to a higher price point. Since you already have a billable contract, it is extremely easy to increase the amount being charged, and this can often be done with a touchless sale.

Other Metrics

There are a series of less important metrics that can still be useful to be aware of. I have listed some of these in the diagrams below:



After posting the above, I received a note from Gail Goodman of Constant Contact, noting that they include the cost of on-boarding a customer in CAC, not LTV as I have shown. Given that they are a public company with significant accounting scrutiny, this is likely the right way to do things.


If you have kept reading this long, it likely means that you are likely an executive in a SaaS company, and truly have a reason to care about this depth of analysis. I would very much like to hear from you in the comments section below to see if I have missed out on metrics that you think are important.

The main conclusion to draw from this article, is that a SaaS business can be optimized in many ways. This article aims to help you understand what the levers are, and how they can affect the key goals of Profitability, Cash, Growth, and market share. To pull those levers requires that you first measure the variables, and watch them as they change over time.

It also requires that you implement a very metrics driven culture, which can only be done from the top. The CEO needs to use these metrics in her staff meetings, and those execs need to use them with their staff, etc. Human nature is such that if you show someone a metric, they will automatically work to try to improve it. That kind of a culture will lead to true operational excellence, and hopefully great success.

The History of Computers in a Nutshell

The History of Computers in a Nutshell

Apr 21 2010 by Cameron Chapman

The History of Computers in a Nutshell

Computers have wedged themselves into every facet of our lives—they are what we would use as the symbolic representation of the modern world.

But did you know that the history of computers dates back to the 1800s?

Indeed, the history and evolution of computers is quite extraordinary—and with many early computing technology innovations tied to defense contracts, much of this information were kept secret from the public for decades. In this article, we explore the development and progression of computers.


Mid-1800s-1930s: Early Mechanical Computers

The first computers were designed by Charles Babbage in the mid-1800s, and are sometimes collectively known as the Babbage Engines. These include the Difference Engine No. 1, the Analytical Engine, and the Difference Engine No. 2.

Difference Engine No. 2The Difference Engine was constructed from designs by Charles Babbage. Photo by Allan J. Cronin

These early computers were never completed during Babbage’s lifetime, but their complete designs were preserved. Eventually, one was built in 2002.

While these early mechanical computers bore little resemblance to the computers in use today, they paved the way for a number of technologies that are used by modern computers, or were instrumental in their development. These concepts include of the idea of separating storage from processing, the logical structure of computers, and the way that data and instructions are inputted and outputted.

Z1Z1 was used to take the U.S. Census in 1890.

Other important mechanical computers are the Automatic Electrical Tabulating Machine—which was used in the U.S. Census of 1890 to handle data from more than 62 million Americans—and the first binary computer: Konrad Zuse’s Z1, which was developed in 1938 and was the precursor to the first electro-mechanical computer.

1930s: Electro-Mechanical Computers

Electro-mechanical computers generally worked with relays and/or vacuum tubes, which could be used as switches.

Some electro-mechanical computers—such as the Differential Analyzer built in 1930—used purely mechanical internals but employed electric motors to power them.

These early electro-mechanical computers were either analog or were digital—such as the Model K and the Complex Number Calculator, both produced by George Stibitz.

Stibitz, by the way, was also responsible for the first remote access computing, done at a conference at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He took a teleprinter to the conference, leaving his computer in New York City, and then proceeded to take problems posed by the audience. He then entered the problems on the keypad of his teleprinter, which outputted the answers afterward.

Z3Z3 used floating-point numbers which improved the accuracy of calculations.

It was during the development of these early electro-mechanical computers that many of the technologies and concepts still used today were first developed. The Z3, a descendent of the Z1 developed by Konrad Zuse, was one such pioneering computer. The Z3 used floating-point numbers in computations and was the first program-controlled digital computer.

Other electro-mechanical computers included Bombes, which were used during WWII to decrypt German codes.

1940s: Electronic Computers

ColossusColossus—whose name was fitting for its size—was developed during World War II.

