Sculley and Woz Revisited: More Stories About the Apple Team

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Here are some other Apple folks that Steve Wozniak and I recalled during our Palm Beach visit in early February:

1.  Kai Fu Lee – Kai Fu joined Apple from Carnegie Mellon University, where he had been an expert on phonemes. Speech recognition was a key user interface that Alan Kay saw in the future and we had captured Alan’s idea with the intelligent agent that we simulated in the Knowledge Navigator video. I remember one time when Kai Fu and I went on live television (“Good Morning America” with Joan Lunden) to demonstrate speech recognition on the Mac. At first, the demo started to fail, but fortunately we toggled to a backup that worked perfectly and the audience never knew our problem.

2.  Andy Herzfeld, Bill Atkinson  and Marc Porat -co–founded General Magic. While this company, like Newton, was probably too early, this talented team opened a lot of eyes as to the possibilities of handheld mobile devices. General Magic was a joint venture between Apple, Sony and AT&T. I was on the General Magic board and a huge fan of what they were trying to do.

3.  Jean-Louis Gassee – I think his greatest accomplishment was transforming the early Mac OS into the much more robust System 7 OS release in 1987. This gave Mac legs to grow on. Jean-Louis was a passionate and popular product leader at Apple in the 1980s and a believer in Steve Jobs’ vision.

4.  John Couch – Back in 1982, there was a big rivalry between the Lisa team and Steve Jobs’  Macintosh team. As the world knows, the Mac won. Woz pointed out to me that Lisa was actually a very advanced engineering design and if it had survived another 10 years,  Moore’s Law would have made it a very competitive personal computer OS in the 1990s. I never knew that.  John Couch led the Lisa Group.  John returned to Apple in the late 1990s to head up Apple Education. I always liked John Couch.

It was fun reliving some of these stories with Woz. Steve Wozniak is an authentic genius and, more important, a beautiful person. It’s great to be Steve’s friend.

See Steve Wozniak’s message to me below.

From: Steve Wozniak <<>>
Date: Saturday, February 2, 2013 12:01 AM
Subject: Great seeing you


We had a great time being with you and Diane today. It was great to talk over important memories from those Apple days. I always had the opinion that you listened to the few engineers who were great thinkers and artists in their own right, and highly respected their thinking in setting direction for Apple. I put Larry Tesler, Alan Kay, Bill Atkinson, and a few others in this category.

It really came to me how Alan Kay used to talk of great advances in computing (UI and features) that we had forgotten and how we often took steps backwards. That was what I was getting at with my description of the great TomTom dash mount for iPhones that went away and only cheap plastic is here today.

We had some incredible software at Apple. OpenDoc, which I mentioned, was a platform for apps like Cyberdog. That “puppy” is considered the best email app ever by anyone who used it, including me. It was the simplest yet the most capable, and the best. It takes a lot of great brains to accomplish that. Of all the projects dropped in the dark financial times, OpenDoc and the Newton were sad losses to me.

On the bright side, it was great to discover that you yourself are still active with technologies and companies that are truly leading to changes in our lives and abilities. I’m glad to see that your Apple days are still with you. And your comments about Steve maybe being what Apple needed, to recover, were well noted. That was very gracious of you. The way I operate is that you are always good and respectful to everyone, even if they try to do bad things to you.

Best of all was to see you with Diane. All else could go away but that means the most. It’s great you met at a concert. I like to go to small music venues where the intimacy is high and you see young people embracing and sharing the experience. To me the music is like a magic dust spreading good feelings. The movie August Rush is about a young orphan who believes this about the music he hears in his head and he thinks that what he hears must have been the music that brought his parents together. And the orphan feels that if he can become a great musician and create that very music it might bring his parents back. He believes they are alive, against everything everyone else thinks. I loved that movie so much that Janet bought me the same guitar model that the boy played in the movie. And another movie about music that applies so well to creativity in all walks of life is It Might Get Loud, based on 3 great musicians. In it Jack White tells why he buys the cheapest music instruments because they force him to work so hard to find how to make them sound good.

Your friend,

Steve Wozniak<

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