The technology writer Steven Levy, who was then working for Rolling Stone, came to
interview Jobs, who urged him to convince the magazine’s publisher to put the Macintosh
team on the cover of the magazine. “The chances of Jann Wenner agreeing to displace Sting in
favor of a bunch of computer nerds were approximately one in a googolplex,” Levy thought,
correctly. Jobs took Levy to a pizza joint and pressed the case: Rolling Stone was “on the ropes,
running crummy articles, looking desperately for new topics and new audiences. The Mac could
be its salvation!” Levy pushed back. Rolling Stone was actually good, he said, and he asked Jobs
if he had read it recently. Jobs said that he had, an article about MTV that was “a piece of shit.”
Levy replied that he had written that article. Jobs, to his credit, didn’t back away from the assessment.
Instead he turned philosophical as he talked about the Macintosh. We are constantly benefiting from
advances that went before us and taking things that people before us developed, he said. “It’s a
wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool
of human experience and knowledge.”
Levy’s story didn’t make it to the cover. But in the future, every major product launch that Jobs was involved
in—at NeXT, at Pixar, and years later when he returned to Apple—would end
up on the cover of either Time, Newsweek, or Business Week.
January 24, 1984
Most of all, Jobs fretted about his presentation. Sculley fancied himself a good writer,
so he suggested changes in Jobs’s script. Jobs recalled being slightly annoyed, but their
relationship was still in the phase when he was lathering on flattery and stroking Sculley’s ego.
“I think of you just like Woz and Markkula,” he told Sculley. “You’re like one of the founders
of the company.
They founded the company,
but you and I are
founding the future.”
Sculley lapped it up.
Jobs had asked Hertzfeld and the gang to prepare a special screen display for Sculley’s amusement.
“He’s really smart,” Jobs said. “You wouldn’t believe how smart he is.” The explanation that
Sculley might buy a lot of Macintoshes for Pepsi “sounded a little bit fishy to me,” Hertzfeld recalled,
but he and Susan Kare created a screen of Pepsi caps and cans that danced around with the Apple
logo. Hertzfeld was so excited he began waving his arms around during the demo, but Sculley seemed
underwhelmed. “He asked a few questions, but he didn’t seem all that interested,” Hertzfeld recalled.
He never ended up warming to Sculley. “He was incredibly phony, a complete poseur,” he later said.
“He pretended to be interested in technology, but he wasn’t. He was a marketing guy, and that is
what marketing guys are: paid poseurs.”
Matters came to a head when Jobs visited New York in March 1983 and was able to convert the
courtship into a blind and blinding romance. “I really think you’re the guy,” Jobs said as they walked
through Central Park. “I want you to come and work with me. I can learn so much from you.” Jobs,
who had cultivated father figures in the past, knew just how to play to Sculley’s ego and insecurities.
It worked. “I was smitten by him,” Sculley later admitted. “Steve was one of the brightest people
I’d ever met. I shared with him a passion for ideas.”
Sculley, who was interested in art history, steered them toward the Metropolitan Museum for a little
test of whether Jobs was really willing to learn from others. “I wanted to see how well he could take
coaching in a subject where he had no background,” he recalled. As they strolled through the Greek
and Roman antiquities, Sculley expounded on the difference between the Archaic sculpture of the sixth
century B.C. and the Periclean sculptures a century later. Jobs, who loved to pick up historical nuggets
he never learned in college, seemed to soak it in. “I gained a sense that I could be a teacher to a
brilliant student,” Sculley recalled. Once again he indulged the conceit that they were alike: “I saw
in him a mirror image of my younger self. I, too, was impatient, stubborn, arrogant, impetuous.
My mind exploded with ideas, often to the
exclusion of everything else.
I, too, was intolerant of
those who couldn’t live
up to my demands.”
When it was over, Jobs smiled and offered a treat. “We’ve done a lot of talking about
Macintosh recently,” he said. “But today, for the first time ever, I’d like to let Macintosh
speak for itself.” With that, he strolled back over to the computer, pressed the button
on the mouse, and in a vibrato but endearing electronic deep voice, Macintosh became
the first computer to introduce itself. “Hello. I’m Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag,”
it began. The only thing it didn’t seem to know how to do was to wait for the wild cheering and
shrieks that erupted. Instead of basking for a moment, it barreled ahead. “Unaccustomed as I am
to public speaking, I’d like to share with you a maxim I thought of the first time I met an IBM
mainframe: Never trust a computer you can’t lift.” Once again the roar almost drowned out its
final lines. “Obviously, I can talk. But right now I’d like to sit back and listen. So it is with
considerable pride that I introduce a man who’s been like a father to me, Steve Jobs.”
