The Original Macintosh:    54 of 127 
You Guys Are In Big Trouble
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Date: August 1982
Characters: Steve Jobs, Bill Atkinson, Bud Tribble, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn
Topics: Apple Spirit, Buildings, Management
Summary: We receive Steve's permission to dismantle the onerous burglar alarm

By the spring of 1982, the Mac team was growing so rapidly that we had to move from Texaco Towers back to the main part of the Apple campus on Bandley Drive. We moved into Bandley 4, a medium sized building across the street from Apple's main office.

One of the things that I liked about Bandley 4 was that the software team was in the very back of the building, near the parking lot, so we could go out the back door to our cars, or to play basketball, without having to walk all the way around the building. This worked out well for a couple of months, but eventually the facilities group decided to put an alarm on the back door, so you couldn't go in and out freely. They didn't arm the alarm until 5:30pm, but that didn't help me, since I usually didn't go out to dinner until after 7pm, and then usually came back to work another few hours. The alarm became a major annoyance, since it made me walk significantly out of my way a few times every day.

Every once in a while someone would forget that the alarm was there, and walk out the door anyway. The alarm would produce a head-splitting wail, destroying any chance of concentration until a security guard arrived to disarm it, which sometimes could take more than ten minutes.

I complained about the alarm every way that I knew how, but to no avail. About one quarter of the software team worked late, and the alarm was unnecessary while we were there, so I begged the facilities supervisor not to turn it on until after midnight, even offering to arm it ourselves when the last person left. But my pleas fell on deaf ears.

Every couple of months, Bud Tribble would come down from Seattle and visit with us. We'd show him the latest work we were doing so he could make his great suggestions. Late one afternoon, he showed up in the software area, and we all gathered around to demo to him, including Bill Atkinson and Steve Jobs.

Bill had done some neat hi-resolution scans with an improved dithering algorithm, and he wanted to show them to Bud. They were on his hard disk in the Lisa building, so he ran out the back door to get it. It was after 5:30pm, so that set off the alarm, and a horrible, loud, pulsating noise filled the room.

It went on for at least three minutes before Steve yelled out, "Can't someone figure out how to stop that thing?"

I saw a chance to vanquish my nemesis. "Are we allowed to damage it to get it to stop?", I asked him.

"Yes, do anything you want, I don't care if you break it," he replied, holding his hands over his ears. "Just get the damn thing to stop!"

Bruce Horn and I ran over to the nearby hardware lab and picked up every tool we could find. I got a hammer and screwdriver, and proceeded to pound the screwdriver into the center of the alarm, driving a stake through the demon's heart. The screwdriver went all the way through to the other side, but the alarm kept sounding.

Finally, Bruce took over and gave the screwdriver a mighty twist, and the whole thing flew apart into a half dozen pieces and fell to the ground. The horrible noise finally stopped.

At that very moment, a grizzled security guard entered the back door, just in time to see us cheering as the wrecked alarm finally gave up the ghost. He looked at us, our tools of destruction still in our guilty hands, and said, "You guys are in big trouble!!! Who is in charge here? You better show me your badge."

Steve stepped forward and handed the guard his badge. "I'll take responsibility for this", he told him.

The guard scrutinized Steve's badge. He looked at Steve, then back at the badge a few times. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders, picked up the pieces of the broken alarm, and walked away, without saying another word.

We were gleeful that the alarm was gone, but exactly one week later, a new one was put in its place, which stayed there until we moved to Bandley 3 a few months later. I'm not sure why, but not even Steve could get them to set it for a later time.

Creative Think
Back to The Original Macintosh
Resource Manager Countdown

Account Name:


Create new account
Related Stories
Overall Rating: 4.45

Your rating: