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Steve Jobs: (66)
The original Mac team's original office
Date: October 1980
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Apple Spirit,Origins,Management,Buildings
In 1979 and 1980, Jef Raskin's Macintosh project was a four person research effort with a tenuous existence. It wasn't considered to be very important within Apple, and was almost cancelled a couple of times. When Apple had another major reorganization in the fall of 1980, it was terminated again, but Jef pleaded with Mike Scott and Mike Markkula for more time, and was granted three more months to show that he was really onto something. As part of the re-org, the four person Macintosh team (Jef Raskin, Brian Howard, Burrell Smith, Bud Tribble, soon to be joined by Joanna Hoffman) relocated to a small office building a few blocks from the main Apple campus.
The new office, located at 20863 Stevens Creek Boulevard, was called the "Good Earth" building, because it was adjacent to a Good Earth restaurant. In fact, the office used to be Apple's very first office in Cupertino, after they moved out of Steve Jobs' parents' house, and was later used as the first office of the Lisa project, when the Lisa team had fewer than ten employees. The Mac team moved in, outfitting it with lots of bean bag chairs and all kinds of interesting toys.
Jef was very playful and always encouraged his team to express themselves creatively, so the office quickly began to look more like a day care center than an engineering lab, overflowing with playthings. Periodically, work would cease and the entire team, plus any visitors who might be on the premises, would play some organized game, usually led by Jef and Brian.
The favorite game, which was usually played at least once a day, just after lunch, was a form of tag played with Nerf balls. There were dozens of brightly colored Nerf balls scattered around the office. The rules would be improvised, but usually the person who was "it" had to confer it-hood on someone else by hitting them with a Nerf ball. This inspired everyone to surround their work area with barricades made out of cardboard, to provide cover during the game, making part of the office look like a cardboard maze.
Jef and Brian were both serious musicians, so the office was also littered with a variety of musical instruments, sometimes erupting in spontaneous concerts. Another one of Jef's interests was model airplanes and automobiles, especially radio controlled ones. It wasn't unusual to see a radio controlled car dart underneath your desk, and occasionally everyone would go outside to see the maiden voyage of the latest plane.
Jef was writing his "Book of Macintosh" during much of 1979 and all of 1980, articulating his vision in ever finer detail. Burrell's 6809-based prototype came alive in the early part of 1980, but then he went off to work on the low cost Apple II project. Jef hired Marc Lebrun to write software in early 1980, but Marc was more interested in Lisp machines than a limited memory microcomputer like the Mac, so nothing much happened until he was replaced by Bud Tribble in September 1980.
Bud knew Jef from UCSD, and was also good friends with Bill Atkinson. They had a part time, two person consulting company together in Seattle called Synaptic Systems while they were both graduate students. Bill and Jef convinced Bud to take a one year leave of absence from the M.D/Ph.D. program he was pursuing at University of Washington at Seattle. Bud was in the fifth year of a seven M.D/Ph.D. program. Instead of returning to med school, Bud moved into a spare room at Bill Atkinson's house, and started work on the Mac project at Apple. He quickly began to breathe life into Burrell's languishing prototype, writing some graphics routines for the 6809.
So even though the Mac project had been going for more than a year, the move to Good Earth in October 1980 came at an interesting time, with a new but limited lease on life, and software finally starting to happen. But the Good Earth era was rather short lived.
Around two months after the move, Bud convinced Burrell to consider using the 68000 processor instead of the 6809. Burrell came up with a brilliant design, catching the attention of Steve Jobs. Steve took over the project and quickly recruited most of the early Apple II crew that he trusted, including Steve Wozniak and Rod Holt, and moved the project to larger offices a half mile away, in Texaco Towers .
The office where the Mac became real
Date: January 1981
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Origins, Lisa, Buildings
The main Apple buildings on Bandley Drive in Cupertino had boring numerical appellations (Bandley 1, Bandley 3, etc.), but from the beginning the Lisa team gave the buildings they inhabited more interesting names. The original office for the Lisa team was adjacent to a Good Earth restaurant (in fact, it was Apple's original office in Cupertino), so it was called the "Good Earth" building. When the team grew larger and took over two nearby office suites, they were designated "Scorched Earth" (because it housed the hardware engineers, who were all smokers) and "Salt of the Earth".
