In 1985, less than 18 months after the launch of Macintosh, we all heard the stunning news inside Apple that sent shock waves throughout the company – Steve Jobs, the man behind the greatest personal computer ever built had in fact resigned from Apple in an apparent power struggle with the board. The person he had brought in – John Sculley, the marketing wiz from Pepsi was to be the new CEO.
How could this be? We all had just see the future last year didn’t we? In the grainy blue and gray tones depicting the dystopian future of the brilliant George Orwell’s 1984, directed by Ridley Scott right after the masterpiece The Blade Runner and conceived by the talented Steve Hayden at Chiat/Day said “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984, won’t be like 1984.”
It’s interesting what we remember when things have a deep impact on us. I remember where I was. I remember the air. I remember the sounds of the people clicking away at their keyboards programming. All packaged together in what I would get to know later as shock.
Some facts here – I did not know Steve Jobs personally at all. I was very very young. Though I worked at Apple, I had never worked for him directly. I had not met him or spoken to him in 1985. Yet how could hearing the loss of this visionary have such a profound and emotional impact on me?
I would only exchange the first words directly with him 12 years later, on an Air France flight in the upper deck long after he left Apple, founded Pixar and NeXt and with some amazing karma, was back at Apple and was flying to his first keynote at Apple Expo in France as CEO of Apple again.
Steve asked me on the flight— “Do I know you? Did you work at Apple?”
To which I replied, “No you don’t, and yes I worked at Apple and stayed after you left. The company, the products and the culture you created changed my life completely. Thank you.”
Steve would then go on and transform the company he had helped found, build insanely great products again like iPod, iPhone and iPad. And change the way we interact with devices- touch versus type.
Susan Kare, who worked for Steve—the digital graphic designer who created the UI icons of the original Macintosh, would go with Steve to NeXt continued to work with me on projects such as NetObjects and would later be one of the first founders of Glam Media.
So what about Steve Jobs leaving Apple in 1985 shocked my so deeply?
I remember sitting down and writing a letter to Steve. A letter that was sent, but in the drama that unfolded at Apple in Cupertino, probably never to be received or read. Last year,when I heard that Steve was deeply ill. and was fighting for his life, the memories of his impact resurfaced and I decided to try to remember what I felt when he first left Apple. So I did. And here it is. My letter to Steve Jobs. Originally written in 1985, transcribed from distant memory because it’s always best to say thanks for things that deeply move you and change your life forever.
As a software designer and engineer working for Apple, I was recently informed that you are leaving the company you helped found. Waves of emotion hit me when I heard this that I spent the last few days working through and the feelings that came up inside me are best summed up as—The meaning of being a Founder or The Invisible Hand.
Passion. The fire in the belly of you the founder to drive people to create something much bigger than ourselves. Every part of Apple felt your passion for creating something great and that added to the fire in our own belly the desire to given everything we had.
Love. It is not building a product but doing something out of deep love. We said Changing the world, one person at a time, now realizing that it came from you. Great things come from the heart, you taught us to listen to it.
Courage. Giving the courage to not follow the norm and think out of the box—going against it all. Without courage, Apple could not have done all the great things we did.
Drive. Working at Apple was not a job, it was everything. Like they say in Cha-do, the Japanese Way of Tea—Give 100% of you to making tea. We could feel you were consumed by Apple, that helped awaken the parts of us that wanted to give everything we had.
Energy. The spirit of you is felt in every hallway and cubical. This essence brought us all together and gave the power that a few people could take on the world, and win.
Today, I feel the sad loss of you leaving Apple. Like an invisible hand that was once there and has suddenly been removed. Its strength will help us keep building and creating for a while, but will eventually be felt. I don’t know what happened for this to be, but Apple will be never the same without you.
From my heart, I want to thank you for this life changing experience and being a part of your company that helped transform the world.