"It seems like Steve Jobs is Voldemort. Nobody mentions his name." So began our interview with former Mac prodigy turned Windows programmer Steve Capps about Apple cofounder and current CEO Steve Jobsi decision not to come to this weekendis remarkable AppleLore reunion. Unlike former CEO John Sculley, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, former marketing VP Satjiv Chahil, and former COO Del Yocam, who all told us in one way or another that the reunion was a "terrific idea," an "exciting opportunity," and "wonderful," Mr. Capps cut to the chase and said that it was "kind of weird" being there.
It was that kind of mix of emotions that characterized AppleLore, which took place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California this past Saturday. The event was filled to capacity with current and ex-Apple employees schmoozing and reminiscing. Most were tripping over each over to greet old friends -- during the keynote presentation, Apple alumnus Peter Hirshberg said that someone had told him "You know, Iim really looking forward to this, because unlike a high school reunion, I really want to see these people." -- and a few wandered about wondering if they would be able to find anyone they knew.
The event really kicked off with a 90 minute keynote featuring Steve Hayden, former Apple accounts manager for Chiat\Day and BBDO, and 27 years of Apple advertising. Included was a comprehensive look at Appleis TV and print advertising. The keynote also included brief comments from Steve Wozniak, who got a standing ovation, John Sculley , who was also greeted very warmly, and Apple alumni Peter Hirshberg and Donna Dubinsky, who are also both members of the Computer History Museumis board of trustees.
Likened to one of Appleis sales meetings in spirit, the presentation from Mr. Hayden was received with lots of laughter, cheers, and applause as he took his audience down memory lane. From the Dick Cavett commercials that only ran for two weeks, yet resulted in a rise in awareness from 40% to 78% for Apple in the US, to the fact that one of Appleis most famous slogans was almost "The computer for the rest of you," the ex-Apple employees were treated to a presentation that was really about allowing the audience to relive the glory days of their former company.
One of the most interesting things we noted during our one-on-one interviews was the universal theme we kept hearing, that working at Apple was about the people. Itis why most everyone in attendance came, and it was almost always the answer when we asked people about their favorite memories from Apple.
"It really says so much about the spirit of Apple that 1300 or 1500 people would come back from all over," John Sculley told us in an interview. "Itis almost like weire still a part of Apple, and itis been a decade since many of us have seen each other." His favorite product to come out of his tenure was the PowerBook series.
"I think itis exciting to see all the people," gushed a delighted Del Yocam. "Itis nice to see what theyire all doing." Looking back at his time at Apple, he said "It was a once in a lifetime experience. For me, it was a thirty year career compressed into ten years."
Mr. Yocamis favorite memories were from running the Apple ][ group. He also told us that unlike some public accounts will have it, that Steve Jobs was very aware and appreciative of the fact that Apple ][ profits were paying for the development of the Macintosh.
"He was off being a pirate, and a lot has been made of that," Mr. Yocam told us, "but at the same time he was very considerate about the fact that all the money was coming from the Apple ][ group. He would come over to communications meetings, and throw parties for us. It was a lot better than what has been perceived in the press."
Mr. Yocamis memories on suing Microsoft over that companyis use of the Mac look and feel in the late 80s will have to come in another article at another time.
"Itis great for all of us to connect to people we worked with," said Satjiv Chahil about why he had just flown in from Singapore two hours before the event to be there. His favorite memories from Apple were from his time working in setting up the Asia-Pacific market. "We were sitting around over bento lunches planning a billion dollar business, which did happen within four years."
He also told us that he thinks the computer industry of today looks a lot like it did in the early 90s, as everyone waits for the next big thing. For those keeping score at home, he thinks wireless integration will be one of the next big things.
Steve Wozniak simply told us that he had come to see the people. "I think itis very exciting to be able to see all these people," he said. His favorite memories from his Apple days also revolved around the people.
For the most part, we were told again and again that the best part of working at Apple was the people. Few of those in attendance think that such an environment as they experienced during their tenure at the company could ever be recaptured. As with all fond memories, that is likely true.
On the other hand, when we asked these ex-Apple employees if they would work at Apple again, everyone answered with unequivocal "No." For those people to whom we talked, working at Apple truly was a once in a lifetime experience, please.