When the Lisa team became a separate division in 1980, they moved to a larger, two-story office building a block or two away from the main building on Bandley Drive. Everyone was so impressed at having two stories (all the other Apple buildings were single story) that the building was dubbed "Taco Towers", although I'm not sure where the "Taco" part came from.
In December 1980, the embryonic Macintosh team was residing in the Good Earth building , which was abandoned by the Lisa team for Taco Towers earlier in the year. When Steve Jobs took over the project, he moved it to a new building that was large enough to hold about fifteen or twenty people, a few blocks away from the main Apple campus at the southeast corner of Stevens Creek Boulevard and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road.
There was a Texaco gas station at the corner, and a two-story, small, brown, wood paneled office building behind it, the kind that might house some accountants or insurance agents. Apple rented the top floor, which had four little suites split by a corridor, two on a side. Because of the proximity of the gas station and the perch on the second story, as well as the sonic overlap between "Taco" and "Texaco", the building quickly became known as "Texaco Towers".
Burrell Smith and Brian Howard took over the side of the building closest to the gas station and built a hardware lab, while Bud Tribble and Jef Raskin set up shop on the other side, installing desks with prototype Lisas to use for software development. Bud's office had four desks, but he was the only one occupying it at first. Steve didn't have an office there, but he usually came by to visit in the late afternoon.
In the corner of Bud's office, on one of the empty desks, was Burrell's 68000 based Macintosh prototype, wired-wrapped by Burrell himself, the only one currently in existence, although both Brian Howard and Dan Kottke had started wire-wrapping additional ones. Bud had written a boot ROM that filled the screen with the word "hello", rendered in a small bitmap that was thirty two pixels wide for easy drawing, which showed off the prototype's razor sharp video and distinctive black on white text.
When I started on the project in February 1981, I was given Jef's old desk in the office next to Bud's. Desk by desk, Texaco Towers began to fill up, as more team members were recruited, like Collette Askeland to lay out the PC boards, or Ed Riddle to work on the keyboard hardware. When George Crow started, there wasn't an office available for him, so he set up a table in the common foyer and began the analog board design there.
Burell and I liked to have lunch at Cicero's Pizza, which was an old Cupertino restaurant that was just across the street. They had a Defender video game, which we'd play while waiting for our order. We'd also go to Cicero's around 4pm almost every day for another round of Defender playing; Burrell was getting so good he would play for the entire time on a single quarter .
In May of 1981, Steve complained that our offices didn't seem lively enough, and gave me permission to buy a portable stereo system for the office at Apple's expense. Burrell and I ran out and bought a silver, cassette-based boom box right away, before he could change his mind. After that we usually played cassette tapes at night or on the weekends when there was nobody around that it would bother.
By early 1982, the Mac team was overflowing Texaco Towers and it was obvious that we'd have to move to larger quarters soon. Steve decided to move the team back to the main Apple campus, into Bandley 4, which had enough space for more than 50 people. The 68000 based Macintosh was born in the Good Earth building, but I still think of Texaco Towers as the place where it came of age, transitioning from a promising research project into a real, world-changing commercial product.
Bud defines Steve's unique talent
Date: February 1981
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Management, Personality, Reality Distortion
I officially started on the Mac project on a Thursday afternoon, and Bud Tribble, my new manager and the only other software person on the project, was out of town. Bud was on leave of absence from an M.D.-Ph.D. program and he had to occasionally return to Seattle to keep up his standing in the program.
Bud usually didn't come into work until after lunch, so I met with him for the first time the following Monday afternoon. We started talking about all the work that had to be done, which was pretty overwhelming. He showed me the official schedule for developing the software that had us shipping in about ten months, in early January 1982.
"Bud, that's crazy!", I told him. "We've hardly even started yet. There's no way we can get it done by then."
"I know," he responded, in a low voice, almost a whisper.
"You know? If you know the schedule is off-base, why don't you correct it?"
