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Garage Startup Develops "Personal Computer"

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the doomed-from-the-start dept.

Businesses 80

Hugh Pickens writes "In the summer of 1980, MIT graduates Donald Faber and Peter Haberle moved into an empty two-car garage and started work building the first-ever 'personal home computer.' Now almost 30 years later, what began as a humble two-man operation has since grown into an even more humble, even more cramped computer company, based out of an even smaller single-car garage. According to Faber and Haberle, a lot has changed since Xalaga was first founded. What was once a struggling $7,500-a-year business with only a dozen or so paying customers is now a desperate $6,400-a-year business with only a half dozen or so paying customers. Faber, who turned down a promising position with GE in order to start Xalaga, a decision he now says he regrets each and every waking day, told reporters that he knew almost immediately that his company had something not-at-all special on its hands. 'We sold only one computer that first year, then the following year it was three computers, then suddenly 10 computers, then just as suddenly five computers, then back down to three computers again, and finally only one or two machines every other year for pretty much the next decade,' said Faber, standing up from the plastic milk crate that now serves as his desk. 'Had someone told us when we first started that we'd be here today, operating out of a much smaller, somehow less expensive garage, we probably would have laughed right in their face.'"

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wat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31702934)

disregard that

Re:wat (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703054)

I suppose that this is intended as an April fool's joke, but I can't figure out what part is supposed to be funny.

The only part that seems funny is that, in general, the thousands of garage start-ups that remain garage start-ups usually don't get any press coverage, so it's funny that this one does. Yeah, there are lots of them.

Re:wat (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703116)

It's from The Onion. It isn't one of their best articles.

Re:wat (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703506)

I never thought I see the day when I wished OMG!!!PONIES!!! back...

Re:wat (1)

JackDW (904211) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703516)

Seconded.

Hey, remember the year when Slashdot's April Fool's joke was that all the stories were actually serious? That was a good year.

you young whippersnappers (1)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 3 years ago | (#31706452)

I remember the year when Slashdot set all manner of cookies with names like "mothersmaidenname", "creditcardnumbers" and "bankinginfo". That was a good April Fools joke.

now get off my lawn.

Re:wat (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 3 years ago | (#31704222)

The funny part of the joke is that there are people who think that copying and pasting long portions of an article from The Onion to the Slashdot front page constitutes an April Fool's Day prank.

Re:wat (2, Insightful)

dentree4 (1424693) | more than 3 years ago | (#31704226)

its making fun of apple.

What (2, Informative)

jwinster (1620555) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702936)

An onion article that I read IN PRINT yesterday is getting passed off as an April Fool's joke on slashdot? For shame.

Re:What (2, Interesting)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702966)

It's still funnier than the majority of the 'jokes' posted today. We always hear about the small companies that took a change, started from humble beginnings, and became a smashing success. How often do we hear about the failed ones that never get off the ground? It's comedy worthy of Brits.

Re:What (3, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703214)

I want to mod up your comment. The Onion is top-rate satire, this particular article is a send-up of every glowing story you read about the "garage tech company" that grows into a sprawling billion-dollar business.

The horrible part is that The Onion posted it two weeks ago and Slashdot had to dredge it up to add some legit humour to this horrible April Fools day garbage on the front page :(

failed business stories (5, Interesting)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703422)

Well, I can tell you about the web design business I started with a couple of friends, where we landed one job, did the site, and the customer kept making changes and never got around to paying us the measly $300 we asked her for. Then I moved to another state and we broke up.

Or the time I got into the business of a web site that would rate fine restaurants in large cities. We started in Chicago where we lived, and one of the partners insisted on spending $600 on flashy business cards (glossy, with embossed silver ink in the company name--1000 cards for each of the three founders. I used 2 of mine, total. Still have the other 998 because I'm a packrat). Then we stumbled along for a year putting together the site and doing legal stuff, only to realize that not a single restaurant wanted to pay for our services, primarily because no other restaurants were already customers. How do you get customers without having customers? There's probably a good answer, but about that time (2001) Zagat's got a few million in venture capital to go online and do everything we were doing and more. So we closed up shop, settled our bills (of which the business cards represented about 75%), and that was that.

