Mary Meets Steve Jobs
February, 1984: Big Brother is not in power but Apple’s famous Big Brother ad did run during the SuperBowl. Also their less famous ad in which an endless stream of pin-striped lemmings with attache cases march off a cliff. Clearly these were the MIS managers who believed “no one ever lost his job because he chose IBM.” Now the Macintosh is due to be introduced at SoftCon in New Orleans. Dow Jones hired our company, Solutions, to develop a Mac product to show in their booth to keep a promise which Dow Jones Executive VP Bill Dunn had made to Steve Jobs.
Our software is done. Well, not exactly done but we have a really sexy rolling demo with pull down menus to get more information about the product. What I’ve done is make a slideshow out of all pictures in the scrapbook (the one piece of Macintosh software I’ve really mastered) and a text crawler from text in the scrapbook. We can change the slideshow by having graphic artist Patty draw a new picture and cut and paste it into the scrapbook. Cool!
Mary and I tape a handle to the Macintosh carton and fight to carry the box on board planes as we head for New Orleans. We know that Dow Jones has another early Mac for the booth but, in these days, no two Macs have the same ROM so we weren’t all convinced our software will run on it.
The beginning of a show is always magic for us. The day before the show floor is scratched concrete crisscrossed by forklifts delivering crates of what will become booths. Small companies like Solutions try to evade the union enforcers who want either to put up your booth or tear it down. But we’re with Dow Jones this time so we’re not putting up the booth ourselves. Sometime overnight after the booths have been erected into small and large fantasias and bazaars, rugs cover the concrete; the air conditioners blow out the sweat and singed wire smell; the excited kids who’ve put it all together party away what’s left of the night, shower, and emerge radiant from their sweaty t-shirt chrysalises in their booth uniforms. At 10AM the doors open. Show time!
We spell each other at the Dow Jones booth where our Mac and its rolling demo get some but not a lot of attention. Actually, the Mac itself gets most of the attention here at its debut industry show. Mary and I spell each other so we can prowl the show floor. Apple has a one story high replica of a Mac. Its screen shows rolling demo of the software that comes with the Mac – MacWrite and MacPaint – some videos, and some blurbs for vapor products. Inside it is a real Mac powering the display.
Mary never stops marketing. She takes a diskette with our rolling demo on it, grabs the first person she can find in the Apple booth, and says we want to display it on their big Mac. “I can’t approve that,” she’s told.
The person disappears into the inner recesses of the Apple booth, reemerges, and leads Mary back to a young man with sandy hair, very thick glasses, and a French accent. He takes her diskette skeptically and puts in a nearby Mac. He watches the rolling demo, checks the functionality of the menus, admires the graphics. “How long did this take to do?” he asks.
“About five weeks,” says Mary. She doesn’t add that these were twenty-four hour days. “Of course, my husband had to learn the Macintosh first.”
A tear, according to Mary, rolls out from under the thick glasses. “It’s going to work,” Alain Rossman says. “It’s going to work!” Alain was the third of the fabled Macintosh evangelists, the team Guy Kawasaki made famous in marketing annals. The success of the Macintosh could not have happened if they hadn’t convinced a skeptical developer community that this was the place to be. Alain later went on to be a founder of Radius, C-Cube, and Phone.com. His job previous to Apple, he says, was as a paper boy.
Now we’re back in the Dow Jones booth. There’s a kid in jeans and a flannel shirt who keeps coming over and playing with “our” Mac. Sometimes he smiles, more often he clucks in disapproval of something or other. No, he doesn’t want Mary to tell him anything about Dow Jones products. No, she can’t help him with anything else. But no one else can get near the Mac while he is there pointing and clicking and pulling down menus.
Finally Mary says: “I’m sorry. This is the Dow Jones booth. It’s rather formal. We do have to give other people a chance to look at the product. Are you sure there’s not something I can help you with?” Without a word or a smile, the unkempt young man leaves.
I met Steve Jobs a few times after that during his first stint at Apple. Neither of us ever mentioned the time Mary threw him out of the Dow Jones booth.
In a previous post, Bill Dunn from Dow Jones forcibly explains that why the Mac is going to change publishing.
In the another post we learn what it means to develop for a graphical machine.
There is more about the early Macintosh days in my post about Glue.
Later we licensed our scrapbook capability for inclusion with Mac PowerPoint and Mary published our product SmartScrap & The Clipper which was made mainly out of recycled code from the rolling demo. Above is the MacUser Editors’ Choice Award (the Eddy) for Best New Desk Accessory which Solutions won.