(You're reading all posts by Adam Rosen) Adam Rosen is an Apple certified IT consultant specializing in Macintosh systems new and old. He lives in Boston with two cats and too many possessions. In addition to membership in the Cult of Mac, Adam has written for Low End Mac and is curator of the Vintage Mac Museum. He also enjoys a good libation.
About Adam Rosen
Among his many talents, Steve Jobs was one of the great orators and inspiring speakers of our time. Part sage, part showman, Jobs combined the wizardry of a magician with the skills of a master salesman. On this, the second anniversary of his death, we take a video look back at some of his memorable demos, quotes and speeches.
We begin with one of the most influential demos of all – the unveiling of the Macintosh. While many people have seen the 1984 TV commercial, far fewer saw the event in person. Giving a hint of keynotes to come, a tuxedo-clad Jobs and his magical child steal the show on January 24, 1984.
The big screen biopic Jobs opened this summer to mixed reviews, primarily over the film’s lack of accuracy in depicting events from Steve Jobs life and Apple’s history. It’s not the first movie out about Jobs and it definitely won’t be the last as filmmakers strive to tell a celluloid version of the life of the mercurial Apple co-founder.
A lot of Apple old-timers have commented on the accuracy of the movie, but it took a Mountain View, CA local-access TV show called John Wants Answers to get Steve Wozniak, Daniel Kottke and Andy Hertzfeld together to dish fact from fiction. Host John Vink has a long history with the Cupertino company; he was an engineer at Apple from 1996 to 2012 and currently heads Macintosh desktop engineering for Nest Labs.
The two-hour discussion went through the film scene by scene, peppered with entertaining banter and some surprising recollections from the panel. Dan Kottke, who also worked as a script consultant on the movie, noted that “in making that film, it was a huge choice of where to start it and where to end it…I thought the movie did a pretty good job of getting the emotional notes right.”
Read on to know more about why no one ever got fired over kerning, had to ask what a Macintosh was and why you should watch TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Fact Versus Fiction
The general consensus was that events, dates, facts and fiction were occasionally conflated to tell a better story. Many scenes were partially correct, but key details were altered. Some events portrayed were complete fiction, and the chronology wasn’t always right.
One example is the story of the Apple I and the Homebrew Computer Club. In Jobs the film, a young Steve Jobs stumbles across Wozniak’s new creation – a computer with a keyboard and screen – and becomes mesmerized staring into the TV monitor. He then sells the idea of a computing revolution to a reluctant Woz and convinces his shy companion to bring his system to the Homebrew Computer Club.
Woz spoke at length about what really happened:
“Steve and I both had gone over to a friend’s house, Captain Crunch, John Draper of the old blue box phone phreaking fame,” recalled Wozniak. “He sat down at a terminal, a teletype, and he started typing. Then he began playing chess with a computer in Boston.” Woz and Jobs were dumbfounded.
“Whoa!” said Woz. I thought: “this is just like Pong. I have to have this ability.”
Woz got some chips, an expensive keyboard ($60 – uppercase only) and wired the thing into his TV set. “This was not a computer, this was a terminal,” said Woz, “But it was a very short step before that terminal just got a little addition that made it a computer.”
Soon Woz made those additions and while Jobs was off at college, he started going to the HomeBrew computer club. Every two weeks, Wozniak hauled his TV set in the car, set up everything on a table in the lobby and started programming in earnest. Soon crowds began gathering and he started showing off his creation.
The buzz was growing, so Woz recalled that during one time Jobs was back home, “I pulled him to the club and showed him all the people around me. And he got the idea that we could sell them. I would have given them away for free.” The HomeBrew computer club already was full of people who wanted to change the world and Woz wanted to help.
“This is the complete opposite of the movie,” interjected show host John Vink. “In the movie we had Steve Jobs trying to convince you [Woz] to come to HomeBrew and you said ‘Nah, I don’t wanna go.'”
“Oh no,” replied Wozniak, “I’d been there since day one.”
What’s a Macintosh?
The development of Lisa and Macintosh were seminal events for the future of Apple. The group concurred that the scene where the Lisa team was chewed out for not having multiple fonts in the word processor was complete fiction. Nobody was fired for a lack of typefaces or kerning, but they did note that a different engineer at Apple was fired around that same time for not wanting to undertake the effort to build a mouse for the system.
Many of the celluloid scenes did portray parts of events accurately, with dramatic effect added for flair. One clip included in the trailer portrays Jobs drafting a young Andy Hertzfeld for the Macintosh team. When Hertzfeld asks for more time to continue working on his Apple II project, Jobs yanks the computer off his desk and says “you’re working on the Macintosh team now.” Then a quick cut to Apple employee Bill Fernandez, who asks “What’s a Macintosh?”