The first electronic computers were developed during the World War II, with the earliest of those being the Colossus. The Colossus was developed to decrypt secret German codes during the war. It used vacuum tubes and paper tape and could perform a number of Boolean (e.g. true/false, yes/no) logical operations.

Williams TubeWilliams Tube used RAM for its computations.

Another notable early electronic computer was nicknamed “The Baby” (officially known as the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine). While the computer itself wasn’t remarkable—it was the first computer to use the Williams Tube, a type of random access memory (RAM) that used a cathode-ray tube.

Some early electronic computers used decimal numeric systems (such as the ENIAC and the Harvard Mark 1), while others—like the Atanasoff-Berry Computer and the Colossus Mark 2—used binary systems. With the exception of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, all the major models were programmable, either using punch cards, patch cables and switches, or through stored programs in memory.

1950s: The First Commercial Computers

The first commercially available computers came in the 1950s. While computing up until this time had mainly focused on scientific, mathematical, and defense capabilities, new computers were designed for business functions, such as banking and accounting.

The J. Lyons Company, which was a British catering firm, invested heavily in some of these early computers. In 1951, LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) became the first computer to run a regular routine office job. By November of that year, they were using the LEO to run a weekly bakery valuations job.

UNIVACThe UNIVAC was the first mass-produced computer.

The UNIVAC was the first commercial computer developed in the U.S., with its first unit delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was the first mass-produced computer, with more than 45 units eventually produced and sold.

The IBM 701 was another notable development in early commercial computing; it was the first mainframe computer produced by IBM. It was around the same time that theFortran programming language was being developed (for the 704).

IBM 650The IBM 650 would cost you $4 million dollars if you bought it today.

A smaller IBM 650 was developed in the mid-1950s, and was popular due to its smaller size and footprint (it still weighed over 900kg, with a separate 1350kg power supply).

They cost the equivalent of almost $4 million today (adjusted for inflation).

Mid-1950s: Transistor Computers

The development of transistors led to the replacement of vacuum tubes, and resulted in significantly smaller computers. In the beginning, they were less reliable than the vacuum tubes they replaced, but they also consumed significantly less power.

RAMACIBM 350 RAMAC used disk drives.

These transistors also led to developments in computer peripherals. The first disk drive, the IBM 350 RAMAC, was the first of these introduced in 1956. Remote terminals also became more common with these second-generation computers.

1960s: The Microchip and the Microprocessor

The microchip (or integrated circuit) is one of the most important advances in computing technology. Many overlaps in history existed between microchip-based computers and transistor-based computers throughout the 1960s, and even into the early 1970s.

Micochips allowed the manufacturing of smaller computers. Photo by Ioan Sameli

The microchip spurred the production of minicomputers and microcomputers, which were small and inexpensive enough for small businesses and even individuals to own. The microchip also led to the microprocessor, another breakthrough technology that was important in the development of the personal computer.

There were three microprocessor designs that came out at about the same time. The first was produced by Intel (the 4004). Soon after, models from Texas Instruments (the TMS 1000) and Garret AiResearch (the Central Air Data Computer, or CADC) followed.

The first processors were 4-bit, but 8-bit models quickly followed by 1972.

16-bit models were produced in 1973, and 32-bit models soon followed. AT&T Bell Labs created the first fully 32-bit single-chip microprocessor, which used 32-bit buses, 32-bit data paths, and 32-bit addresses, in 1980.

The first 64-bit microprocessors were in use in the early 1990s in some markets, though they didn’t appear in the PC market until the early 2000s.

1970s: Personal Computers

The first personal computers were built in the early 1970s. Most of these were limited-production runs, and worked based on small-scale integrated circuits and multi-chip CPUs.

The Commodore PET was a personal computer in the 70s. Photo by Tomislav Medak

The Altair 8800 was the first popular computer using a single-chip microprocessor. It was also sold in kit form to electronics hobbyists, meaning purchasers had to assemble their own computers.

