I don’t exactly remember the first time I met Steve Jobs, but it was sometime in the very early ’80s, around the time that I first started to write for Byte, the great magazine of the early personal computer age, which is nothing like its pallid successor.
In those days, Byte was the Bible of personal computing, and we got to see all of the real innovators. One day, it was a hippie-looking guy Steve Jobs and his pal Steve Wozniak at a trade show somewhere with a funny-looking white plastic computer.
You probably don’t remember the first Apple II. Most people used a television set for a monitor. Disk drives were optional, and when you got one or two they cost far more than a terabyte of storage does today. Those 5.25-inch drives held hardly any data, but it was enough for the tiny operating systems at the time, and enough to run a program and to run a second data storage disk drive if you had one on the other floppy disk.
In those days, Apple didn’t have the graphical user interface that we have today. It was a text-based operating system that looked a lot like the operating systems it competed against, including Gary Kildall’s CP/M and Heathkit’s H-DOS. What you had at first were green characters on a black screen. Except sometimes the characters were white. Apple, an innovator even in those days, started featuring color, but you would have to have a small color television or monitor (both rare in those days) to use it.
In 1984, after I’d been writing about computers for six or seven years, I heard about the first big Super Bowl ad and made it a point to watch. Even in those days, Apple was breaking the mold, as it demonstrated with the video of a sporty young woman who ran down the aisle of a cavernous meeting hall filled with zombielike industrial slaves. She threw a sledgehammer into the televised face of a figure clearly reminiscent of Big Brother, from George Orwell’s novel 1984. At the time, the commercial was stunning, and it achieved its intended effect with a statement that the new Apple personal computer was going to rock a world stuck on using IBM standard PCs.
Everyone talked about the commercial and about the new computer the Apple Macintosh.