On Saturday, I had the pleasure and honor of participating in the amazing Mac 30th Celebration, a gathering of some of the amazing people who invented the Mac. Held at the Flint Center—the same place where Steve Jobs introduced the Mac 30 years before—it featured two panels of Apple legends, a great presentation by advertising luminary Steve Hayden, a panel of 3rd party developers, six songs by the Macworld All Stars, and it was MC'd by Apple employee #4, Bill Fernandez.
The Macworld All Stars kicked the night off. The band is: IDG vice president Paul Kent, Macworld magazine columnist and author Chris Breen, Houston Chronicle and TMO columnist and author Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus, TMO columnist Chuck La Tournous, IT expert Duane Straub, and Dave Hamilton and Bryan Chaffin (a.k.a. me), the cofounders and copublishers of TMO.
Chris Breen Chuck La Tournous, Duane Straub, Paul Kent, Dave Hamilton, Bryan Chaffin, and Bob LeVitus
Photo by Lisa Hamilton
We normally play once a year at the Cirque du Mac party during Macworld/iWorld, and getting the opportunity to be a part of this event was beyond incredible. Of course, we've been together for 12 years—meaning we've practiced 14, maybe 15 times—so it seemed like the time was right to double up on our annual schedule.
The first panel—called Conception—was moderated by John Markoff of The New York Times and featured Daniel Kottke, Larry Tesler, Rod Holt, Jerry Manock, and Marc LeBrun. Their stories and perspectives on the early days were a delight to hear, and it was amazing to see how they themselves were reacting to each other and their memories.
John Markoff, Marc LeBrun, Daniel Kottke, Larry Tesler ,Jerry Manock, Rod Holt (on the screen)
Photo by Dave Hamilton
One anecdote in particular cut to the very heart of what has always made Apple different. Rod Holt talked about how the team was working on making the computer they wanted to use, and as he talked, the other panel members and members of the audience nodded their heads in agreement.
"I think that the world could use a lot more of that," Mr. Holt said, and I personally couldn't agree more.
The Birth of the Mac
The second panel—The Birth of the Mac—was also incredible. Hosted by veteran journalist Steven Levy, the panel featured Bill Atkinson, Randy Wigginton, Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Capps, Bruce Horn, George Crow, and Caroline Rose.
Steven Levy (on the screen), Bill Atkinson, Randy Wiggington, George Clow, Steve Capps, Bruce Horn, Andy Hertzfeld, Caroline Rose
Photo by Chuck La Tournous
Mr. Levy, who worked at Rolling Stone at the time, told an anecdote about pitching Steve Jobs a detailed story on the Macintosh before Apple had announced it. As Mr. Levy was explaining what he would be writing about, Steve Jobs started complaining about a recent Rolling Stone article. In typical Steve Jobs fashion, he declared that it was "shit."
The punch line, of course, is that Mr. Levy had written it.
All of the panelists were extraordinarily interesting. Highlights include Randy Wiggington dissing Microsoft when Steven Levy asked about Microsoft having more employees making Mac software than Apple had people inventing the Macintosh.
"If they had more people than us," he said, "it doesn't speak very highly of the quality of the people they had."
The legendary Bill Atkinson spoke about Steve Jobs making the team feel like artists, and the way that attitude permeated everything at Apple at the time.
Caroline Rose—she wrote Inside Macintosh, Apple's Mac documentation—talked about working a maximum of 60 hours a week and the pressure to work far more. It was interesting to hear her explain that she needed to keep a semi-sane schedule in order to be able to do her writing job, but it was obvious she regretted never earning the "Working 90 hours and loving it" T-shirt that came with hitting that mark.
Andy Hertzfeld talked about how the price of the Macintosh rose from a target of $995 during its early Jeff Raskins-led era as an information appliance, to $1,495, to $1,995, and then eventually its shipping price of $2,495.
Caroline Rose said that she and the other team members were heartbroken when this reality was first announced, and again there were nodding heads on stage with her.
The reason for the last price increase was then-CEO John Sculley's decision to up the price in order to pay for a major marketing campaign to promote the Macintosh. It was very interesting that the team wasn't critical of Mr. Sculley's decision, but were instead merely sad that it was necessary.
In fact, there were lots of kind words directed towards Mr. Sculley, who was in the audience, but didn't take part in the event. Mr. Sculley has been vilified by many for his role in not backing Steve Jobs in 1985 and 1986, but when one panel member commented that Mr. Sculley played a major role in bringing the Mac to market, the rest of the panel nodded and the audience broke out in applause.
Group Photo of Roughly 50 Mac Team Members
Photo by Bryan Chaffin
Steve Hayden gave a great presentation that included a look at many years of Apple advertising, including "1984" and "Lemmings," as well as later commercials and some un-aired material. There wasn't much that was actually new, but Mr. Hayden is a great speaker and it was wonderful hearing him tell some of these stories again.
There was more, including a presentation to long-time Apple chairman Mark "Ace" Markula, who thanked the panel members and all of the Mac team members in the audience for their hard work 30 years ago. There was also a third panel of third party developers moderated by journalist Dan Farber.
Steve Capps ran the original Mac demo on what he said was a thirty year old disk. It worked, and that was just way too cool.
The last thing for the night was a letter to the Mac written by Jerry Manock and read out loud by him, Caroline Rose, and Patti Kenyon.
The whole night was amazing. As time marches on, opportunities for all of these amazing people to gather in one place will become ever-more limited. As I said at the top, being allowed to be a part of it by playing a few tunes for all these great folks was unbelievable.