Clones of this machine quickly cropped up, and soon there was an entire market based on the design and architecture of the 8800. It also spawned a club based around hobbyist computer builders, the Homebrew Computer Club.

1977 saw the rise of the “Trinity” (based on a reference in Byte magazine): the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the Tandy Corporation’s TRS-80. These three computer models eventually went on to sell millions.

These early PCs had between 4kB and 48kB of RAM. The Apple II was the only one with a full-color, graphics-capable display, and eventually became the best-seller among the trinity, with more than 4 million units sold.

1980s-1990s: The Early Notebooks and Laptops

One particularly notable development in the 1980s was the advent of the commercially available portable computer.

Osborne 1 was small and portable enough to transport. Photo by Tomislav Medak

The first of these was the Osborne 1, in 1981. It had a tiny 5″ monitor and was large and heavy compared to modern laptops (weighing in at 23.5 pounds). Portable computers continued to develop, though, and eventually became streamlined and easily portable, as the notebooks we have today are.

These early portable computers were portable only in the most technical sense of the word. Generally, they were anywhere from the size of a large electric typewriter to the size of a suitcase.

The Gavilan SC was the first PC to be sold as a “laptop”.

The first laptop with a flip form factor, was produced in 1982, but the first portable computer that was actually marketed as a “laptop” was the Gavilan SC in 1983.

Early models had monochrome displays, though there were color displays available starting in 1984 (the Commodore SX-64).

Laptops grew in popularity as they became smaller and lighter. By 1988, displays had reached VGA resolution, and by 1993 they had 256-color screens. From there, resolutions and colors progressed quickly. Other hardware features added during the 1990s and early 2000s included high-capacity hard drives and optical drives.

Laptops typically come in three categories, as shown by these Macbooks. Photo by Benjamin Nagel

Laptops are generally broken down into a three different categories:

  • Desktop replacements
  • Standard notebooks
  • Subnotebooks

Desktop replacements are usually larger, with displays of 15-17″ and performance comparable with some better desktop computers.

Standard notebooks usually have displays of 13-15″ and are a good compromise between performance and portability.

Subnotebooks, including netbooks, have displays smaller than 13″ and fewer features than standard notebooks.

2000s: The Rise of Mobile Computing

Mobile computing is one of the most recent major milestones in the history of computers.

Many smartphones today have higher processor speeds and more memory than desktop PCs had even ten years ago. With phones like the iPhone and the Motorola Droid, it’s becoming possible to perform most of the functions once reserved for desktop PCs from anywhere.

2000s: The Rise of Mobile ComputingThe Droid is a smartphone capable of basic computing tasks such as emailing and web browsing.

Mobile computing really got its start in the 1980s, with the pocket PCs of the era. These were something like a cross between a calculator, a small home computer and a PDA. They largely fell out of favor by the 1990s. During the 1990s, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) became popular.

A number of manufacturers had models, including Apple and Palm. The main feature PDAs had that not all pocket PCs had was a touchscreen interface. PDAs are still manufactured and used today, though they’ve largely been replaced by smartphones.

Smartphones have truly revolutionized mobile computing. Most basic computing functions can now be done on a smartphone, such as email, browsing the internet, and uploading photos and videos.

Late 2000s: Netbooks

Another recent progression in computing history is the development of netbook computers. Netbooks are smaller and more portable than standard laptops, while still being capable of performing most functions average computer users need (using the Internet, managing email, and using basic office programs). Some netbooks go as far as to have not only built-in WiFi capabilities, but also built-in mobile broadband connectivity options.

NetbooksThe Asus Eee PC 700 was the first netbook to enter mass production.

The first mass-produced netbook was the Asus Eee PC 700, released in 2007. They were originally released in Asia, but were released in the US not long afterward.

Other manufacturers quickly followed suit, releasing additional models throughout 2008 and 2009.

