…his first impressions of Jobs
I first met Steve Jobs in December 1978 after I wrote some impressive system software for the Apple II, when I visited Apple to show it to them and see if they were interested in distributing it. I had already met some early Apple employees who warned me that Steve was a tough customer; Chris Espinosa told me that if he didn’t like my software he would “bite your head off”. But, contrary to expectations, Steve was extremely charming and enthusiastic to me and my partner; he couldn’t have been nicer. They ended up not using my software, but offered me a job instead.
…working on the first Mac
It was a blast. From the very beginning, the early Macintosh prototypes were overflowing with the potential to finally bring computing to the masses by making computers easy to use as well as affordable – it really felt like we were getting a chance to shape the future, and we didn’t want to blow it. The core team was mostly in our twenties, without family obligations, so we were able to more or less devote our lives to the project; we loved what we were doing so much that work and play became indistinguishable. There’s nothing like a shared dream to bind people together, so looking back I mainly cherish the amazing people I got to work with, many of whom remain close friends thirty years later.
…his funniest encounter with Jobs
In the spring of 1987, I went out to lunch with Steve at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. He was a staunch vegetarian (except for occasional sushi), and he delivered his usual annoyed admonishment to me when I ordered a beef burrito. But unfortunately, the waiter accidentally switched our platters so Steve was served my order, and I will never forget the look of disgust on his face when he realized that he had just bit into a beef burrito. He was furious, but couldn’t decide if he should be angrier with me or the waiter, so he simply got up and stormed out of the restaurant; I left cash on the table and ran out after him.
…The Apple effect
Working at Apple influenced the rest of my life. Early Apple had singular, inspiring, artistic values that emanated equally from both Steves, which led to a unique approach to work that I emulated, treasured, and soaked up like a sponge. Basically, the principles are to always put the user first because you are the user, to infuse the product with your love for it, and to lavish your utmost creativity and cleverness on every minute detail. Working on the Mac was a first-hand demonstration that with enough creativity and determination, a small group of people could actually make a big difference. It shaped my values and therefore my work for the rest of my life.
I was at home when I heard that Steve had died, but I knew that he didn’t have much time left when he resigned from Apple, so I wasn’t surprised. I guess I was kind of numb at first but it gradually sunk in. The most emotional time for me was at the memorial service, when I broke down in tears when I saw certain people. Steve will be remembered as the greatest entrepreneur of his generation, and as a visionary businessman who operated at the intersection of art and technology. People will be talking about his accomplishments for the foreseeable future, in the same breath as Edison. I will remember him with great affection as my difficult, confounding, long time friend.
Steve Jobs, 24th Feb 1955 – 5th Oct 2011
Andy Hertzfeld is the author of ‘Revolution In The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made’ published by O’Reilly Media and available from shop.oreilly.com. You can read more of Andy Hertzfeld’s stories from the early days of Apple at www.folklore.org
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