Pandemonium erupted, with people in the crowd jumping up and down and pumping their fists
in a frenzy. Jobs nodded slowly, a tight-lipped but broad smile on his face, then looked down
and started to choke up. The ovation continued for five minutes.
After the Macintosh team returned to Bandley 3 that afternoon, a truck pulled into the parking
lot and Jobs had them all gather next to it. Inside were a hundred new Macintosh computers, each
personalized with a plaque. “Steve presented them one at a time to each team member, with a
handshake and a smile, as the rest of us stood around cheering,” Hertzfeld recalled. It had been a
grueling ride, and many egos had been bruised by Jobs’s obnoxious and rough management style.
But neither Raskin nor Wozniak nor Sculley nor anyone else at the company could have pulled off the
creation of the Macintosh. Nor would it likely have emerged from focus groups and committees.
On the day he unveiled the Macintosh, a reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type
of market research he had done. Jobs responded by scoffing, “Did Alexander
Graham Bell do any
before he invented
It was a sensation. That evening all three networks and fifty local stations aired news
stories about the ad, giving it a viral life unprecedented in the pre–YouTube era.
It would eventually be selected by both TV Guide and Advertising Age as
the greatest commercial of all time.
Over the years Steve Jobs would become the grand master of product launches.
In the case of the Macintosh, the astonishing Ridley Scott ad was just one of the
ingredients. Another part of the recipe was media coverage. Jobs found ways to ignite
blasts of publicity that were so powerful the frenzy would feed on itself, like a chain
reaction. It was a phenomenon that he would be able to replicate whenever there was a
big product launch, from the Macintosh in 1984 to the iPad in 2010. Like a conjurer, he
could pull the trick off over and over again, even after journalists had seen it happen a dozen
times and knew how it was done. Some of the moves he had learned from Regis McKenna,
who was a pro at cultivating and stroking prideful reporters. But Jobs had his own intuitive
sense of how to stoke the excitement, manipulate the competitive instincts of journalists,
and trade exclusive access for lavish treatment.
In December 1983 he took his elfin engineering wizards, Andy Hertzfeld and Burrell Smith, to
New York to visit Newsweek to pitch a story on “the kids who created the Mac.” After giving
a demo of the Macintosh, they were taken upstairs to meet Katharine Graham, the legendary
proprietor, who had an insatiable interest in whatever was new. Afterward the magazine sent its
technology columnist and a photographer to spend time in Palo Alto with Hertzfeld and Smith.
The result was a flattering and smart four-page profile of the two of them, with pictures that made
them look like cherubim of a new age. The article quoted Smith saying what he wanted to do next:
“I want to build the computer of the 90’s. Only I want to do it tomorrow.” The article also described
the mix of volatility and charisma displayed by his boss: “Jobs sometimes defends his ideas with highly
vocal displays of temper that aren’t always bluster; rumor has it that he has threatened to fire employees
for insisting that his computers should have cursor keys, a feature that Jobs considers obsolete.
But when he is on his best behavior, Jobs is a curious blend of charm and impatience, oscillating between
shrewd reserve and his
Sculley was initially skeptical when he saw the storyboards, but Jobs insisted that they
needed something revolutionary. He was able to get an unprecedented budget of
$750,000 just to film the ad, which they planned to premiere during the Super Bowl.
Ridley Scott made it in London using dozens of real skinheads among the enthralled
masses listening to Big Brother on the screen. A female discus thrower was chosen to
play the heroine. Using a cold industrial setting dominated by metallic gray hues, Scott
evoked the dystopian aura of Blade Runner. Just at the moment when Big Brother announces
“We shall prevail!” the heroine’s hammer smashes the screen and it vaporizes
in a flash of light and smoke.
When Jobs previewed the ad for the Apple sales force at the meeting in Hawaii, they
were thrilled. So he screened it for the board at its December 1983 meeting. When the
lights came back on in the boardroom, everyone was mute. Philip Schlein, the CEO of
Macy’s California, had his head on the table. Mike Markkula stared silently; at first it
seemed he was overwhelmed by the power of the ad. Then he spoke: “Who wants to
move to find a new agency?” Sculley recalled, “Most of them thought it was the worst
commercial they had ever seen.” Sculley himself got cold feet. He asked Chiat/Day to
sell off the two commercial spots—one sixty seconds, the other
thirty—that they had purchased.