One of the main advantages of netbooks is their lower cost (generally ranging from around US$200-$600). Some mobile broadband providers have even offered netbooks for free with an extended service contract. Comcast also had a promotion in 2009 that offered a free netbook when you signed up for their cable internet services.

Most netbooks now come with Windows or Linux installed, and soon, there will be Android-based netbooks available from Asus and other manufacturers.

The history of computing spans nearly two centuries at this point, much longer than most people realize. From the mechanical computers of the 1800s to the room-sized mainframes of the mid-20th century, all the way up to the netbooks and smartphones of today, computers have evolved radically throughout their history.

The past 100 years have brought technological leaps and bounds to computing, and there’s no telling what the next 100 years might bring.

Also follow these links for great timelines:


“Aaron Bare developed a Custom Disruptive Workshop for Coca-Cola’s Largest Cross-Functional customer team.  This 3-day program included disruptive innovation sessions, how best to organize disruption, and used change to align the entire team on accountabilities & goals that would drive results.

He was able to disrupt the way the organization was traditionally thinking by introducing several techniques that will enable the team to become change agents, while deploying several new meaningful projects that will drive the team’s collaboration, team strengths, and focus based on the customer & Coca-Cola’s objectives.

He provided an environment that allowed our associates to understand the speed of change, the skills & capabilities required to be an integral part of our customer’s growth, and gained the alignment of the team to commit to each other to be their ‘best’.    It was a huge home run for our team and the outside thinking was just what we needed….”

Cathy Horgan, VP, The McDonald’s Division, USA at The Coca-Cola Company


“Aaron Bare’s insightful intellect helps audiences better understand the disruptive nature of social media and the negative and positive impacts on their lives.  His insights allow them to leave with a deeper understanding of the challenges they face in these rapidly changing times and the tools and resources necessary to not only compete, but succeed!”

Jeff McKeever ~ CEO, MicroAge and WPO Disruption Chair


“In August, 2012, Aaron Bare presented and facilitated a dialogue on “Disruption Influences on Leadership and Innovation” to our annual corporate strategic planning retreat.  Aaron’s presentation style is comfortable and conversational, yet provocative and stimulating.  His interaction with our team left us full of ideas, and wanting more!  Our firm is committed to deploying our “energy and ideas for a better world”.  Aaron talked about how “disruption is innovative leaders being the change they see in the world.”  We have embraced his ideas and are using them to bring as we seek to inspire positive social change and create a better world.

We highly endorse Aaron as an outstanding presenter, thinker, entrepreneur, and innovator.” Richard Tollefson, President, The Phoenix Philanthropy Group.


“Aaron spoke to a global growth conference for the Russian Science Technology and Education Center and was extremely effective in communicating his ideas about marketing online. I enjoyed his fresh take on internet searching and how to prepare online information both to be found and to impress the right audience.” Doug Bruhnke, CEO of Growth Nation and The Global Chamber


“I invited Aaron to present to a ‘C’ Level group of executives on Disruption and its impact on business models and leadership. He succeeded in making a number of us uncomfortable with both the speed and scope of change across a broad swath of hard product and digital verticals.  Aaron was knowledgeable, engaging, balanced and gave our group many compelling examples of the forces driving business model challenges, along with some solutions derived from creative adaptation. Fast decisions, trial and error pivots and business model changes (while also limiting the risks of huge bets), along with technologies ‘simplifying’ force offered important insights for our group and particularly powerful takeaways.”  Bruce Black, M&A Advisor, Fox & Fin Financial Group


“Aaron has the ability to take a complex subject (social media) and break it down to understandable terms (for a 50 year old). I respect not only his expertise in social media but the fact that he brings a wealth of experience from the staffing industry – he “gets” what Duffy does and is effectively massaging the language so potential customers will understand immediately what recruiting research is.” Kathryn Duffy, Duffy Group


Aaron Bare’s presentation about the dynamics of the marketplace and our potential as entrepreneurs opened an entirely new set of possibilities for us. Welded to legal theory, we too easily forget about the reality of business and the dynamics beyond the staid examples of our hypotheticals. Law cannot possibly keep up with changes in technologies and global markets. Success will require vigilance for opportunities and a tolerance for risk. Mr. Bare’s fresh presentation breathed fresh thought into our law school, a perspective we direly needed.