"Well, it's Steve. Steve insists that we're shipping in early 1982, and won't accept answers to the contrary. The best way to describe the situation is a term from Star Trek. Steve has a reality distortion field."
"A reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he's not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules. And there's a couple of other things you should know about working with Steve."
"Well, just because he tells you that something is awful or great, it doesn't necessarily mean he'll feel that way tomorrow. You have to low-pass filter his input. And then, he's really funny about ideas. If you tell him a new idea, he'll usually tell you that he thinks it's stupid. But then, if he actually likes it, exactly one week later, he'll come back to you and propose your idea to you, as if he thought of it."
I thought Bud was surely exaggerating, until I observed Steve in action over the next few weeks. The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, an indomitable will, and an eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand. If one line of argument failed to persuade, he would deftly switch to another. Sometimes, he would throw you off balance by suddenly adopting your position as his own, without acknowledging that he ever thought differently.
Amazingly, the reality distortion field seemed to be effective even if you were acutely aware of it, although the effects would fade after Steve departed. We would often discuss potential techniques for grounding it , but after a while most of us gave up, accepting it as a force of nature.
A shakeup in Apple II engineering frees me up to work on the Macintosh
Date: February 1981
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Origins,Apple II,Management,Recruiting
I could tell there was something wrong from the moment I stepped into the building, on the morning of Wednesday, February 25th, 1981. Instead of the normal office buzz, there was a muted sadness hanging in the air. People were standing around, huddled in small groups. I ran into Donn Denman, who had a cubicle near mine, and asked him what was going on.
"Didn't you hear? Scotty fired almost half of the Apple II engineering team this morning. He started calling people into his office since around 9am, one at a time, and telling them that they were being fired. I think over thirty people have been fired so far. No one knows why, or who's going to be next. There's going to be a meeting out back around noon when he's supposed to tell us what's going on."
Apple had just gone public a couple of months ago, and it was still growing at a frenzied pace. Sales were booming and there was no financial reason to pare back. I wondered what was going on.
"Do you know who they fired?", I asked Donn.
"Yeah, it's amazing. Scotty fired three out of the four managers, so almost everyone's boss is gone. And believe it or not, they fired Rick Aurrichio."
I thought that the managers were more or less incompetent, so that didn't bother me, but the Rick Aurrichio part was shocking, since Rick was clearly one of the most talented programmers in the Apple II division. He would usually do a week's worth of work in a day or two, and then spend the rest of the week messing around with whatever caught his fancy, usually one of the latest games. I understood how he could be a management challenge, but it made no sense to fire him. He was my partner on the new DOS 4.0 project, which was just getting underway, and the only other programmer besides me that was working on it, so it was especially distressing that they would fire him so abruptly.
So I joined the ranks of the shell-shocked, and listened numbly to the basement meeting where Scotty explained his rationale. He said that the company had grown much too fast over the last year or so, and had made a few key bad hires, who themselves had hired even worse people. He thought the Apple II division had become too complacent, and that we had lost the start-up hustle that was the basis of our success. He wanted to shake us out of our complacency and prune out the bad hires, so we could start growing again in the right direction.
Scotty himself seemed a little shaken and unsure. Some of the other senior executives were standing off to the side, but they didn't participate in the meeting. There was a Q&A session at the end of the meeting where a couple employees told Scotty how horribly he handled the situation, but in general everyone seemed listless, as if we didn't know how we should react. Within a few days, everyone was referring to the incident as "Black Wednesday".
Later in the day, I talked to Dick Huston about what had happened. Dick was an early Apple programmer who had written the boot ROM for the disk controller card, who was an astute observer of Apple politics and was friendly with Scotty. He told me that he knew that the purge was going to happen and had even met with Scotty a couple of times in the last week to help him draw up the list of dead weight. He also told me that Scotty had asked for the approval of Mike Markkula and the board of directors, and hadn't received it yet, but decided to go and do it anyway.
I told Dick that I agreed that Apple had made some poor hires over the last year, especially some of the managers, but a Stalin-like purge was not a valid way to run a company. I complained about Rick's firing and told him that the situation made me feel alienated from the company. I was the type of programmer who had to believe in what I was doing, and I wasn't so sure about Apple's values anymore.
