On Tuesday, it was announced that Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, will transition into a new role as an Apple Fellow. This honorary position is one that Apple recognizes for a person’s outstanding contribution to the company in some capacity.
But while many newer Apple fans may not be familiar with the role, it’s one that’s been part of Apple dating back to the 1980s — even if this is the first time in more than 20 years that Apple has inducted someone into the club.
Here’s what you need to know about the other Apple Fellows:
Al Alcorn worked at Apple from 1986 through 1991. During that time, he worked on a project creating advanced digital video compression tools. This eventually led to the development of the MPEG video compression standard. Alcorn additionally created a Macintosh plug-in for the IBM PC.
His bigger claim to fame, however, is because he was the first person to hire Jobs. In 1974, Jobs responded to a classified ad in San Jose’s Mercury newspaper to work at Atari. Alcorn met with the 18-year-old Jobs and offered him work. Twelve years later, Alcorn — one of the engineers who created the game Pong — had left Atari, and joined Apple as an Apple Fellow.
At Apple, his boss was Larry Tesler, the pioneering Xerox PARC engineer who passed away earlier this year.
Made an Apple Fellow in May 1984, Alan Kay also joined Apple after a stint at Atari, where he had worked as a chief scientist. He stayed at Apple for 12 years, working in Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, Apple’s research arm at the time.
Like Alcorn, Kay is also very notable for his contributions to Apple’s overall history while outside the company. His designs for the Dynabook, an extremely accessible portable computer concept he had worked on since the 1960s, greatly influenced the iPhone and the iPad. Kay also coined the phrase “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware,” which Mac engineer Andy Hertzfeld heard him mention in a July 1982 lecture.
Along with Kay’s pursuit of perfection, there can be no more “Apple ” a sentiment than that. It was also Kay (albeit after he had been named an Apple Fellow) who told Jobs about the opportunity to purchase a majority interest in Pixar, the company that ultimately made Jobs a billionaire.
Steve Capps was appointed an Apple Fellow in mid-1994. He joined Apple in 1981 and worked on both the Lisa and Macintosh projects. (He helped write the Mac Finder with Bruce Horn.)
Capps briefly left Apple in 1985 and then rejoined in 1987, working on the Newton project. He left Apple again in June 1996.
Software engineer Bill Atkinson was the main designer of the graphical user interface for the Apple Lisa and original Macintosh. He also created the revolutionary MacPaint application, alongside the HyperCard system.
Atkinson worked at Apple from 1978 through 1990, and was instrumental in getting Steve Jobs to make his now legendary visit to Xerox PARC. He also created the Venice font on the Mac, the only typeface not designed by Susan Kare.
Another early Apple employee, electrical engineer Rod Holt joined Apple as its fifth employee in 1977. That makes him the second earliest Apple employee to made an Apple Fellow after Steve Wozniak. Holt, a chain-smoking Marxist remembered for brewing astonishingly strong coffee, was Chief Engineer and Vice President of Engineering on the Apple II.
Among his chief contributions was designing its power supply system. Before Apple, Holt worked at Atari, and was introduced to Jobs by Al Alcorn. He left Apple in around 1983.
For many Apple fans, especially newer ones, Guy Kawasaki will be among the best-known names on this list. Tech evangelist Kawasaki joined Apple in 1983, and worked in marketing on the original Mac. He was Apple’s chief evangelist for four years, then left Apple in 1987. He rejoined for two years as an Apple Fellow in 1995.
According to Kawasaki’s LinkedIn profile, his job this time around involved “[protecting] and [preserving] the Macintosh cult by doing whatever I had to do.”
Cognitive scientist and user design expert Don Norman is the author of the bestselling book The Design of Everyday Things. He worked at Apple from 1993 through 1998. During that time, he was Vice President of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group.
Joining Apple in January 1979 from Hewlett-Packard, hardware engineer Rich Page was awarded his Apple Fellow role for hardware development and graphics software development tools.
He prototyped Apple’s first portable, color, and 68010-based Macs. He was also one of the people responsible for the decision to use the Motorola MC68000 microprocessors for the Lisa and Mac computers. Page left Apple with Steve Jobs in 1985 to co-found NeXT, where he took on the role of hardware VP.
Sidhu was the engineering lead on the LaserWriter, AppleShare, Apple Open Collaboration Environment, and various networking projects and initiatives. He joined Apple in 1982 and left in March 1997 as the company struggled to tighten its belt amid mounting losses.
Today, he works at Microsoft where he has been employed on Windows Phone Services for the past decade.
The only Apple Fellow no longer alive, Starkweather passed away in December 2019. Before joining Apple in 1987, Starkweather worked at Xerox PARC, where he invented the laser printed.
At Apple, he created color management technology for the Mac and led the development of ColorSync, Apple’s software for simplifying the job of matching color between input and output devices. He left Apple in 1997.
The most famous Apple Fellow of them all, Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs and Ron Wayne. He developed the Apple-1 and Apple II, including peripherals such as the Disk II.
Wozniak began to edge out the door at Apple after a plane crash in 1981. He left properly in 1985, the same year as Steve Jobs. While Woz has periodically returned since then (most notably in 1997 when he appeared on stage with Jobs at a keynote event), Wozniak’s interests are largely outside of Apple these days.
Who else do you think deserves recognition?
Apple’s honorific Apple Fellows award isn’t one that has been handed out consistently over the years. That’s not to say that those on the list don’t deserve it, but rather that there have been plenty of people who have left the company without receiving recognition. (There’s no Jony Ive on the list, for instance.)
Who do you think Apple should give an Apple Fellow award to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.