The Beginning of Apple 30 Years ago

Jobs also talked up third-party software developer support at the sales meeting, featuring a”dating game” skit, playing off the popular TV game show. Jobs played the role of game show host, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Software Publishing’s Fred Gibbons and Lotus Development’s Mitch Kapor answered questions, such as “When was your first date with the Macintosh” and “What is your ideal relationship with Apple?” Gates predicted that Microsoft would get half its revenues from Macintosh software sales in 1984.

IBM PC XTIBM Personal Computer XT debuted in 1983. The base configuration included 128K of RAM, a 360K double-sided 5.25-inch floppy drive, a 10MB hard drive. Steve Jobs wanted to prevent IBM and the compatibles from putting Apple out of business.

(Credit: IBM)

Real artists ship
As Jobs was revving up the sales team, Apple engineers were racing against the clock to finalize the floppy-disk drive and finish the system software and the MacWrite and MacPaint applications. In addition, tooling engineers were fine-tuning the production line of the $20 million factory in Fremont, Calif., which was built to crank out a Macintosh every 27 seconds.

Up until the summer of 1983, the Macintosh was going to use the same 5.25-inch floppy-disk drive as the Lisa. But the so-called “Twiggy” drive, allegedly named after the famous and very thin 1960s fashion model, proved to be error-prone and unreliable. The Lisa could live with the flaky drive — it also had a 5MB hard disk — but the Macintosh was doomed to an indefinite delay unless a solution was found.

In August, Apple set its sights on a new, micro-floppy 3.5-inch disk drive with 400KB capacity from Sony. At first Jobs wanted Apple to manufacture the drive, working with Alps Electronics in Japan. He eventually relented and went with the Sony when it turned out that Alps would need 18 months to deliver a new drive.


Steve Wozniak and Apple Macintosh team membersApple co-founder Steve Wozniak with a Twiggy Mac in September 2013, surrounded by Macintosh team members (starting from left) Larry Kenyon, Randy Wiggington, Ed Ruder, Terry Oyama, Andy Hertzfeld, Ron Nicholson, Jerry Manock and Dan Kottke.

(Credit: Dan Farber)

Jobs also wanted to have an external 400K Sony disk drive ready for launch. With the lack of a hard drive, users could end up swapping disks for several minutes. Steve Capps, who helped develop the file manager (the Finder), explained the problem on Macintosh software wizard Andy Hertzfeld’s Macintosh history site:

A $495 external disk drive was introduced with the Macintosh on January 24, but it didn’t ship until the beginning of May.

(Credit: Apple/Clement Mok)

After many missed final software deadlines, January 18 was the date set to have the software finished, and the 400K 3.5-inch floppy disks placed in the boxes in preparation to ship to dealer. As the new year approached, the Finder still needed improvements, especially speeding up disk copying, and MacWrite was buggy.

As the factory was gearing to build thousands of Macintoshes for the launch date, the two halves of the plastic case housing the computer weren’t fitting together.

“The plastic parts had to be coated on the inside with conductive paint to maintain a shield around the computer to pass FCC testing requirements. Vendors sprayed on the paint, but when the parts arrived at the factory they couldn’t fit the halves together,” said Jerry Manock, who designed the Macintosh’s housing. “We had a quick conference and then went to Laszlo Zidek’s [an Apple tooling engineer] house, where we built an arbor press fixture in his basement. It had a big lever that would very accurately push one side into the other side. We took it to factory and put it on the line, and it worked. This working together in an informal way was the the key to the success of the product. It was more like one mind putting together the product than separate departments.”

With the Dallas factory busy producing Apple IIs, Jobs had to build a new factory to manufacture the Macintosh. He brought his usual aesthetic to project, specifying bright colors and other touches for the factory floor and state-of-the-art equipment.

The entire Macintosh software team was working around the clock to find and fix bugs as the new year began. As the deadline closed in, they were running on fumes, and feeling like they could not meet the deadline to deliver the finished code.

“Steve was in New York on a public relations junket two weeks before the code freeze,” said Capps, who was working to finish the Finder, along with Bruce Horn. “We had a meeting with him at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, a few weeks before the launch. He was late, and while we were waiting I had convinced the group in Cupertino that we were killing each other for the wrong reason. We were all fried. I did a calculation that we could FedEx the disks to the first buyers and not kill ourselves to get the disks done in time for the factory to duplicate and package them. Steve came on the speakerphone with his amazing powers of persuasion, and we went back to work. The disks would be in the box. Later on Steve told me that if he took the pressure off the group, we would have lost momentum for a month. He was right.”

The effort to finalize the software came down to the last few hours, and didn’t leave much time for testing. “On January 18 it had to go out at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, but at 2:00 o’clock in the morning none of the software worked,” said Randy Wigginton, who led the development of MacWrite. “It was the worst scenario you could possibly imagine. MacPaint and MacWrite had crash bugs and you couldn’t copy a disk in the Finder, and the ROM had all sorts of bugs. But we did manage to pull it off by 6:00 o’clock in the morning.”

Another last-minute fire drill was writing the code for Jobs’ Flint Center introduction of the Macintosh at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting. “The last three days I had no sleep, and then I pulled an all-nighter getting the intro going,” Capps said. “The hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I hear ‘Chariots of Fire.’ ” The theme song from the 1981 movie of that name played as the screen lit up with the first public demonstration of the Macintosh.

1984: The commercial seen around the world
On January 22, as the second half was getting under way, the “1984” commercial aired before nearly 100 million people watching the Super Bowl. The commercial almost wasn’t shown. In December, Jobs and marketing chief Mike Murray had previewed it for the board of directors. They were unanimously against airing the commercial, which cost more than $750,000 to produce, and wanted the advertising time to be sold off. The ad agency, Chiat-Day, was able to unload two 30-second spots, but didn’t sell the $800,000 60-second spot. After the commercial aired, Apple’s outside board members, made up of an older generation of men, turned into believers in the transformative power of the Macintosh, or at least the power of the advertising message.

“The real goal of the 1984 TV commercial was twofold,” said Murray, the 27-year-old head of Macintosh marketing at that time and who later spent 10 years as a Microsoft executive. “Enter the word Macintosh into the American lexicon and create news — not public relations, but news. We succeeded beyond all expectations with both. Regarding the latter goal, the commercial, which only showed once on TV as a commercial, was shown in its entirety on the national TV news of ABC, NBC and CBS. This was news. And we received front page coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Business Week, Forbes, Time and Newsweek.”

The Macintosh says ‘hello’
When Jobs took the stage at the Flint Center, the pump was primed (view a video the unveiling). More than 2,500 filled the auditorium, including the exhausted but giddy Mac team. More than 40 television crews had their cameras pointed as Jobs, dressed in a dark grey blazer, white shirt and green bow tie.

The night before had been chaos. “The demo didn’t work as Steve wanted it and he was having a fit. It seemed impossible we would be ready to go the next morning for the shareholder meeting,” said former Apple CEO John Sculley. “Steve was terrified as we stood back stage before he went out to speak the audience.”


Source:Farber, Dan. “The Macintosh Turns 30: Going the Distance.” CNET News. CBS Interactive, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2014. <;.



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