Jobs was beside himself. One evening Wozniak, who had been floating into and out of
Apple for the previous two years, wandered into the Macintosh building. Jobs grabbed
him and said, “Come over here and look at this.” He pulled out a VCR and played the ad.
“I was astounded,” Woz recalled. “I thought it was the most incredible thing.” When Jobs
said the board had decided not to run it during the Super Bowl, Wozniak asked what the
cost of the time slot was. Jobs told him $800,000. With his usual
offered, “Well, I’ll
pay half if you will.”
Jobs liked that. Indeed the concept for the ad had a special resonance for him.
He fancied himself a rebel, and he liked to associate himself with the values of the
ragtag band of hackers and pirates he recruited to the Macintosh group. Even though
he had left the apple commune in Oregon to start the Apple corporation, he still wanted
to be viewed as a denizen of the counterculture rather than the corporate culture.
But he also realized, deep inside, that he had increasingly abandoned the hacker spirit.
Some might even accuse him of selling out. When Wozniak held true to the Homebrew
ethic by sharing his design for the Apple I for free, it was Jobs who insisted that they sell
the boards instead. He was also the one who, despite Wozniak’s reluctance, wanted to turn
Apple into a corporation and not freely distribute stock options to the friends who had been
in the garage with them. Now he was about to launch the Macintosh, a machine that violated
many of the principles of the hacker’s code: It was overpriced; it would have no slots, which
meant that hobbyists could not plug in their own expansion cards or jack into the motherboard
to add their own new functions; and it took special tools just to open the plastic case. It was
a closed and controlled system, like something designed by Big Brother rather than by a hacker.
So the “1984” ad was a way of reaffirming, to himself and to the world, his desired self-image.
The heroine, with a drawing of a Macintosh emblazoned on her pure white tank top, was a renegade
out to foil the establishment. By hiring Ridley Scott, fresh off the success of Blade Runner, as the
director, Jobs could attach himself and Apple to the cyberpunk ethos of the time. With the ad,
Apple could identify itself with the rebels and hackers
who thought differently,
and Jobs could reclaim
his right to identify
with them as well.
The “1984” AdIn the spring of 1983, when Jobs had begun to plan for the
Macintosh launch, he asked for a commercial that was as revolutionary and
astonishing as the product they had created. “I want something that will stop
people in their tracks,” he said. “I want a thunderclap.” The task fell to the Chiat/Day
advertising agency, which had acquired the Apple account when it bought the advertising
side of Regis McKenna’s business. The person put in charge was a lanky beach bum with
a bushy beard, wild hair, goofy grin, and twinkling eyes named Lee Clow, who was the
creative director of the agency’s office in the Venice Beach section of Los Angeles. Clow
was savvy and fun, in a laid-back yet focused way, and he forged a bond
with Jobs that would last three decades.
Clow and two of his team, the copywriter Steve Hayden and the art director Brent Thomas,
had been toying with a tagline that played off the George Orwell novel: “Why 1984 won’t be like
1984.” Jobs loved it, and asked them to develop it for the Macintosh launch. So they put together
a storyboard for a sixty-second ad that would look like a scene from a sci-fi movie. It featured a
rebellious young woman outrunning the Orwellian thought police and throwing a
sledgehammer into a screen showing a mind-controlling speech by Big Brother.
The concept captured the zeitgeist of the personal computer revolution. Many young people,
especially those in the counterculture, had viewed computers as instruments that could be used by
Orwellian governments and giant corporations to sap individuality. But by the end of the 1970s,
they were also being seen as potential tools for personal empowerment. The ad cast Macintosh
as a warrior for the latter cause—a cool, rebellious, and heroic company that was the only thing
the way of the big evil
corporation’s plan for
and total mind control.
The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?” At that moment a screen
came down from the ceiling and showed a preview of an upcoming sixty-second television ad for
the Macintosh. In a few months it was destined to make advertising history, but in the meantime
it served its purpose of rallying Apple’s demoralized sales force. Jobs had always been able to draw
energy by imagining himself as a rebel pitted against the forces of darkness. Now he was
able to energize his troops with the same vision.
Jobs was at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, preparing for the press previews, so a Sunday morning
conference call was scheduled. The software manager calmly explained the situation to Jobs, while
Hertzfeld and the others huddled around the speakerphone holding their breath. All they needed
was an extra two weeks. The initial shipments to the dealers could have a version of the software
labeled “demo,” and these could be replaced as soon as the new code was finished at the end of
the month. There was a pause. Jobs did not get angry; instead he spoke in cold, somber tones. He
told them they were really great. So great, in fact, that he knew they could get this done. “There’s
no way we’re slipping!” he declared. There was a collective gasp in the Bandley building work space.
