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Steve Jobs

2011-10-27 08:43:13

When I was a freshman in college, Steve Jobs was going to come to campus and give a talk. It was going to happen a in cool little park on campus called 'the amphitheater.' It was a sort of grassy bowl, and I thing there were some rough stones to sit on here and there. I don't remember it well, and I think it has since been replaced by a building.

My pals and I were very excited to go to the talk and hear the founder of Apple speak. He was kind of a mythical figure to us. The Mac had just launched the year before, and about half the computers on campus were Macs. Back then, not too many kids had computers of their own, and there was no network available in the dorms in any case. There were public computer clusters around campus, and they were of three kinds: PC, with real IBM green screens; Macs, the kinds with a single floppy drive and no hard disk; and Unix workstation clusters, usually HP or Sun. Anyway, Macs were pretty popular, and a big deal. And we saw Jobs as this young guy who had made it happen.

So we were kind of hanging around the amphitheater, so we could score a good seat when the talk started.  Somebody came out and told us that Steve wouldn't be coming. He had resigned from Apple that day, or maybe the day before. 

(I actually can't remember the date. It was a nice day, so it probably was September or October 1985. Many sources on the Internet say it was May 1985, but I'm pretty sure that's not right, because I was not yet in college then. I think May 1985 was when Steve failed in is attempt to ouster Sculley, and he finally resigned/was fired in the fall. None of us really had any idea about all the boardroom stuff that was in the news probably all that summer; we were just kids starting college, and had other things on our minds.)

The first thing that struck us was this: how could Steve Jobs be fired from Apple? Wasn't he the boss? Didn't he make Apple? It seemed completely unfair, and we had no shortage of comments for the "suits" that must have done something tricky or underhanded to seize control of Apple.

What strikes me now is something I only really am able to understand 25+ years later, after seeing his vision unfold. I wonder now if my life might have been different if Steve had shown up on that sunny day. If he had been at Apple for just another week or a few more days. What kind of impression would he have made on my young mind? Would I have dropped what I was doing and moved to California? Or, less radically, would I have tried to get involved in startup companies at a much younger age? I didn't really get that fever until almost a decade later.