There's also the web site about nothing that a friend and I started with the idea we'd make a mint selling people themselves (if we're nothing, anything we sell had to come from the visitor, right?), but we got so bogged down in artistic philosophy and bad puns (nothing's better! nothing to lose! much ado about nothing ...) that we never even built the site.

I also once wrote a novel, which remains unpublished. I think it's a good novel. A distant family connection who works in editing gave it decent marks. Somehow I've never gotten around to polishing it up and actually submitting the darn thing anywhere.

I worked for some other guys, out of their basement, over the course of a year as they tried to start a "help people build online stores" franchise. The only customer was some neighbors who agreed to try it when we gave them the kit for free, and who then never did a thing with it. Literally zero minutes spent trying to use our stuff. Not that I blame them.

Same guys hired me to write a book for their online darts store. Book never sold any copies. They had a plan to offer it as a bonus reward for large orders, but then sold the darts store. Come to think of it, that might not be entirely a failure. Except one of the two guys had to give up his part-time basement job and start commuting an hour and a half each way every day, and I'd call that a pretty big disappointment on his part.

Same guys also had me start another online store. It sold some product, but the credit card fees were so ridiculous after a few months we realized we were actually losing money on every sale, so that had to go.

Then they started a dog frisbees store. Business was good, but the hosting company was so messed up when we tried to cancel a few other domains they simply canceled everything, and then held the site name hostage for thousands of dollars when we wanted it back.

Then they tried some other frisbee stores. Despite bountiful volumes of sales, neither they nor the shipper bothered to keep track of actual sales or profits--for a few months they kept all the money that came in, and then the shipper realized he was supposed to be getting reimbursed for the cost of shipping and the original cost of the frisbees he was buying to ship on their behalf. So he started keeping all of the money that came in, to make up for back payments, trying to calculate what was owed by weighing the stack of printed invoices and guessing at the number of pieces of paper and the average sales value. Last I heard, it had been 3 years, and they still hadn't gotten back up to even.

... so, uh, yeah. I think that's why we don't hear about most of those failed business stories.

Easy to understand but somewhat unfortunate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31704728)

It's doesn't take a rocket surgeon to understand why we don't hear about failures. People hate talking about their mistakes whilst those who have been successful love telling it to everyone and then there are those who try exaggerate their accomplishments. It's human nature but also unfortunate in a sense. The thing is that if stories about failures - both personal and business - were more widespread, even if only anonymously, I think it would give shy and insecure people a lot more confidence. I remember how I whilst working a summer job thought that I must be the worst student in my class and haven't found work that is related to my field etc. etc. and felt really bad about myself. A couple of years later, I accidentally stumbled upon the CV of a fellow student that had worked in the same place but had a better job (she had left the file on a school computer that didn't require logins and I couldn't resist opening it, even if it wasn't quite right to do so). All of a sudden I found out that at least that girl, which had appeared so confident in her job, which really was better than anything I had dared to apply for, and boasted how good she was and consequently made me feel like shit, had had worse merits than I did. But I had simply believed so much of the bragging bullshit and success stories around me that I thought that everyone else is perfect. However, I don't think you can in any way blame people for not speaking about their failures even though finding out what reality is like, would give many insecure people a lot more confidence. Saying that "you only hear about success" doesn't always suffice to convince those who are really insecure since they would need to hear about failures that they can relate to.

Re:failed business stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31755512)

Great response.

I have started several businesses. A software company actually sold about $250K worth of software, and was in the process of being acquired for $2M, when the acquiring entity pulled out in the summer of 07 due to the mortgage market meltdown. The company still exists, but pulls in less than $50K a year, basically supporting its technology founder (which I'm happy about, at least he keeps doing what he loves).

A services organization went nowhere.

A hardware company is in the making, patent just got approved, but it's a tough sell to investors right now, and without that it will go nowhere.

My consulting firm has been the most stable and continuing success; the first year it made a delightful $1200 (that was my sole income that year. I kept the tax return to remind myself). Then it made $36K, then $57K, then almost $120K, then $300K or so, then $420K, and last year just short of a half mil. But you'll never hear about it, because who cares about these kinds of businesses? tell you what though. For me it's a big deal, because I built it out of my own proverbial garage, with my own money and credit card debt, and it's my baby. Sure, it ain't no Apple, but somewhere it feels pretty neat to have gotten it thus far on a shoestring, and seeing it be on track to doing $700K this year, and maybe finally getting close to $1M in 2011 makes me happy. So you'll never know who I am, I'll never be in the new for building it, but somehow, it feels real, it feels special.

