Diane and I had a wonderful two-day visit with Janet and Steve Wozniak this week where we live in Palm Beach, FL. Woz and I spent hours sharing personal stories and reflecting back on the early days of Apple. We talked about some of the amazing talented people we worked with and some pivotal moments.
Back story . . .
This blog is a about “connecting the dots” between some of the extraordinarily talented engineers I worked with at Apple in the 1980s and their breakthrough innovations that laid the foundation for the digital life world we enjoy today.
Apple Fellow, Alan Kay – When Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985 Alan came to me and said, “Next time we won’t have Xerox,” meaning we needed to think where Apple’s next inspiring ideas would come from. This began a quest that Alan took me on, a journey of discovery asking, “What were the really interesting things going on outside Apple in other laboratories?” The results were some big ideas that Alan led us to in multimedia, animation, communications, rule-based intelligent agents, user interface design, speech recognition, object-oriented programming, user friendly simulation tools, and the future of digital telecommunication.
Then we considered two things:
- What would be the implications from these ideas as Moore’s Law gave us increasing and predictable more compute power?
- What might be the implications when these ideas started to converge with one another in a new world where everything could be coded in digital bits?
I take no credit for any of these ideas, but my curiosity was piqued. I asked George Lucas, even if we cannot build the personal computer of the future, then could we visually simulate in a special effects video what it might be like? The answer was yes, so I asked Alan Kay, Bonnie McBride, Hugh Dubberly, and Doris Mitch to set out to build such a video simulation. I named it, “Knowledge Navigator.” When it was finished I took it around the world showing it to many audiences as, “Here’s a view of where computing is heading in the decades ahead.” As a non-technical CEO of a high tech company, Knowledge Navigator became my context to help me understand the importance of breakthroughs by some of Apple’s extremely talented engineers.
For those curious to know more about the Apple Knowledge Navigator, you can see it on YouTube 1987.
Years later, Huge Dubberly and Doris Mitch left Apple and joined Netscape, where they helped to develop Netscape Navigator.
Here are some of the stories Woz and I talked about, plus a few others:
1. Apple Fellow, Bill Atkinson – Alan Kay called me up one day and said, “You have got to talk with Apple Fellow Bill Atkinson ( also Apple’s first software engineer).” Bill was working on a project that would later become HyperCard, but the Mac engineers wanted him to drop it and help them get the Mac System 7 software out. Bill was in tears because he was passionate about creating HyperCard. After talking with Bill and hearing about HyperCard, it was obvious in the context of Knowledge Navigator what a breakthrough it could be as a simple-to-use prototyping language. I agreed to fund it from my office if Bill agreed to a parallel project to create a simple scripting language project for HyperCard and if he would allow Danny Goodman (a respected author of how-to- use- computers books ) to sit alongside of Bill so we could issue a “how-to manual” with HyperCard and what became known as HyperTalk scripting. Woz said Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard was truly a breakthrough.
2. Steve Perlman – Steve was a brilliant Apple chip designer but he was having some personal issues in those days fitting in with his engineering colleagues. As brilliant as Steve was, there was a feeling inside the Mac group that he was too disruptive. I felt we shouldn’t lose Steve Perlman so we ended up moving him to a cube near mine. Steve Perlman went on to become one of the most important creators of Apple’s QuickTime multimedia technology, putting Apple years ahead of others in the industry.
3. Larry Tessler and Steve Capps– Steve Sakoman and Jean-Louis Gassee started a new project they called Newton. Larry Tessler (he was the Xerox engineer who first showed Steve Jobs around Xerox PARC) later took over the Newton project when we decided to fund it to become a commercialized product. Larry had an amazing engineering team at Newton, including Steve Capps, one of Steve Jobs’ original UI designers on the Mac who also created the legendary “Hello, I’m Macintosh” video animation that Steve Jobs used when he introduced the Mac at Flint Center. Larry Tessler was the lead executive from Apple’s side in the development of what became the ARM low powered microprocessor (which was specifically designed for Newton). Larry also led some breakthrough work with object-oriented programming – some of you will remember operating oriented programming’s role later in Apple’s really cool OpenDoc. Steve Capps became an innovator of gestures-based UI using a pen instrument on a touch screen as a new way to interact, replacing the mouse. While Newton failed in the marketplace initially because the handwriting recognition did not work, its engineering was groundbreaking, with many innovations.
4. Satjiv Cahil – Satjiv was an inspiring marketer of new ideas. He organized an Apple event in Hakone, Japan, which, as far as I know, became the first convergence conference in the world to bring together leaders in the computer, communications, and media content industry. Knowledge Navigator was the inspiration for this conference, pointing to the possibilities ahead. Many initiatives that emerged from this Hakone meeting were important in launching the digital era. Keep in mind, back in August 1992 when we held the Hakone convergence conference there was no world wide web, no digital cell phones, only the crude 2400 baud dial-up AOL email and off-course Applelink for the Mac community.
(MORE STORIES TO COME IN NEXT BLOG)