Nicholas Chidiac, President of the Federalist Society, George Washington University


“Comments about Aaron Bare’s presentation have become viral on our campus. The students quickly and easily identified with him. The faculty and staff have continued to discuss his talking points with the students. The campus is in full buzz with phrases and descriptions that include:



‘A career maker’

‘I can’t stop thinking about his comments’

‘I will be an entrepreneur’

Aaron is THE Entrepreneurial MAN!” Dr. Jeffrey Walls, SPHR Indiana Institute of Technology


“Aaron Bare’s presentation spoke to the technological push in every industry and the need for lawyer’s to adapt, encouraging participant’s to consider new issues, and move the legal field into the technological age.  Aaron’s unique perspective and forward thinking approach throw participant’s into the chaos of disruptive influences, bringing it full circle by introducing new and innovative ways of considering technology and the legal field.”  James Devereaux, President, Federalist Society Chapter, William & Mary School of Law


“Mr. Bare came to Florida International University to speak about entrepreneurship generally, and how to be disruptive in the legal field.  By disruptive, he meant changing how things are done in the legal field and learning how to capitalize on those changes.

The most important thing that I took from Mr. Bare’s presentation was that it is vital to become an expert in something.  Really, it is less important what that something is, just so long as you are an expert somewhere.  From there, all that remains is to find out how to capitalize on that expertise.  Essentially, Mr. Bare helped us realize that no matter what you are an expert in, somebody somewhere will need that expertise.  Therein lay opportunity.


Overall, I thought Mr. Bare was fantastic.  He is among the more interesting speakers we have had the opportunity to host this academic year.”  Philip Howard, Federal Society President, Florida International University


“Aaron’s presentation was intriguing and thought-provoking.  He provided a unique perspective of the future of the legal profession and the impact that technology has had, and will continue to have, in shaping the way attorneys practice law.”  Aaron Boothby, Federal Society President, University of Akron


“There are very few actual movers and shakers with a vested interest in the Phoenix community who have a solid intelligent background and grasp on business at a high level. Aaron is one of those rare individuals. I met Aaron many years ago on a plane and was impressed from the start. I have had the pleasure of working with him throughout the years on projects, and have also had clients and colleagues who have had the same pleasure with amazing results. Aaron is top notch!” Amanda Vega, Social Media, PR, and Compliance Nerd with 20 years experience. CEO, Published Author, Professional Speaker


“As a marketing major, I always think about how I can utilize both my business degree and the law degree, and your lecture opened my eyes to things I never considered before. Thank you!” Sangduk Simon Lee. Student, Lewis & Clark University


“I highly recommend Buzzmouth for your marketing needs. They are fun to work with and really go the extra mile to make sure you have what you need, on time and on budget!   I will definitely hire Aaron’s team at Buzzmouth in the future!” Sara Decker, Director, Turning Pointe Wealth Management 


“Buzz Mouth! What can I say! Aaron Bare has molded Buzz Mouth into THE cutting edge entity for helping businesses and individuals breakthrough and occupy the space they covet by delivering the right message at the right time with the right tool to targeted audiences. Buzz Mouth has harnessed a unique mix of social media, brand positioning and collaborative consulting which is unmatched by others in the business arena today. Aaron and Buzz Mouth were invaluable in helping to put Brand Aspirations on the map. Why wait for 2020, when you can be there now with Aaron and Buzz Mouth!”   Stephen F. Horgan, CEO, Founder Brand Aspirations


“Aaron is a big picture thinker, who thrives on creating new ideas and cutting edge technologies. He has the unique ability to also relate these concepts to others with both passion and ease.   I’m always happy to work on projects with Aaron and Buzz Mouth – he fosters a fast-paced and innovative environment.” Laura Fursman, Executive Assistant, Blogger, Artist