Re:What (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#31705138)

At least this story made me seriously think WTF and even made me smile. A bit.

And with that it beat the rest of this year's April Fool's stories hands down. The rest wasn't even remotely funny. Let alone believable.

99% of all Start Ups (2, Insightful)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702948)

Sadly this is the story of 99% of all start ups and home based businesses.

Re:99% of all Start Ups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31702964)

You mean I can't make $5000 a day at home even without a high school diploma and absolutely no experience?

Re:99% of all Start Ups (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703050)

Sure you can. You just need to be in the .1%.

Re:99% of all Start Ups (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703366)

Or start 100 businesses. You can get it over with quicker if you start them all at the same time.

Re:99% of all Start Ups (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 3 years ago | (#31704648)

Except that 99% of successful businesses actually have a profit model, an actual plan, and require some sort of special skill or hard work on the part of the owner. So more like 10,000.

Re:99% of all Start Ups (1)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703058)

Of course you can! If you'd like to get started, send me $20 to get your personalized business plan and marketing kit. If you order online you'll receive my free eBook! A $40 value!

Re:99% of all Start Ups (2, Interesting)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703162)

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter!

Cmdrtaco found in bed with Justin Bieber! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703106)

He never could resist a sweet face.

Re:99% of all Start Ups (2, Insightful)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703166)

That's not sad. Most people have no business, running a business.

Re:99% of all Start Ups (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#31706738)

Like me. I'm so happy I could fold my company after three months! No one was interested in what I had to offer, and I learned that I much rather work for someone else than myself.

Typical "reality check" humor from The Onion (4, Insightful)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703230)

More often than not, non-slapstick humor stems from insight, even if shallow. The Onion relies solidly on this effect and it may get old; I noticed their style before hovering my pointing-thingy over the fine link.

Now, this is a deserved slap in the face to the romantic visions we're in love with. Every year we dismburse large sums in movie theaters to see renditions of David-vs-Goliath, rags-to-riches, where the underdog wins through skill, perseverance or just being the good guy. Wake up and smell the (occassional) fail!

What's going on? (2, Funny)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702954)

It took me time to realize this is "April Fool's Day." Dear editor, please warn members because it's quite frustrating to realise much later on that it's April Fool's day. Now I do not know which story to believe.

Re:What's going on? (2, Informative)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702990)

Now I do not know which story to believe.

None of 'em. Seriously.

Re:What's going on? (1)

Xoltri (1052470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703118)

Yeah it's gotten out of hand. One or two good ones would've been enough.

Re:What's going on? (1)

molo (94384) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703182)

You must be new here. Its been this way since the '90s. :)

-molo

Re:What's going on? (4, Funny)

jwietelmann (1220240) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702994)

Just go back to the Onion site and search for articles that aren't filed on April 1st. Those are the real ones.

Re:What's going on? (1)

craznar (710808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703396)

Well given this article was filed on April 2nd (according to Slashdot) - makes it difficult to see the joke.

Note to slashdot - preserve original data/time zone information for April fools crap.

Re:What's going on? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703110)

your better off just treating everything on the internet as a joke no matter what day it is.

Re:What's going on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703138)

So true. Some people are just gullible.

Btw, you have a long-lost brother with a $100k in savings waiting to be withdrawn. Please advance $250 to my Nigerian account today to become party to the transaction.

Re:What's going on? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703156)

You take stories seriously any other day?

Re:What's going on? (2, Informative)

redkcir (1431605) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703160)

Did you notice that it was on "the Onion" website? That's all "the Onion" is, a site with a comedy take on everything. Check out some of their vids and you will understand.

Re:What's going on? (1)

aftab14 (1386467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703224)

It took me time to realize this is "April Fool's Day." Dear editor, please warn members because it's quite frustrating to realise much later on that it's April Fool's day. Now I do not know which story to believe.