When I came in to work the next morning, there was a message on my desk from Mike Scott's secretary, saying that he wanted to talk to me; obviously Dick must have talked to him. I called her back and arranged to show up at his office in an hour. Scotty looked harried, and our conversation was interrupted a few times by various phone calls. Scotty told me that he had heard that I was upset, and thinking about leaving, and wanted me to know that he wanted me to stay. He asked me what he could do to get me excited about Apple again. I told him that I might like to work on the Macintosh, with Burrell and Bud.
Later that afternoon, Scotty's secretary called to tell me that she arranged for me to talk with Steve Jobs. Steve had been involved with the Mac project for more than a month now, and, although I didn't know it at the time, had dismissed the founder of the project, Jef Raskin, the day before, making him take a mandatory leave of absence after Jef had complained about Steve's leadership.
Lots of people at Apple were afraid of Steve Jobs, because of his spontaneous temper tantrums and his proclivity to tell everyone exactly what he thought, which often wasn't very favorable. But he was always nice to me, although sometimes a bit dismissive, in the few interactions that I had with him. I was excited to be talking with him about working on the Mac.
The first thing he said to me when I walked into his office was "Are you any good? We only want really good people working on the Mac, and I'm not sure you're good enough." I told him that yes, I thought that I was pretty good. I was friends with Burrell, and had already helped him out with software a few times.
"I hear that you're creative", Steve continued. "Are you really creative?"
I told him that I wasn't the best judge of that, but that I'd love to work on the Mac, and thought that I'd do a great job. He said he'd get back to me soon about it.
A couple of hours later, around 4:30pm, I was back to work on DOS 4.0 for the Apple II. I was working on low-level code for the system, interrupt handlers and dispatchers, when all of a sudden I notice Steve Jobs peering over the wall of my cubicle.
"I've got good news for you", he told me. "You're working on the Mac team now. Come with me and I'll take you over to your new desk."
"Hey, that's great", I responded. "I just need a day or two to finish up what I'm doing here, and I can start on the Mac on Monday."
"What are you working on? What's more important than working on the Macintosh?"
"Well, I've just started a new OS for the Apple II, DOS 4.0, and I want to get things in good enough shape so someone else could take it over."
"No, you're just wasting your time with that! Who cares about the Apple II? The Apple II will be dead in a few years. Your OS will be obsolete before it's finished. The Macintosh is the future of Apple, and you're going to start on it now!".
With that, he walked over to my desk, found the power cord to my Apple II, and gave it a sharp tug, pulling it out of the socket, causing my machine to lose power and the code I was working on to vanish. He unplugged my monitor and put it on top of the computer, and then picked both of them up and started walking away. "Come with me. I'm going to take you to your new desk."
We walked outside to Steve's silver Mercedes and he dropped my computer into the trunk. We drove a few blocks to the corner of Stevens Creek and Saratoga-Sunnyvale, to a non-descript, brown-shingled, two story office building next to a Texaco station, while Steve waxed eloquent about how great the Macintosh was going to be. We walked up to the second floor, and into an unlocked door. Steve plopped my system down on a desk in an office near the back of the building and said, "Here's your new desk. Welcome to the Mac team!", before darting off.
I started looking around the office, and saw Burrell Smith and Brian Howard in the next room, huddled over a logic analyzer connected to a prototype board. I told them what happened and they said Steve had been over earlier, asking them if they thought I was any good. They were happy that I joined the team.
After helping them a bit with the disk diagnostic routines they were trying to debug, I returned to my new desk and looked inside the drawers. I was surprised to see that it was still full of someone else's stuff. In fact, the bottom drawer had all kinds of unusual stuff, including various kinds of model airplanes, and some photography equipment. I later found out that Steve had assigned me to Jef Raskin's old desk, which he hadn't had time to move out of yet.
