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The Birth of the Mac: Rolling Stone's 1984 Feature on Steve Jobs and his Whiz Kids

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He is a man with something to prove. Everyone recognizes Jobs' contribution to the Apple II – he is generally given credit for the brilliant idea to put a computer in a friendly looking plastic casing, and he was the one who saw that it would take experienced professionals to sell the computer to the public. In 1976 and 1977, as a bearded, semiexperienced engineer who'd recently returned from a monastery in India, he recruited that very kind of talent, and the result was the unprecedented success of the Apple II. Yet Apple's success is generally attributed to the genius of Jobs' partner, Steve Wozniak. Woz's openheartedness and technical wizardry are legend in the Silicon Valley – in sharp contrast to Jobs' darker reputation.

Jobs' response has been a near-total identification with the Macintosh project. "This is his crowning achievement," says Randy Wigginton. "I think he felt he hadn't contributed enough to the company in comparison to the money he made. He wanted to say, 'I can do it right.' If this comes off, he's earned his money."

Steve Jobs puts it differently. "I have more money than I can ever give away in my lifetime. And I'm not doing this for my ego. There are other things I can think of doing. I could go fishing, or go to Italy, or race motorcycles, but that's not going to result in what I really want."

What does Steve Jobs want? "To make Apple a great $10 billion company. Apple has the opportunity to set a new example of how great an American corporation can be, sort of an intersection between science and aesthetics. Something happens to companies when they get to be a few million dollars – their souls go away. And that's the biggest thing I'll be measured on: Were we able to grow a $10 billion company that didn't lose its soul?"

To Jobs, Macintosh will show how to achieve that task. As he speaks about it, his hawklike features intensify, and he punctuates his speech with weighty pauses, accented by sagacious nods. "Mac stands for what we are as a company – taking technology that's out of reach of the people and making it really great. That's what we did with the Apple II, and that's what we're going to do again with Mac. Computers and society are out on a first date in this decade, and for some crazy reason, we're in the right place at the right time to make that romance blossom."

According to Jobs, Raskin's original Macintosh was "all wrong," so he rebuilt the project in the image of the Great New American Corporation he dreamed of. Very small, in contrast to the IBM-style "human wave" of larger, more bureaucratic groups. In a sense, he wanted the same kind of closeness that the company had in the Apple II days. The first people he brought on were early Apple employees, including Steve Wozniak (who was soon forced to drop out after being injured in a plane crash). Jobs kept the best of Raskin's Mac team. All believed passionately in the project. "It felt like the garage again," says Chris Espinosa.

It was Jobs who insisted that the machine have "Lisa technology," using the powerful Motorola 68000 microprocessor and such Lisa characteristics as the mouse, pull-down menus, onscreen windows and other features that assured the Mac would be, as he put it, "insanely great" – the mostadvanced technology for the cheapest price.

Working for Steve Jobs is not the easiest task in the world. "Tact is a word you don't use to describe him," says Espinosa. "Steve will just walk up to your desk, look at what you're doing and say, 'That's shit.'" He tends to interpret events in a light that confirms his own view of things – what some call Jobs' "reality distortion field." He will get obsessed with something, set people to work on it and suddenly drop the idea – like the "Cuisinart version" of Mac. "Steve went to Macy's for four hours and liked the shape of Cuisinarts, so we had a two-week exercise in making the computer look real boxy," says Macintosh industrial designer Jerry Mannock.

Alas, Jobs' prediction in early 1981 that the machine would be ready in a year proved wildly optimistic. The machine was always in flux; Burrell Smith had to completely redesign it three times. To the Mac team, which was working at a breakneck pace, each extension was a huge frustration.

Jobs admits that he can be tough on his team. "Sometimes it's necessary to consciously do that," he says. "My best contribution to the group is not settling for anything but really good stuff. We must have remade the machine ten times. Each time it got better and better and better."

Just as important, the Mac team itself wanted more than anything to make a machine that would change the world. Jobs encouraged them to see themselves as outlaws, fighting not only IBM, but the other, more bureaucratic divisions of Apple. At one of several "retreats" Jobs took the group on, he told them that "it's better to be pirates than to join the navy." Every member of the Mac team signed his or her name on a mold that was used to stamp out the casings for the computer. Buyers will not see it, but inside each Macintosh are the autographs of every person who contributed to the project. All of this built up the "Macintosh spirit" that allowed them to surpass themselves in effort, creativity and stamina. Compare this to IBM, which refuses to publicly divulge the names of its design team to the public.

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