“You guys have been working on this stuff for months now, another couple weeks isn’t going to make
that much of a difference. You may as well get it over with. I’m going to ship the code a week from
Monday, with your names on it.”
“Well, we’ve got to finish it,” Steve Capps said. And so they did. Once again, Jobs’s reality distortion
field pushed them to do what they had thought impossible. On Friday Randy Wigginton brought in a
huge bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans for the final three all-nighters. When Jobs arrived at
work at 8:30 a.m. that Monday, he found Hertzfeld sprawled nearly comatose on the couch. They talked
for a few minutes about a remaining tiny glitch, and Jobs decreed that it wasn’t a problem. Hertzfeld
dragged himself to his blue Volkswagen Rabbit (license plate: MACWIZ) and drove home to bed.
A short while later Apple’s Fremont factory began to roll out boxes emblazoned with the colorful line
drawings of the Macintosh.
Real artists ship, Jobs had
declared, and now the
Macintosh team had.
Belleville decided it was best to partially ignore Jobs, and he asked a Sony executive to
get its disk drive ready for use in the Macintosh. If and when it became clear that
Alps could not deliver on time, Apple would switch to Sony. So Sony sent over the engineer
who had developed the drive, Hidetoshi Komoto, a Purdue graduate who fortunately
possessed a good sense of humor about his clandestine task.
Whenever Jobs would come from his corporate office to visit the Mac team’s engineers—which
was almost every afternoon—they would hurriedly find somewhere for Komoto to hide.
At one point Jobs ran into him at a newsstand in Cupertino and recognized him from the
meeting in Japan, but he didn’t suspect anything. The closest call was when Jobs came
bustling onto the Mac work space unexpectedly one day while Komoto was sitting in one
of the cubicles. A Mac engineer grabbed him and pointed him to a janitorial closet.
“Quick, hide in this closet. Please! Now!” Komoto looked confused, Hertzfeld recalled,
but he jumped up and did as told. He had to stay in the closet for five minutes, until Jobs left.
The Mac engineers apologized. “No problem,” he replied. “But American business
practices, they are very strange. Very strange.”
Belleville’s prediction came true. In May 1983 the folks at Alps admitted it would take
them at least eighteen more months to get their clone of the Sony drive into production.
At a retreat in Pajaro Dunes, Markkula grilled Jobs on what he was going to do. Finally,
Belleville interrupted and said that he might have an alternative to the Alps drive ready soon.
Jobs looked baffled for just a moment, and then it became clear to him why he’d glimpsed
Sony’s top disk designer in Cupertino. “You son of a bitch!” Jobs said. But it was not in anger.
There was a big grin on his face. As soon as he realized what Belleville and the other engineers
had done behind his back, said Hertzfeld, “Steve swallowed his pride and
thanked them for disobeying him and
doing the right thing.
” It was, after all,
what he would have
done in their situation.
But what truly devastated Jobs was that he was not, after all,
chosen as the Man of the Year. As he later told me:
Time decided they were going to make me Man of the Year, and I was
twenty-seven, so I actually cared about stuff like that. I thought it was
pretty cool. They sent out Mike Moritz to write a story. We’re the same age,
and I had been very successful, and I could tell he was jealous and there was
an edge to him. He wrote this terrible hatchet job. So the editors in New
York get this story and say, “We can’t make this guy Man of the Year.” That really
hurt. But it was a good lesson. It taught me to never get too excited about things
like that, since the media is a circus anyway. They FedExed me the magazine, and
I remember opening the package, thoroughly expecting to see my mug on the cover,
and it was this computer sculpture thing. I thought, “Huh?” And then I read
the article, and it was so awful that I actually cried.
In fact there’s no reason to believe that Moritz was jealous or that he intended his
reporting to be unfair. Nor was Jobs ever slated to be Man of the Year, despite what
he thought. That year the top editors (I was then a junior editor there) decided early
on to go with the computer rather than a person, and they commissioned, months in
advance, a piece of art from the famous sculptor George Segal to be a gatefold cover image.
Ray Cave was then the magazine’s editor. “We never considered Jobs,” he said. “
You couldn’t personify the computer, so that was the first time we decided to go
with an inanimate object.
We never searched
around for a face to
be put on the cover.”