Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Stac Electronics was an engineering company founded in 1984 by four friends at Caltech. Headquartered in Carlsbad, California, the company developed interesting hardware and software technology, but struggled financially, until the release of Stacker disk compression software in 1990. This product was a runaway hit in the days when disk drives had small capacities (20 to 80 megabytes) and were very expensive. Stacker doubled disk capacity (on average), and usually increased disk performance by reducing the amount of data that had to be read or written. Stac sold several million units of Stacker over the product's lifetime.
In 1993, Microsoft released MS-DOS 6.0, which included a disk compression program called DoubleSpace. Stac accused Microsoft of infringing its disk compression patent. Eventually, the case came to a jury trial, and the jury ruled in Stac's favor. Shortly thereafter, Stac and Microsoft reached a settlement that resulted in Microsoft making an investment in Stac and paying millions of dollars over several years. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this case was the fact that Stac was able to get a preliminary injunction issued, stopping the sales of DOS until Microsoft could release a modified version without the offending code.
After settling the lawsuit with Microsoft, Stac struggled to find its way as a public company. It had some successes, perhaps most notably with an acquired remote control product called "ReachOut". It invented a disk-based backup product for workstations and laptops, and marketed this product first as "Replica NDM" and later as "eSupport Essentials". The company renamed itself to "Previo", and tried to reposition itself as a technology provider to helpdesk and support organizations. This effort was pursued while the dot-com bubble was bursting, and in 2002 the company finally threw in the towel. In an unusual move, rather than spend all its cash, the company sold off its technology (to Altiris ) and returned its cash to its shareholders before dissolving.
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