“I have had the pleasure to know Aaron for several years and finally see him at work providing expert guidance and services to one of my businesses. His knowledge and expertise is unsurpassed and he is very enjoyable to work with on a project.”  Tom Fulcher, The Idea Gardener LLC


“Aaron redefines time and energy every day. He has the ability to implement when others are just thinking about reading more on an idea. He is a true pioneer that has courage and spirit to venture into the unknown; it is these qualities that make him a superb entrepreneur and leader. I have had the pleasure of working with Aaron on many projects in our MBA and now continue to work with him on mobile business applications. In addition to his boundless energy for creation he sees connections between social networking, marketing and sales that drive efficiencies in turning leads into customers. I would say that he is a genius in the social marketing area.” Shawn Seaton, MBA, Strategic IT thinker and implementer who solves complex application, infrastructure, people or project issues.

“Aaron is the perennial entrepreneur. His ability to generate new ideas and processes was instrumental and inspirational while we worked together. He and I became good friends because of his great work ethic, exceptional demeanor and incredibly enthusiastic attitude towards work and life. I learned quite a bit from Aaron in the short time we were colleagues and I look forward to learning more from him as a friend in the future.” David Gallello, Senior IT, Operations and Marketing Expert


“Aaron is focused on the needs of the client, delivering what was promised or more. He is consistent and innovative. He works hard to present the client in a way that is both distinguishing and exemplar.” Rebecca MacTavish


“Aaron Bare, in one word ~ brilliant. He has already proven time after time he can create, grow, and turnaround businesses generating millions in long term revenue and relationships. He truly thrives on taking one genius idea, organizing a plan, and focusing on execution — all while changing the world!” T.J. Loftus, Biz dev, internet marketing consultant, web entrepreneur


“Aaron helped Simply Servers develop hiring strategies that helped us recruit quality employees for our unique business model. Then he paired that with the newly formed Jobing TV segment without his help and the help of the team. Aaron is a great at making connections and solidifying relationships!” Bonnie Bauman, Operations Manager for Kool. Party Rentals


“Aaron Bare and JobingTV have been instrumental in the recruitment efforts at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Their outstanding ability to present the St. Joseph’s spirit in each of our Jobing TV segments has been phenomenal.”  De Anne Russell, SPHR, Manager – Arizona Service Area Talent Acquisition and Employment Branding at Dignity Health


“Aaron Bare was a great value partner in our resent name change and marketing efforts. He gave us an agenda to follow with timelines as well, to get our project done. We think Aaron Bare is the type of person that everyone would enjoy working with, as well as learning from his vast experience and great wealth of knowledge.” Marsha Bare, President/CEO at CENTERLINE Federal Credit Union


“Aaron provided me a great overview of products to help me in my career and provide additional contacts I was looking for. Aaron was very easy to work with and extremely responsive on all issues!” Michael Dendinger, Senior Manager, Strategic Supplier Management at NuVasive


“Aaron was employed by our Credit Union Board of Directors to assist in the process of choosing a new name for our organization.  We were evaluating 3 different organizations to assist in this process and choose Complete Strategies. He was very professional and knowledgeable in all facets of the process. I would highly recommend him his work to others.”  Don Bregin, Principal, First Data Independent Sales Electronic Payment Services


“Aaron is a dedicated professional who truly understands the concept of serving and not just selling. It’s rare to find someone who “gets it” and then “lives it”.”   Rick Stoddard Managing Partner, Performance Plus, LLC & Chief Coaching Officer, Process Corporation.  Rick Stoddard, VP & Regional General Manager, Rocky Mountain Region


“Aaron has strategic cunning and great business acumen. His leadership skills are his most obvious strength.” Jack Wu


“Aaron is a true networker. He is continuously striving to connect people for mutual benefit in a friendly and positive way. His efforts extend the people he works with and creates new opportunities for many. I am happy to have Aaron Bare in my personal and business network.”  Bill Gluth, Creative Thinking for Exceptional Businesses


