SIOUX CITY | Mike Hammond, who teamed with Ted Waitt to start up a small computer company in a Sioux City farmhouse in 1985, has died at age 53.
Hammond was a little known co-founder of Gateway, which grew into one of the world’s biggest PC makers, and the largest employer in Siouxland. He played a significant role in the company’s growth in its early years.
After dropping out of a Missouri college, Hammond worked as a diesel mechanic before taking a job at a computer store in Des Moines, where he had grown up.
In October 1984, Hammond met Waitt at a University of Iowa football game. Waitt dropped out of Iowa and took a job at Hammond’s store the following week.
After Labor Day weekend in 1985, Waitt, the marketing specialist, and Hammond, the technical expert, launched their startup business, called TIPC Network. The pair started selling add on components for Texas Instruments computers out of a house on Waitt's family cattle farm just outside Sioux City.
Later the company changed its name to Gateway 2000 and started assembling its own personal computers. On the strengths of its made-to-order, direct sales model, Gateway quickly grew into a Fortune 500 firm, expanded across the globe.
At its peak, the company, known for its signature black and white boxes patterned after the spots on a Holstein cow, employed more than 9,000 worldwide, including nearly 6,000 at its North Sioux City headquarters.
After years of decline, Gateway was sold in 2007 to Acer Inc., a Taiwanese-based computer maker. Today, just a handful of Gateway workers remain at the North Sioux City campus.
Hammond, known as "Hammer" to his friends, managed the company’s manufacturing operations, and held a number of executive-level positions over the years.
After retiring from Gateway, Hammond started his own North Sioux City business, Dakota Muscle, which restored and repaired classic autos.
Jim Wharton, former Sioux City mayor and coworker of Hammond's, described him as 'talented,' and said that Hammond's role in Gateway was often understated.
"He was always in the background," Wharton said. "He was the nuts and bolts of the organization ... So widely respected, and one of the smartest guys I ever met."
Hammond died at his home in Sioux City on Thursday, according to his obituary.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Meyer Brothers Colonial Chapter in Sioux City. Masonic graveside services will be held at Memorial Park Cemetery.