Via email I asked the panel if that was how things really happened, or just good theater?
All three agreed that the Mac project was not a secret around Apple engineers and management at that time.
Nobody would ever have asked “What’s a Macintosh?” That line was just tossed in for dramatic effect, and Fernandez was actually working in Japan at that time. But Hertzfeld did confirm that he lost his computer in the transition.
“[Jobs] came by my desk and said “you’re working on the Mac now’,” said Hertzfeld. “I had just started this new OS for the Apple II, DOS 4.0… and I wanted to get it in good enough shape that someone else could take it over. Steve said ‘Are you kidding? The Apple II’s obsolete, the Apple II’s gonna be dead, you gotta work on the Mac!”
Hertzfeld pleaded for more time, but ultimately to no avail. “Then he unplugged my computer and carried it away. So I had no choice but to go after him!”
The Mac Failed Terribly
Some of the most animated discussion centered around Jobs departure from Apple in 1985 and the initial failure of the Macintosh project. They felt the movie didn’t accurately portray why Jobs was removed from the Mac team.
Woz: “The real situation was that the Mac failed terribly. Totally. We built a factory to build 50,000 of them and we were selling 500 a month. Steve had cancelled projects because they could only sell 2,000 a month.”
“I think he was taking it real hard that he’d failed for a third computer he’d tried to create and his vision really didn’t understand you have to build a market, it takes time, you aren’t going to sell 50,000 on day one. And meanwhile, we had to save the company.”
Jobs wanted to cancel or hamstring the Apple II in favor of the Macintosh, but it was important to continue selling and marketing the older system for a few more years. It generated most of the revenue. That was the primary business decision.
Hertzfeld chimed in: “I tell that story a little bit differently. The Mac did sell a lot of units initially, because of its novelty, because of its positive qualities. In June of 1984 it sold over 60,000 units. So they upped the forecast because Christmas was the big time and they thought they’d sell 80,000 units.”
But sales fell off steeply after the back-to-school rush in early fall, and by the end of the year sales were down to about 1,000 a month.
“When the Macs weren’t selling, a major mistake they made was trying to focus it on the office market,” recalled Hertzfeld. This was the time of the Lemmings commercial, a disastrous followup to the wildly successful 1984 spot. “The whole Macintosh Office thing never really got developed. The Mac needed a hard disk, that was really the biggest single design mistake that we made.”
Kottke: “And meanwhile Lisa had a hard drive.”
Woz: “Patience, patience, patience. Don’t put out a machine when it’s not a good enough machine for the price you’re selling this year. Work on it, work on it, work on it, and put it out when it is a good enough machine to sell at the price you’re offering.”
Steve Jobs and Apple clearly learned that lesson in the post-NeXT period.
Woz: “The Lisa was the right machine, with the right amount of RAM, but it was the wrong year for pricing. We finally got the Lisa back when we got OS X, actually, that’s what I like to say.”
Summing Things Up
The panel generally thought the that TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley was a better portrayal of events of this period. Regarding Jobs, “there was no sense of suspense about this movie” said Wozniak. It didn’t show Steve’s thought process, how he reasoned and argued with people.
Hertzfeld noted that both movies had good acting, but Pirates had the better script. He felt that Jobs often felt like a laundry list of incidents instead of something which would show a deeper meaning.
Kottke said the producers of the film faced many decisions about what to put in and what to leave out, such as details about Pixar and NeXT. He said the filmmakers had tried very hard to get things right.
But one of Kottke’s most surprising memories might have been a quick quip to Woz: “Did you not love the Apple III? Because we all thought it was great!”
For more fascinating details, you can watch the entire two hour episode of John Wants Answers on YouTube.
- Source John Wants Answers
- Image Photos: Jeff Lee
It was an impromptu family reunion whose RSVP list grew rapidly. In celebration of the recent rebirth of two prototype Twiggy Macs, many legends of Cupertino relived memories and reconnected with old friends in a private party held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
Attendees, many of whom held Apple badge numbers in the single or double digits, included (among others) Steve Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld, Daniel Kottke, Chris Espinosa, Guy Kawasaki, Jerry Manock, Terry Oyama, Larry and Patti Kenyon, Rod Holt, Randy Wigginton and Wendell Sander. The soiree was arranged by longtime Apple employee Dan Kottke and Gabreal Franklin, former president of Encore systems and owner of one of the resurrected Twiggy Macs.
Apple’s venerable alumni laughed and reminisced with each other while playing with the rare prototype, commenting on early aspects of the design and who did what. “It’s got an hourglass cursor,” Andy Hertzfeld said. “I don’t remember that. Hey, I wrote that. It seems slow to me.”
