Thursday, January 22, 2009

25 Years ago, Steve Jobs saw me demo the Mac

There is a lot of hoopla on the web tonight. Apparently it was twenty-five years ago today that the famous 1984 ad ran during the Superbowl, letting the world know that the Macintosh would change our world starting the next day.

The next morning, a handful of stores had Macintoshs ready to show the world. One was Macy's in San Francisco at Union Square. Macy's then had a prestigious store with-in a store selling IBM PC's, and Compaq's. Not many stores outside of IBM's own then could carry the PC. It took a name like Macy's, a dedicated store and sales people largely recruited from outside to entice IBM to partner with Macy's.

And now, with Apple.

The previous Thursday or Friday we'd gone somewhere like Burlingame to see the new computer. As I recall, we knew almost nothing about it going in. I signed my first NDA that day. I am pretty sure we saw the now famous ad. Then they took us into a classroom. Each desk had a Mac box on it. We were instructed to open it, and setup without opening the manual.

We were aghast. Getting a PC out of the box, configured and up and running took a trained salesperson or tech an hour or so. Setup a new computer, without a manual--preposterous.

And of course, we took it out, plugged the keyboard into the hole with a keyboard by it, the mouse in the hole with the mouse, the power the only other place it could go, and turned it on. A minute had passed.

The little machine made a delightful little chime, and a smiling face appeared on the screen, and we were all smitten.

I couldn't wait to show this to the Macy's customer. It was perfect for them. They always wanted the newest, the prettiest, the trendiest.

The next morning we opened at 9:30. For some reason, only two of us were on duty during the day, myself and my sales partner Jeff. I liked to demo, he didn't so we agreed I'd demo and he'd work the group handing out business cards and putting names on the back order (we didn't actually have machines for weeks as I recall).

Well I love getting oohs and aahs as any showman does, but never got them from a computer demo. I did that day, as people waited their turn to get close enough to see. Around the edges Jeff did the paperwork.

Until, I looked up at one point and he was talking to a trendy looking, a late 20 something guy standing with an older gentleman in a suit. I overheard a snippet of the conversation, "What if we could get the Mac customers some sort of training..."

Oh God, I thought, on our busiest day Jeff has been cornered by some would-be-entrepreneur wanting to soundboard his latest idea. Because of our prestigious name we got a lot of that. "Not today Jeff!" I thought.

And it was then I realized who he was talking to. It was of course Steve Jobs and John Sculley, then President of Apple. They were in gauging the public's reaction to Steve's little creation. Its success was by no means a done deal. Seeing the crowds oohing and ahhing must have been gratifying to them.

Jeff tried to get them to meet me, but they didn't want to interrupt the demos or call attention to themselves--it was about the Mac, not them. So I missed out on my chance to meet Steve Jobs.

Later that day, I was demoing MacPaint. I re-created one of the simpler drawings from the brochure. Someone asked me to do the detailed one, a tennis shoe. I admitted that was beyond me. "I can do it for you." a voice from the crowd said. A young woman came up and grabbed the mouse from me and did the drawing and wowed us all with the graphic ability of the Mac. It was Susan Kare, the graphic artist on the original core Macintosh Group.

You can read a review of that original 128K Mac by Larry Magid.

No comments:

Post a Comment