The story has been posted on 'Friday April 02, @01:58AM' on /. and the TFA has been posted on March 22, 2010. So, 'April Fool's day' joke does not apply to this article, IMHO.

Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (0)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702956)

1980? 3.5 inch floppies? No way. 5.25 inch, only - just leaving the era of 8.0 inch!

28K RAM? What multiple of 4 is 28? 7? I don't think so. Get it right: 4 8 16 32. There could be 6 or 7 banks of discreet RAM chips - this would have been ridiculous to construct.

Good Onion, bad technology and history.

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (1)

Burdell (228580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703010)

So all those IBM PC compatible systems that were sold with 640K RAM didn't exist either? You could have 8 sockets with 7x 4K RAM chips and 1x 4K ROM.

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703018)

Don't you mean powers of 2?

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703020)

28K RAM? What multiple of 4 is 28? 7? I don't think so. Get it right: 4 8 16 32.

Well, duh.

They used 32k of RAM in the machine, but 4k of that was used to make the screen display ASCII porn on power-on, so only 28k was available to users.

ASCII porn on power-on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31704094)

AUTOEXEC.BAT quote or it didn't happen.

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (2, Interesting)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703076)

You realize 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. were just conventions to make things easier, right? There is nothing that locks you into those patterns, it's just things can be a bitch to manage if you aren't in one.

There were 24 bit processors, 6 bit bytes, etc. Base 2 is every bit as flexible as base 10, it's just different, and conventions have evolved to make things consistent and easy.

For example, with a 24 bit processor, you'll want to scale to a 48 bit processor to make backwords compatibility easier. The 8 bit base just fits in very nicely between base 2, octals, hex, and finally decimal. Conversions among these units is much easier working with an 8 bit base than other setups, and so all scaling goes off the 8 bit base.

None of it was tied to a 4 bit base though, that's just ignorant.

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (2, Interesting)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703260)

Sure. But breadboarding a computer with 1980 processors (8080, 6502) would have sucked if you picked some funny multiple. How many machines were ever built where you could have 28K? I can't remember one. 1980 you had lots of 16K and 32K and 64K machines, with Zilog Z80's, running CPM. There were a smattering of new, 8088's and the new 68000 was in mini-class workstations - these had, sometimes, a whopping 256Kb!

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703426)

I think my TI/99 had 48K after I upgraded it, IIRC. That's because it started with 16K, and then I added a 32K memory expansion unit.

I don't know how you'd get 28K (perhaps 4 + 8 + 16?), but there's nothing confining you to memory sizes that aren't a power of 2. Probably, the main reason most computers were like that (at least at the base specs) is because memory chips were always manufactured like that, and it's easier/cheaper to build a system with only a single memory chip or bank. Later on, if the user upgrades it, they might wind up with a funny amount of RAM, like my current system which has 5 GB (started as 1GB, then I added another 4).

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31704142)

'Zactly.

I used to demo / sell personals in the 79-81 years. (GW-Basic?) Nothing had but 4 or 16 base. Commodore and Apple had 4Kb models (The PET!). There were Apple ][ expansion cards for PR4 from third parties, that gave you funny numbers like 12 Kb.

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703254)

"What multiple of 4 is 28?"

I know that one!, I know that one! It's (wait for it) 7!!!

Re:Anachronisms - Innacuracies. FAIL. (2, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703276)

Yup. Let's put 14 sockets for 512b RAM chips, in our new PC!

Poll Troll Toll (1)

PollTroll (764214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702962)

What's better...

Garbage Computer [impoll.net]
Sex with a mare [impoll.net]

Re:Poll Troll Toll (1)

Anarki2004 (1652007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703336)

It took you two years to think of that?? Two years in between posts, and that's the best you can come up with? You sir, are a shitty troll.

Re:Poll Troll Toll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31708838)

Actually it was only a few minutes. The one that took him 2 years to think of was actually kind of funny.

Didn't rtfa and forgot about the headline allready (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31702970)

...but seriously... Slashdot should make april 1:st suck less somehow. How about there being moderators that make fake stories disappear once they're found out or maybe just a button to click to hide stories with the tag aprilfools. That's probably better. Anyway, when I was a kid my mother used to wear a red shirt haha aprilfools it was green. stfu.

