Tom Jarosh, Former AS/400 General Manager, Dies at 55
October 27, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Tom Jarosh, the IBM executive who took the AS/400 line through the Y2K crisis, the MRP-to-ERP upgrade cycle, and the dot-com at the end of the 1990s, passed away on October 17. Jarosh spent his career at Big Blue, and was still intimately involved with Big Blue’s Systems and Technology Group. The cause of death was melanoma; 55 is far too young for Jarosh to be gone.
Jarosh was raised in Pittsburgh, and was the oldest of 10 children in the family. He got his bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and in 1975, he joined IBM as a systems engineer trainee in that same Ohio city. Jarosh worked as a Systems Engineer for three years, and then worked as a marketing rep for three years. In 1981, he took over marketing for the Great Lakes region and began his climb at Big Blue, serving in marketing and sales positions in different regions until he was made director of scientific and technical computing for the United States in February 1989. That was when IBM launched the RS/6000 AIX-based server and workstation line, which started out slowly but which obviously has grown in the past two decades–now rivaling IBM’s mainframe business in terms of annual revenues. Jarosh did a stint as head of the AIX-RS/6000 business in 1996 and was named general manager of the AS/400 Division in November 1997. In 2000, Jarosh was tapped to be vice president of business development for IBM’s Server Group and then in 2003 he became vice president of operations for Systems and Technology Group.
Jarosh was in charge of the AS/400 at exactly the same time I went from writing a little newsletter called The Four Hundred, which was a monthly paper-based newsletter that had a fairly small but loyal paid circulation, to taking over a publication at Midrange Computing called AS/400 Monday Morning Update, which was a weekly online newsletter with a much wider audience. Jarosh took over about six months before I made my switch, which I did for economic reasons. (I brought The Four Hundred back to life in the summer of 2001 when Midrange Computing went bust.)
Jarosh was, in fact, the first AS/400 GM that I talked to on a more or less regular basis at tradeshows, and either he was a tough interview or I had not yet learned how to schmooze. I recall him being tough as nails, and not in any mood to take any nonsense from a whippersnapper journalist. He once opened up an interview I did in 2000, which you can read here, by saying, “I guess I am ready to face the wrath of Timothy Prickett Morgan,” and then laughed. Jarosh could be gruff, but he had a sense of humor, too.
To his great credit, Jarosh presided over the AS/400 Division when it was under great competitive pressure, and he certainly made the best out of the 1997 and 1998 boom years with low-cost “Invader” Model 170s and other innovations, like fast Star PowerPC processors. The Y2K crisis and the ERP boom made the late 1990s good for the AS/400 in terms of sales, but by the middle of 1999, sales had slowed dramatically. It wasn’t long before the dot-com bubble burst and tech spending started to slow; soon thereafter, the AS/400 became the iSeries and we saw GMs come and go like the weather. It didn’t seem like it at the time–and probably not to Jarosh, either, who was replaced as GM as AS/400 sales started to fall–but those were the golden years for the AS/400 business.
According to the obiturary that ran in the local Pittsburgh papers, Jarosh is survived by his three daughters and five grandchildren. Those wanting to make memorial contributions in Jarosh’s honor can donate to the Regional Hospice of Western Connecticut or the Melanoma Research Foundation.
A New Server Group and Perhaps a New Attitude (February 2000)
Tom Jarosh Speaks on Plans for the AS/400 (February 2000)