“I recommend Aaron highly, and especially appreciate his ability communicate effectively and to find positive solutions to some of my business challenges.”  Valerie Simpson, Small Business Consultant, Efficiency & Productivity Consultant


“I have known Aaron for almost 15 years and he is one of the most dedicated people I have ever worked with. Aaron is focused on building mutually beneficial partnerships and has an exceptional business mind. He also has wide experience in evaluating human performance and has become a leader in this area.”  Mike Reed, Meeting Consultant at InterCall


“I had the opportunity to work with Aaron on multiple projects during our EMBA program. Aaron immediately stood out as an individual with innovative ideas, exemplary business acumen, and a great knowledge of social media. Aaron has always taken the time to share his wealth of knowledge with the members of our class and has inspired the creation of entrepreneurial ventures because of it. I highly recommend Aaron Bare.”  Robert Vega, Marketing/Digital Strategy Consultant at Southwest Kidney Institute


“Aaron is a truly innovative, high energy entrepreneur. He has a great grasp of how to own and grow businesses coupled with a kindred spirit for commerce. I look forward to working with him again in the near future.”   Kyle Stanton, EE, MBA, President at Titus Innovations Inc.


“I just wanted to say thank-you again for speaking at the event at McGeorge School of Law on Monday. I had excellent feedback from students who were encouraged by your presentation. These days especially, law school can become an environment where discussions about careers become dreary, discouraging, and full of doomsday predictions. It was exciting to see students energized about what they can accomplish and how to accomplish it. I am sure future leaders of the Federalist Society at McGeorge would love to welcome you back.”  Courtney Martin, President, Federalist Society at McGeorge.


“JD’s may be better entrepreneurs than MBA’s.  The talk by Aaron Bare re: entrepreneurial opportunities in the law was motivating!”  Alden Hinds, JD candidate


“Just attended a motivating lecture from @aaronbare at BLS. The legal world needs to innovate and keep pace with technology!”  Kristen Dufour, JD Candidate, Brooklyn School of Law


“Thanks for the seminar today at BLS! Some very interesting ideas on how technology can/will change the legal profession.”  Jed Bernstein, JD Candidate, Brooklyn School of Law.


Advice from a Buzz Mouth Mentor

I have always lived my life by making lists. These vary from lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. I also have lists of topics to blog about, lists of tweets to send, and lists of upcoming plans.

Each day I work through these lists, and it is by ticking off each task that my ideas take shape and plans move forward. As the new year gets started, lots of you will be busy making resolutions. If you want to stick to them, I suggest making them into lists. Here are my top 10 tips for making lists:

  1.     Write down every single idea you have, no matter how big or small
  2.     Always carry a notebook
  3.     Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts – what suits you best?
  4.     Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day
  5.     Mark off every completed task – you’ll find making each tick very satisfying
  6.     Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working
  7.     Set far off, outlandish goals. What do you want to have achieved by 2020? How about 2050?
  8.     Include personal goals in your lists, not just business
  9.     Share your goals with others. You can help motivate each other further
  10.     Celebrate your successes – then make new lists of new goal

By . Founder of Virgin Group

How do colors affect purchases?

Kissmetrics: For retailers, shopping is the art of persuasion. Though there are many factors that influence how and what consumers buy. However, a great deal is decided by visual cues, the strongest and most persuasive being color. When marketing new products it is crucial to consider that consumers place visual appearance and color above other factors such as sound, smell and texture. To learn more about color psychology and how it influences purchases, see our latest infographic:


When we engage with a startup or a new product we use the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, our CEO has been certified and a student of the framework applying to past engagements from Sun Microsystems, Facebook to his own startups.   This clearly aligns strategy with technology and marketing, the core of what we do at Buzz Mouth.

As you can see from the last few post, Buzz Mouth is working on improving our Framework, yet proud to be using proven processes to drive our success and our clients.