No one reads The Onion anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31702972)

Honestly.

The Onion (3, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702978)

I always thought the Onion should post real news on April 1st, not that their rendition on the news is that far from the truth anyway. And not like this article is even from today.

eeerrraaaAAARRRGGGHHH!!! (1)

salesbot (1524011) | more than 4 years ago | (#31702980)

OLD STORY!! this is 2010!

For the love of God stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703008)

Seriously /. This crap is not funny, has never been funny, will never be funny.

April 1. The day /. goes in the shitter. Every. Freaking. Year. Oh ho ho ho the hilarity! Be sure to post about Duke Nukem forever coming out today, I *never* get sick of that one. Or about the time your sent your new IT guy to the closet for a can of wifi grease. Yuk yuk yuk!

The. Hilarity. It. Burns.

See you tomorrow Slashdot. Until then have fun with Teh Funnae - the adults will be back tomorrow.

Geek decides not to ignore Slashdot on April 1 (0, Offtopic)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703040)

Redwood City, CA -- dateline. Geek who's been around for any longer than a couple years decides not to ignore Slashdot on April 1, and weed through all the lame jokes looking for actual, interesting stuff. Haha! April Fools!

Re:Geek decides not to ignore Slashdot on April 1 (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#31706128)

For all intensive purposes, "whom" is no longer a word. That begs the question, "who cares?"

That's just evil.

It never ends, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703046)

just deal with it.
(Eh, of course, it does end with today.)

It's the name (1)

runyonave (1482739) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703064)

Who would buy a computer called, "Xalaga".

Re:It's the name (2, Informative)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703334)

Duh, the article answered that question: no one. ;)

PVP on Slashdot's Ass! (0, Offtopic)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703104)

Slashdot editors - I will come to your house and battle you in PVP until I chop off your arms you sick sons a bitches.

Slashdot sucks on April Fools day (1)

acecamaro666 (1243364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703126)

Slashdot sucks on April Fools day See you guys tomorrow.

Re:Slashdot sucks on April Fools day (1)

greatica (1586137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703314)

I was talking to Slashdot and it said that YOU suck on April Fools day!

Re:Slashdot sucks on April Fools day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31704152)

And it was right, too.

Giggity giggity giggity.

Just a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703130)

I would think that one year, the Onion would report a real story for an April Fools joke.

OLD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703136)

this is from at least last week, maybe older. Not bothering to look it up but *snore*

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703142)

Thanks for an old The Onion link, I guess

*yawn* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31703194)

It's a big world, with many time zones, so for some of us, April 1st was yesterday.

Also, the tradition is to make a subtle joke to fool people, not waste the *entire* day making tired geek jokes.

The onion (1)

archestraty (1574001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703236)

i just read this in the onion about 10 minutes ago.

Meh (1)

celibate for life (1639541) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703278)

/. is failing to entertain in this April fools day.

"Personal home computer"??!? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703360)

Is that some sort of typo or something? That's just crazy-talk, that's what that is! Who ever heard of such a thing! Who would need something like that, anyway?

This isn't even a current Onion article (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 4 years ago | (#31703558)

It's last week's news...

Attention all /. Staff: (3, Informative)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31704000)

There is pizza and drinks in the lunch room. Come help yourselves.

Re:Attention all /. Staff: (1)

AniVisual (1373773) | more than 3 years ago | (#31705146)

We have two Jumbo Onion pizzas, Onion juice, and Onion rings. Merry Christmas!

Hidden lesson here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31704502)

How bad must things suck, for so many people believe this story, and then after belatedly realizing their temporal and intertubular coordinates, still believe it?

Why There Are No More Garage Startups -- Seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31704560)

Engineers don't have steady jobs anymore. All of my breadboards, soldering irons, etc. are in boxes. It's hard to be a garage tinkerer when you have to move every few months because you don't have the rent. This is what is wrong with this country.

*their* first personal computer, not *the* first (1)

gig (78408) | more than 3 years ago | (#31704714)

The article says *their* first personal computer. In 1980, the Apple II was 3 years old and VisiCalc had been out for a year. Nobody was creating *the* first PC at that time.

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