In March of 1983, I moved to California to work at Apple. My first job was answering the Lisa Hotline, helping Lisa customers work through their application questions and problems. Although the Lisa was very cool technology in 1983, and I was happy to be working on it, the applications weren't deep, and sadly, there weren't many customers. This left plenty of time to learn about other things, like the Lisa's development system, which was also used to program the Macintosh, due to ship in 1984.
I had a friend, Cary Clark, who worked in the group that helped third-party developers write Macintosh software. Late in 1983, Cary gave me an amazing stack of documentation: an early version of Inside Macintosh (see Inside Macintosh). It was thrilling to learn how, with simple Pascal procedure calls, any programmer could create windows, track buttons and scroll bars, work with pull-down menus, and draw sophisticated graphics. So when Cary told me there was a job opening in his group, I jumped at the chance to work there.
My first day in the Macintosh group was in April 1984. Cary set me up with the standard set of hardware for developing software: in addition to a Mac (128K, of course), I got a Lisa, used for editing and compiling code, and an Apple III, which acted as a terminal to the Mac for debugging purposes. I also received a most precious accessory: an external floppy disk drive for the Mac. This caseless prototype was such a hot item that I was advised to lock it in a desk drawer at night.
After setting up my hardware, Cary showed me around the Mac building, Bandley 3. We visited the software team's "fishbowl" near the back of the building, the hardware group's space, and the areas for marketing, finance, and other teams. The director of finance, Debi Coleman, often yelled questions loudly to other people across the smallish building, a habit I witnessed on that first day.
The building's atrium featured a couple of stand-up video games, a fancy stereo system with the first CD player I ever saw, and, incongruously, a grand piano and a motorcycle, placed there by Steve Jobs as examples of great product design.
As Cary and I neared the end of our little tour, we came to one of the few closed, non-cubicle offices in the building. It belonged to Steve Jobs. As we walked past, I peeked in and noticed an Apple logo woven into the carpet. Steve was having a conversation with a couple of guys from the Accessory Products Group, the division that made printers, keyboards, modems, and so on.
Steve was concerned about a shortage of ImageWriter dot matrix printers. Apple had forecast that about 70% of Mac buyers would also want an ImageWriter, but the actual figure was over 90%, which led to the shortage. To make things worse, the ImageWriter used a part called a microcontroller that was also in short supply. The printer guys in Steve's office were in charge of a new product called the Wide Carriage ImageWriter, a special edition of the printer that was bought mainly by big accounting firms, and usually with an Apple II, not a Mac. The Wide Carriage ImageWriter used the same scarce microcontroller, which further reduced the number of regular ImageWriters. Steve was agitated about that, because some customers were refusing to buy a Mac if they couldn't get an ImageWriter at the same time.
As Cary and I walked past Steve's office, we heard him yelling at the printer guys, reminding them that every Wide Carriage ImageWriter built with the hard-to-get microcontroller would likely cost the company a Mac sale. "If you build even one of those Wide ImageWritersâ¦", and then he told them about a certain part of their anatomy that would be "cut off" if that happened. The printer guys looked like they would rather be anywhere else than right where they were. Before too much longer, Apple did ship the Wide Carriage ImageWriter, the microcontroller shortage cleared up, and I always felt privileged to have experienced so much about the Mac division on my first day.