In part 7 of Macworld‘s founder David Bunnell’s memoirs of the Mac, it’s clear that the machine isn’t ready for prime-time. Macworld‘s editor Andrew Fluegalman tells this to Steve Jobs, who reacts in a surprising way.
As the printing deadline for Macworld magazine drew near, Steve and his crew were frantically working to get the Macintosh ready for its introduction. My editor, Andrew Fluegelman (pictured here), and I were finalizing articles and mapping out pages. This was an intensely creative, peaceful period.
It was the calm before the next storm.
We began to shifted into a new phase of serious crises management when Andrew Fleugalman expressed doubts whether or not the Macintosh would be ready by January 24. The 64K memory chips that Apple was counting on weren’t going to be available so Steve told his team to switch to much smaller 16K chips.
Thus, Mac’s internal working memory would only add up to 128K, not the 512K called for in the development plan.
As Andrew pointed out, this puny amount of memory would not be nearly enough to make the Mac competitive with the IBM PC. In fact, when you considered the memory demands of the Mac’s operating system and its bit-mapped display, 128K was just barely functional. Writing application software would prove to be a near impossible challenge.
And it wasn’t just the chips. Andrew also worried the Mac development team itself was in disarray, so driven to meet the January 24 deadline they may have made any number of fatal mistakes. It would be so much better, he thought, if Apple were to delay the Mac’s introduction. Better for them and better for the hapless users who might feel suckered into buying a lot of sizzle and not much steak.
Much to my chagrin, Andrew wrote an open memo to the entire Mac development team, urging them to postpone the launch.
Respectfully worded, the memo pointed out all the Mac’s obvious shortcomings: not just the lack of working memory but also the glaring lack of a hard-drive, the amazing number of bugs in the operating system, the absence of a fan which made the machine pleasingly quiet but lead to repeated crashes, and of course, virtually no software except for MacPaint and a kluggy version of Microsoft Excel.
I couldn’t argue with anything Andrew wrote. I reluctantly agree to let him drive it down to Cupertino and hand it in person to Mike Murray.
As Andrew drove away, visions of Martin Luther nailing his manifesto on the church door came to mind. And, alas, after first reading Andrew’s memo, Murray posted it on bulletin boards throughout the Mac development building.
I was terrified, certain Steve Jobs would kick us back to the DOS wilderness where we came from. I figured our little magazine venture was over.
I also worried that if Apple was to delay the Mac, our boss, Pat McGovern, would feel vindicated about his skepticism that Apple could ever deliver anything on time. He would be in position to force us to shift our focus to the IBM Home Computer, now called “PCjr” which was coming out in March. Instead of Macworld, we’d be publishing “PCjr World.”
But once again Steve Jobs proved to be unpredictable. To our amazement, he was impressed with Andrew’s grasp of the technical dilemmas. He called us to express his “deepest concern” and assured us he would address all the issues Andrew brought up.
And then, he basically did nothing.
The only feasible scenario for a delay would be if the Super Bowl was postponed and even Steve didn’t have the clout to make this happen. The Mac zombie ad was finished and Apple’s board has approved the purchase of one minute during halftime.
Steve Jobs was determined to have his fun and a he wasn’t going to let a crippled Mac get in his way.
Part 1: Meeting Steve
Part 2: Seeing the Macintosh for the Very First Time
Part 3: We Met the REAL Steve Jobs
Part 4: Steve Jobs Tells Us to “Belly Up to the Bar”
Part 5: Steve Comes Up with a Really Weird Ad
Part 6: Steve Poses for the First Cover of Macworld
Part 7: Andrew Fluegelman Urges Apple to Delay the Introduction
Part 8: Pat McGovern Meets with Steve, the Deal is Done.
Part 9: Steve is F*cking Great!
Part 10: Steve Thumbs his Nose at the Apple II
Part 11: The Macintosh Speaks For Itself (Literally)…
Part 12: The Fat Mac Saves the Day
Part 13: Steve Brings Tina to the Macworld Dinner Party
Part 14: Ella Fitzgerald Sings Happy Birthday to Steve
Part 15: Steve’s NeXT Big Thing
Follow me on Twitter @davbunnell.