It stands shorter than a Steve Jobs doll. It can be held in the palm of your hand. It runs System 6, and elicits squeals of delight from vintage Mac fans.
It is the Smallest Mac in the World.
Hot on the heels of the news of the world’s oldest working Macintosh comes a breakthrough of much more modest proportions. John Leake, co-host of the RetroMacCast, has created what may be the world’s smallest working Macintosh using a Raspberry Pi computer, PVC, some off-the shelf parts and a Mac emulator running under Linux. He calls it “Mini Mac.”
Why? As Leake writes on his blog, “this is one those ‘because I can’ projects with no practical use – my favorite kind!”
Nearly three decades after Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh, a pair of incredibly rare Mac prototypes have been discovered and restored to working order.
The computers, known as Twiggy Macs because they used the same 5.25-inch Twiggy floppy disk drive found in Apple’s doomed Lisa, were tracked down and painstakingly brought back to life by Adam Goolevitch, a vintage Mac collector, and Gabreal Franklin, a former Apple software engineer.
“Throughout the past 15 years, I have heard stories of and researched the fabled ‘Twiggy Macintosh’ computer,” Goolevitch told Cult of Mac in an email. “It was a thing of myth and legend — like a unicorn.”
Locating these Macs was the first step, but getting them to work was the real challenge. Goolevitch and Franklin embarked on an all-out effort to resurrect these long-lost pieces of Macintosh history.
Now two Twiggy Macs have been returned to life in full working glory. They are — without a doubt — the oldest Macs in the world. With auction prices for Apple-1 computers nudging upward toward the half-million-dollar mark, these incredibly rare prototypes — which look a lot like something you might find at a garage sale — could prove priceless. Here is the story of their amazing resurrection.
The famous Macintosh Picasso logo was developed for the introduction of the original 128k Mac back in 1984. A minimalist line drawing in the style of Pablo Picasso, this whimsical graphic implied the whole of a computer in a few simple strokes. It was an icon of what was inside the box, and became as famous as the computer it represented.
The logo was designed by Tom Hughes and John Casado, art directors on the Mac development team. Originally the logo was to be a different concept called The Macintosh Spirit by artist Jean-Michel Folon, but before the release Steve Jobs changed his mind and had it replaced by the simple and colorful drawing by Hughes and Casado. It’s been beloved ever since, and the graphic style has endured across decades.
What if the history books have it wrong? What if the tool is the master of its maker? Did Mac create Man?
Project Genesis, a short film about a world populated only by old Apple computers, has arrived. The computers have issues. And they have spoken:
We have always looked at our world with a single point of view: with resignation, limiting ourselves to survive. We were wrong! From this moment on, everything changes: new unexpected ways open up in front of us, the world we knew now becomes more accessible, simple, within everyone’s range.
With “Project Genesis” we open the door to our dreams: now we only have to start living, as we truly mean it
Cue the spotlights. Cue the fanfare. Today on Cult of Mac, we present the International Premiere of this groundbreaking short film by Italian director Alessio Fava. It was worth the wait:
Apple is all about the latest and greatest, inventing (and selling) the future. The computer marketplace as a whole evolves with ever accelerating speed – that two year old iPhone or laptop, so passé. Sometimes its helpful to take a step back and appreciate the long view of computing.
David Greelish is a computer historian who has been studying vintage computing for many years, as a writer, collector, podcaster and now vintage computing festival sponsor. His journey has included playing Star Trek text adventures on teletype machines, rescuing orphaned Lisas and Commodore 64s from unloved futures, and lobbying Apple to create a visitor’s gallery of company history in their new corporate HQ. He’s still getting flak for that last one.
Cult of Mac contacted David to hear his story.
Most software released for Macs and iOS devices is designed for the general public – programs, utilities, games and Apple’s own website. But an important and growing industry exists behind the scenes to keep all that shiny Apple gear working.
GsxWarranty is a small utility for Macs, Windows PCs and iPhones which allows a technician to quickly check warranty status on Apple products. By entering the serial number GsxWarranty displays detailed information concerning AppleCare, service parts and configuration details.
PowerPC-based Macs have long been considered dead and buried by Apple, but the company just put a few more nails in the coffin to prevent any corpse risings. With the release of iTunes 10.7 this week the ubiquitous media control center becomes Intel-only, requiring at least a Core Solo processor and Mac OS X 10.6.8.
In a related one-two punch, Apple has also stopped providing online Software Updates for Mac OS X versions 10.0 through 10.3, as well as Mac OS 9. These items are now available only by direct download from Apple’s support website.