The design of the Macintosh case
Date: March 1981
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Industrial Design,Hardware,Prototypes
In March 1981, I had been working on the Mac team for only a month. I was used to coming back to the office after dinner and working for a few hours in the evening. Even though many of the early Mac team members usually worked late, and we often went out to dinner together, I was by myself one evening when I returned to Texaco Towers after dinner around 8pm. As soon as I entered the building, I heard loud voices emanating from Bud's office, which was adjacent to mine, apparently engaged in a spirited discussion.
"It's got to be different, different from everything else." I recognized Steve Jobs' voice before I saw him as I passed by the door of Bud's office. He was standing near the doorway, near our only working prototype, conversing with someone who I didn't recognize, that Steve introduced to me as James Ferris, Apple's director of Creative Services. "James is helping me figure out what the Mac should look like," he told me.
The plan of record for the Macintosh industrial design was still the one conceived by Jef Raskin, which chose a horizontally oriented, lunch-box type shape, with the keyboard folding up into the lid of the computer for easy transportability, kind of like the Osborne I, which we weren't aware of at the time. But Steve had a real passion for industrial design, and he never seriously considered following Jef's recommendations.
I went into my office and started to program, working on improving the code that drove the serial link between the Mac and Lisa, at Bud's request. But I couldn't help but overhear the passionate discussion taking place next door between Steve and James Ferris. For some reason, they were talking about cars.
"We need it to have a classic look, that won't go out of style, like the Volkswagen Beetle", I heard Steve tell James.
"No, that's not right.", James replied. "The lines should be voluptuous, like a Ferrari."
"Not a Ferrari, that's not right either", Steve responded, apparently excited by the car comparison. "It should be more like a Porsche!" Not so coincidentally, in those days Steve was driving a Porsche 928.
I thought it was kind of pompous to compare computers with sports cars, even metaphorically. But I was impressed with Steve's passion for elegance in the industrial design and his powers of discrimination continually amazed me as the design took shape.
Steve recruited Jerry Manock to lead the industrial design effort. Jerry was the early Apple employee who had designed the breakthrough plastic case for the Apple II, initially as a contractor before signing up as an employee. For the Macintosh, Jerry recruited a talented designer named Terry Oyama, to do most of the detailed drafting of the actual design. The hard tooling for the plastic case was the component with the longest lead time, so we had to get started right away.
A week or so after the car conversation, Steve and Jerry decided that the Macintosh should defy convention and have a vertical orientation, with the display above the disk drive instead of next to it, in order to minimize desktop footprint, which also dictated a detachable keyboard. That was enough of a direction for Terry to draft a preliminary design and fabricate a painted, plaster model.
We all gathered around for the unveiling of the first model. Steve asked each one of us, in turn, to say what we thought about it. I though it was cute and attractive, looking a lot like an Apple II, but with a distinctive personality all its own. But, after everyone else had their say, Steve cut loose with a torrent of merciless criticism.
"It's way too boxy, it's got to be more curvaceous. The radius of the first chamfer needs to be bigger, and I don't like the size of the bezel. But it's a start."
I didn't even know what a chamfer was, but Steve was evidently fluent in the language of industrial design, and extremely demanding about it. Over the next few months, Jerry and Terry iterated on the design. Every month or so, there was a new plaster model. Before a new one was unveiled to the team, Jerry lined up all of the previous ones, so we could compare the new one with past efforts. One notable improvement was the addition of a handle at the top of the case, to make it easier to carry. By the fourth model, I could barely distinguish it from the third one, but Steve was always critical and decisive, saying he loved or hated a detail that I could barely perceive.
At one point, when we were almost finished, Steve called up Jerry over the weekend and told him that we had to change everything. He had seen an elegant new Cuisinart at Macys' on Saturday, and he decided that the Mac should look more like that. So Terry did a whole new design, based around the Cuisinart concept, but it didn't pan out, and soon we were back on the old track, after a one-week diversion.
After five or six models, Steve signed off on the design, and the industrial design team shifted gears to do the laborious engineering work necessary to convert the conceptual model into a real, manufacturable plastic case. In February 1982, it was finally time to release the design for tooling. We held a little party, complete with champagne to celebrate sending off the design into the world, the first major component of the Macintosh to be completed.