Seeing The Macintosh For The Very First Time [Recollections]


Apple Mac
Apple Mac

In Part 2 of My Close Encounters with Steve Jobs, Macworld-founder David Bunnell tells of seeing the Mac for the first time, and why Steve Jobs parks in handicapped spaces.

Steve Jobs was so sick of his car getting keyed by pissed-off employees, he started parking it in nearby handicapped spots to keep a eye on it.

Bounding out of his chair, Steve skipped around the receptionist desk through a passageway leading to the inner sanctuary, an atrium surrounded by labs and offices. We followed quickly least the moment be lost–still, I had to pause for a moment to stare in disbelief at the brand spanking new BMW motorcycle parked next to a beautiful Bosendorfer piano, both of which were sitting on the cement floor next to a ping-pong table.

Steve was far enough ahead I was able to discreetly poke Murray and whisper, “what the fuck?”

“Steve thinks the motorcycle and the piano are examples of great products which will inspire us,” Murray whispered back, “and we like to play ping-pong.”

Gee, I thought, is this anyway to launch a new computer?

Standing impatiently in the doorway of a large conference room, Steve waved Andrew and I in. As we sat down he picked up a beige canvas carrying case, a rectangular prism taller than it was wide with straps that formed a handle across the top. It was about the maximum size for an airplane carry-on and indeed, I noticed it had a “Macintosh” luggage tag.

Plopping it down in front of us, Steve proudly announced, “Here’s the Macintosh, why don’t you take it out of the case and see if you like it.”

At this moment, I confess, I was nervous as hell–what if I dropped Steve’s baby on the floor or worse, what if I couldn’t find the on switch? If Steve Jobs towering over you with wild eyes and a big grin on his face isn’t intimidating, I don’t what is. So I turned to Andrew and said, “You’re the editor, why don’t you try it first?”

Andrew had been a corporate lawyer before he turned to writing and editing which I always assumed was the reason he seemed so unflappable. With steady hands, he calmly unzipped the large zipper on top of the case and pulled out a similarly shaped plastic object the color of which was a somewhat lighter shade of beige. Built into the front was small computer screen and a slot for a disk drive.

Compared to the iron box computers of the day, the original Mac was distinctly elegant though it lacked the icy coolness of today’s Apple products. There was a separate keyboard, separate mouse, power cord and a “startup diskette.” With very little coaxing from Steve and Mike, Andrew figured out how to plug everything together. He stuck the disk into the machine and powered it up.

At this point, Mike took over the controls for a moment to show us how to boot up the Mac’s very first application, not as we would have expected a spreadsheet, database or even a word processor, it was an electronic painting program called MacPaint.

MacPaint was the precursor to programs like Adobe’s Photoshop. Wowed by the software, Bunnell writes, “We instantly loved the Mac and because we loved it, Steve loved us.”

Mike showed us how to draw images on the screen using the mouse, and then rotate them, move them around, fill them in with patterns, etc. Might seem hard to believe now, but even though it was in black and white, we were wowed. Coming from the DOS world with its infamous “A:” and prompt and mundane business applications, MacPaint at that particular moment in time was like dying and going to heaven.

“Holy cow,” Andrew exclaimed, “this is just way too cool.” Suddenly not so calm, he couldn’t sit still. In fact, we were both on our feet bouncing up-and-down and clapping with glee. Steve stood back and looked on like a proud poppa. We instantly loved the Mac and because we loved it, Steve loved us. “So you’ll do the magazine,” he asked.

“Hell yes, Steve,” I assured him, “and it was be great, much greater than PC World because this is so damn exciting. And better yet, Steve, we’ll have the first issue out on the day you introduce the Macintosh, I promise.”

Andrew flashed me a quick wide-eyed look as if to say, “are you crazy?” I could sense he couldn’t wait to get out of there before I made more promises. Steve and Mike told us the introduction date would be January 24.

We had just over three months to design a new magazine from scratch, commission articles, illustrations and photographs, and arrange for printing and distribution.

Plus, there was this other little minor complication—we needed permission from Pat McGovern, who was the Chairman of IDG, our parent company, before we could launch a new magazine. Lately he had been encouraging us to start a publication for IBM’s rumored home computer, the so-called “Peanut.” It might not be easy, but I just knew in my gut I could somehow cajole McGovern into letting me create Macworld–destiny called, I thought, and there is nothing to stop it.

Mike walked us out to my car where we paused for a few minutes to gossip about why Steve always parked his silver Mercedes in the handicapped zone by the front door and to admire the Jolly Roger’s pirate flag flying above the Mac Development building, which was otherwise banally known by its address, “Bandley 3.”

Mike told us some jealous people in the Apple II or Lisa divisions of the company were so pissed-off at Steve for the way he frequently belittled them they got their revenge by keying his car. Because the close-in parking spots were usually gone by the time Steve arrived in the morning, he simply parked in the handicapped zone. No one would dare key Steve’s car when it was right in front of the building.

As for the flag, there had been a retreat for the Mac startup team where during one of Steve’s inspirational speeches, he proclaimed, “it’s better to be a pirate than join the Navy.” Duly inspired, one of the programmers, Steve Capps, decided the building should have a pirate flag. He cut a large black piece of cloth into the proper shape and asked Susan Kare, the artist who designed all the Mac screen icons, to paint a white skull and crossbones in the middle of it.

Risking a broken limb, Capps crawled up on the roof of the building one Sunday night to host the flag while Susan watched out for any roving Apple security guards. They didn’t know if Jobs would approve or not, but the next morning, after parking in the handicapped zone, he noticed the flag. At first he looked up at it with a puzzled face but when he saw Capps, Susan Kerr, Mike Murray and several other Mac team members waiting at the front door to see how he would react, he broke out into a big grin and started laughing.

Steve liked the flag, no one was fired over the incident. The flag stayed put for several weeks until someone from the “Navy” part of Apple highjacked it and held it in hostage at the Lisa building.

As Andrew and I got back into my car, Murray left us with this departing thought, “You know we are building the Macintosh to be the machine we want,” he said, “We’ve never had a focus group or anything like that, we’re building it for ourselves.”

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

Copyright 2010 by David Bunnell. All Rights Reserved.


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