Steve Thumbs his Nose at the Apple II [Recollections]

Steve Thumbs his Nose at the Apple II [Recollections]

Steve Wozniak is unhappy at the Mac launch, which resembles “Woodstock for nerds.” Part 10 of “My Close Encounters With Steve Jobs,” a personal history of the original Mac by Macworld founder David Bunnell.

Cupertino on January 24, 1984, was overcast but warm–a good day, I thought, to change the world of computers forever.

5,000 copies of the premier issue of Macworld magazine were waiting at the doors to the Flint Center for Performing Arts at DeAnza College to be passed out when Steve finished with his theatrics. He didn’t want us to pass them out ahead of time, because he feared people would be looking through the pages instead of paying attention to his presentation.

I thought this must be rare case of Steve Jobs actually underestimating his own charisma, but it didn’t matter really. I carried a few copies in my hands and I felt like a proud father. Macworld was gorgeous and it was so amazing to have the first issue out on this very day.

As I walked up to the check-in table, I noticed Steve Wozniak on the other side of the parking lot talking to John Sculley (pictured above). His head was down and he was kicking up pieces of dirt with his scruffy slip-on shoes.

The body language said it all—Woz was not happy and no wonder. The Apple II division employees, with the exception of Woz himself, had been shut out of the event. Macintosh division employees had reserved front and center seats. Apple II employees had to watch it on closed circuit TV back at the Apple campus.

Even though the highly profitable Apple II, up to then the best-selling personal computer of all time, had afforded Steve Jobs the opportunity to lavishly tend to the whims of his Mac team with first class airplane tickets, in-house massage service, free Odwalla juice, pineapple pizza and other perks — and even though it fueled the incredible growth of Apple Computer and made him and Woz very rich and very famous — he had the audacity to thumb his nose at it.

In Steve’s alternative universe, the Apple II was dead meat and he didn’t mind letting his colleagues know this.

I had to laugh though. John Sculley had come to Apple from Pepsi because Steve told him instead of selling sugar water he could change the world. And here he was, the only adult supervisor in a dysfunctional company dominated by a remarkably spoiled man-child.

Sculley was by nature non-confrontational and his soothing words might have made Woz feel better for a few minutes, but he must have known it was like putting a Band-Aid on a cancerous sore. On this very historic day, one that would live on as a watershed moment in the history of computers, the very seeds of Apple’s near destruction and Steve Job’s demise were very much in evidence.

Yet, it was a huge thrill to just be there. Officially, this was Apple’s Annual Shareholders Meeting, but in reality it was more of a high-tech religious revival, a Woodstock for nerds.

Wayne Green, dressed like a farmer who just returned to the house after feeding the chickens, was standing by the check-in table with a inexplicable smirk on his face, drinking a cup of tea. With two Radio Shack laptop computers slung by straps under both arms, I could see why Jobs found him so irritating.

Wayne was chatting with Maggie Cannon, the bubbly editor of A+ magazine, an Apple II publication aimed at students and teachers. If Steve was right about the faltering Apple II, I thought, A+ will die a lingering death along with Wayne’s InCinder magazine.

I confess I felt a bit smug. Today was definitely my turn in the sun. “Hi there,” I said, “Would you like to have a copy of my new magazine?”

They were of course stunned and wanted to know how I managed to pull this off. “Oh,” I told them, “I just starting hanging around with Steve, you know, and stuff just starting happening.”

Wayne Green was not amused. “I hear Steve’s new computer doesn’t have a hard drive and that it is a real dog. It will probably fail.”

“Be nice, Wayne,” I responded. “You know the world needs Apple to be successful or we’ll just have IBM and Radio Shack.”

I detected a flash of anger in Wayne’s eyes. “Why should I be nice,” he said, “Steve Jobs have never been nice to anyone.”

To see Part 1: Meeting Steve, Click HERE
To See Part 2: Seeing the Macintosh for the Very First Time, Click HERE
To See Part 3: We Met the REAL Steve Jobs, Click HERE
To See Part 4: Steve Jobs Tells Us to “Belly Up to the Bar,” click HERE
To See Part 5: Steve Comes Up with a Really Weird Ad, Click HERE
To See Part 6: Steve Poses for the First Cover of Macworld, Click HERE
To See Part 7: Andrew Fluegelman Urges Apple to Delay the Introduction, Click HERE
To See Part 8: Pat McGovern Meets with Steve, the Deal is Done, Click HERE
To See Part 9: Steve is F*cking Great!, Click HERE

Follow me on Twitter @davbunnell

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About the author

David Bunnell

David Bunnell is a Berkeley, CA, based media entrepreneur, writer and editor, who began his career working with Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen at the first personal computer company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975. He went on to start many media properties including PC Magazine, PC World, Macworld, Macworld Expo, BioWorld and others. You can read his blog at DavidBunnell.com or follow him on Twitter @davbunnell.

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Posted in Apple, Macintosh, Macworld, News, Vintage Tech |