February 27, 1998: Apple discontinues work on the Newton MessagePad product line, the series of personal digital assistants the company launched five years earlier.
“This decision is consistent with our strategy to focus all our software development resources on extending the Macintosh operating system,” Steve Jobs says at the time. “To realize our ambitious plans we must focus all of our efforts in one direction.”
Long before Tim Cook brought his operations wizardry to Apple, Del Yocam lent his logistical prowess to Cupertino. Apple’s first chief operating officer, he helped transform the company from a chaotic, scrappy startup into a streamlined manufacturing powerhouse.
He also served as an early mentor to Steve Jobs, the young Apple co-founder who sometimes seemed out of his depth in 1979.
“When I first got to know him, he was lost,” Yocam told Cult of Mac. “He was no longer involved in the Apple II and no one wanted him around, especially management. He didn’t care about money at that time. He was like an orphan, living away from home.”
In many ways, Yocam was the proto-Tim Cook, a manufacturing and operations specialist who helped transform a dysfunctional startup into a massive, moneymaking leader of the early PC industry. He also helped take the rapidly growing company international.
Yocam deserves more credit for helping build Apple than history has so far accorded him. He was one of the main players at a crucial point in Cupertino’s history.
Yocam, now 76, recently talked with Cult of Mac about Apple’s early days. In this exclusive interview, he discusses his friendship and working relationship with Jobs, Apple’s challenging, fascinating, and sometimes malodorous co-founder.
He also reveals new details about Jobs’ tearful ouster from Apple — and how Jobs later offered him an amazing job, only to revoke it at the last moment.
December 4, 1992: Apple engineers demonstrate a “proof of concept” of the Mac operating system running on an Intel computer.
More than a decade before Macs will switch to Intel processors, the astonishing feat is part of an aborted plan to make Apple’s software available on other manufacturer’s hardware. Apple ultimately chickens out, fearing (probably correctly) that this will hurt Macintosh sales.
November 21, 1985: Following Steve Jobs’ departure, Apple comes close to signing its own death warrant by licensing the Macintosh’s look and feel to Microsoft.
The deal, between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Apple CEO John Sculley, comes hot on the heels of the Windows operating system’s release. The pact gives Microsoft a “non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, nontransferable license to use [parts of the Mac technology] in present and future software programs, and to license them to and through third parties for use in their software programs.”
November 8, 1984: When initial Mac sales prove disappointing, Apple CEO John Sculley dreams up the “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign to encourage people to give the revolutionary new computer a chance.
While 200,000 would-be Apple customers take advantage of the offer, Apple dealers absolutely hate it.
October 21, 1991: Apple launches its PowerBook 100 series. The lightweight laptops quickly become one of the most important tech gadgets of all time.
These devices almost single-handedly turned notebook computers into a mainstream technology. Apple’s subsequent success in this category — whether it’s the current MacBooks or even the rise of mobile devices like the iPhone — owes a huge debt to the PowerBook 100 series.
October 19, 1992: Apple launches the Mac IIvx, the first Macintosh computer to ship with a metal case and, more importantly, an internal CD-ROM drive.
The last of the Macintosh II series, the Mac IIvx experiences one of the more notorious price adjustments in Apple history. Within five months of shipping, Apple slashes the computer’s launch price of $2,949 to $1,899. That’s one way to reward early adopters!