Cisco Systems was founded in December 1984 by Leonard Bosack, who was in charge of the Stanford University computer science department's computers, and his wife Sandy Lerner, who managed the Graduate School of Business' computers.
Despite founding Cisco in 1984, Bosack, along with Kirk Lougheed, continued to work at Stanford on Cisco's first product. It consisted of exact replicas of Stanford's "Blue Box" router and a stolen copy of the University's multiple-protocol router software. The software was originally written some years earlier at Stanford medical school by research engineer William Yeager. Bosack and Lougheed adapted it into what became the foundation for Cisco IOS. On July 11, 1986, Bosack and Lougheed were forced to resign from Stanford and the university contemplated filing criminal complaints against Cisco and its founders for the theft of its software, hardware designs and other intellectual properties. In 1987, Stanford licensed the router software and two computer boards to Cisco.
In addition to Bosack, Lerner and Lougheed, Greg Satz, a programmer, and Richard Troiano, who handled sales, completed the early Cisco team. The company's first CEO was Bill Graves, who held the position from 1987 to 1988. In 1988, John Morgridge was appointed CEO.
The name "Cisco" was derived from the city name, San Francisco, which is why the company's engineers insisted on using the lower case "cisco" in its early years. The logo is intended to depict the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.
On February 16, 1990, Cisco Systems went public (with a market capitalization of $224 million) and was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. On August 28, 1990, Lerner was fired; upon hearing the news, her husband Bosack resigned in protest. The couple walked away from Cisco with $170 million, 70% of which was committed to their own charity.
Although Cisco was not the first company to develop and sell dedicated network nodes, it was one of the first to sell commercially successful routers supporting multiple network protocols. Classical, CPU-based architecture of early Cisco devices coupled with flexibility of operating system IOS allowed for keeping up with evolving technology needs by means of frequent software upgrades. Some popular models of that time (such as Cisco 2500) managed to stay in production for almost a decade virtually unchanged—a rarity in high-tech industry. Although Cisco was strongly rooted in the enterprise environment, the company was quick to capture the emerging service provider environment, entering the SP market with new, high-capacity product lines such as Cisco 7000 and Cisco 8500