Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Employee #1: Apple (themacro.com)
379 points by craigcannon on July 26, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments

One of the first projects they collaborated on was this huge sign of a hand with the middle finger raised. It was a huge cloth poster and they put it up on the roof of our school and weighted the ends with rocks, I think. This was the end of the building that all of the parents faced during graduation. And the idea was that during graduation they would cut some strings which would release this thing to roll down over the side of the building and it said, “Best Wishes, Class of ‘72!” and it was giving them the finger. [...] So that was like, their first prank together.

Sometimes, like when a student was entering the telephone booth, Woz would call the telephone booth and it would ring and student would answer it. Then Woz would say, “This is Ramar the Mystic. I see wetness in your future,” and as the guy is saying, “What?” Woz would throw a water balloon at him from the second floor. The guy would be all angry and Woz would say, “Well, Ramar was only trying to help.”

These kind of remind me of those YouTube pranks where guys randomly kiss girls on the street or pick fights with people for "social experiments". Not really "pranks", just idiotic fun at other people's expense.

Jobs got a printed circuit board made and he figured out where to get all the parts.

Jobs often gets put down as just "the marketer" from Apple's early days, with Woz doing all the execution, but when you get deeper it sounds like Jobs enabled a lot of the logistics, supply chain, etc. Without him, Woz's prototype would have remained just that - a one off. In this light, Woz almost appears as the "idea guy" (where idea includes initial concept + first execution), whereas Jobs is the one who made it a viable product and company.

> In this light, Woz almost appears as the "idea guy" (where idea includes initial concept + first execution), whereas Jobs is the one who made it a viable product and company.

I'm not sure of the exact ratio, but as far as I can tell, if they hadn't teamed up, Woz would have ended up an engineer at HP (or Google if it happened today) and Jobs would have ended up starting a cult or joining Scientology or something.

Maybe there would have been someone else to market Woz's genius, but I doubt they'd have done it better. Maybe Jobs would have found another Woz, but I doubt they'd have built as good of a product; Jobs would have been selling just as relentlessly, but a less compelling product.

They both had an important role to play. What came after? Who could have known.

> and Jobs would have ended up starting a cult

He sort of did and it ended up being pretty successful.

I assume you're taking a shot at Apple the company. Not sure what the basis for making the comparison to a cult is and having escaped from an actual cult myself I find the comparison disingenuous and insulting. Apple sells products many people are happy to pay for. Cults sell a lifestyle usually built on lies and manipulation, generally taking much more from their buyers than just the sticker price.

Nowadays Apple does take more than the sticker price: they take control of your machine. It has become nearly impossible to refuse a software upgrade, and actually impossible to downgrade. They sell this as a "feature", but actual cults also sell taking control of your life as a feature. And people actually find this attractive because it relieves them of the burden of having to think or take responsibility for their actions. There's a reason that both Apple and "real" cults thrive in the marketplace. True, Apple is not as bad as a "real" cult but the analogy is apt, and becoming more so over time.

This is true of Windows, any web app that you use, and more and more of any hardware that you buy (Nest, Tesla, etc.).

You're just describing the general state of the industry (which I also lament).

> This is true of Windows, any web app that you use, and more and more of any hardware that you buy (Nest, Tesla, etc.).

But not, notably, of Linux.

Ironically, as a non-default choice for most of the computing world, Linux developers have far more motivation to actually care about their users' preferences. It's a stark contrast these days to the big players where they essentially hold their own product to ransom until you accept their control of it.

So you say Apple users had no choice? How about making the choice to buy, say, a Mac, so you can focus on what you do ON you computer, not on what you do TO your computer?

never heard of vendor lock in?

True, on Android/Linux you're likely to not get any updates at all

That's weird, I thought apt-get update && apt-get upgrade && apt-get dist-upgrade was upgrading my system. I must have been imagining it.

That's not true for linux distros and community supported android (i.e. cyanogenmod).

Ever heard of XDA?

It is a feature for the majority of non-HN users out in the real world. Anecdata being everyone's parents and grandparents, non-techie teens, etc. And even we would consider this a feature in other aspects of our lives - roads, power grids, telecom and infrastructure in general all auto-update in a manner of speaking. Personal property might not, but if first generation device owners grow up with auto-update they might not care. How many people on HN still complain about Chrome auto updating, btw?

The difference is: when Chrome updates, it doesn't force me to update everything else on my system. Apple uses a "version ratchet" to force you to update everything whether you want to or not.

Please don't turn off your computer while updates are being installed is the single most cited reason in my environment for ditching a particular OS.

I don't particularly subscribe to the narrative, there are these billions 'non-techie' users needing handholding by BigCo.

I'd also like to point out that the comparison between Apple and a cult has existed since at least 2004. [1]

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cult_of_Mac_(book)

Errr... just to point out, some people perceive similarities in Apple's approach to what you just described re: "Cults sell ...".

> some people perceive similarities in Apple's approach to what you just described re: "Cults sell [a lifestyle usually based on lies and manipulation]"

Marketing involves manipulation. Despite being good at marketing, I don't see evidence that Apple resorts to lying more than other companies. More often, the "cult of Apple" label is directed at avid customers who are particularly enthusiastic about Apple's products, and its used pejoratively by people who don't share or understand their enthusiasm.

But it's metaphor, and it doesn't mean Apple or its fans are an actual cult.

> Not really "pranks", just idiotic fun at other people's expense.

The middle finger thing is really not at someone else's expense. It's a dumb prank. The water balloon thing is a bit more mean spirited, but it's still far more innocuous than assault or sexual assault "pranks".

A water balloon is mean spirited only because we've built roofs everywhere. Humans can get wet with very little to be afraid of.

It's still mean spirited to dump water on a stranger even if it doesn't actually hurt them. It's subjecting someone to something they don't want for your own amusement.

The claim that humans have nothing to fear about getting wet is also less true than ever now that people are carrying electronics with them constantly, but that's not really relevant for people Woz targeted in his 20s.

>>Not really "pranks", just idiotic fun at other people's expense.

Didn't you just define what a prank is?

I think you can have a prank without (potential) negative externalities.

But a prank is always at the target's expense. You are hurting, at the very least, their ego and/or pride. Or you are startling them, or surprising them (unpleasantly).

That's the difference between a joke and a prank. A joke is told. A prank is done to someone.

>But a prank is always at the target's expense.

This is technically correct, but traditionally you're only supposed to execute pranks against friends that you already know would appreciate this kind of humor. If that's what you're doing, it's not usually a negative thing for anyone involved.

Put pocketing occurs to me as a simple prank that doesn't hurt anyone. It's all about making someone part of the joke, rather than the butt of the joke.


Look at the diversity in the first three employees: Jobs, half Middle-Eastern, Woz, a every-day American descending from mix of a handful of European countries, and Bill Fernandez, a Hispanic/Latino.

Even more interesting is how they were brought together largely by parents making decisions to learn technical skills and then being adept enough to obtain employment at a top company, choosing to live in the neighborhood they lived in near other technical people with access to surplus parts, and then making enough money to provide their children with the space, time and security to tinker.

Yes, their story is not without its share of enablers. It was the perfect setup, with the right people meeting to create something huge. Most times, if you read into the background of the big players, you'll see a common right place, at the right time theme. Imagine where we'd be as a civilization if everyone had the those opportunities.

> Imagine where we'd be as a civilization if everyone had the those opportunities.

Exactly. You have to wonder how many Einsteins we've had over the centuries/millennia that never even learned to read.

When I accidentally dove into the ragey part of Twitter where Trump supporters are shouting about White Genocide, I saw a graph illustrating the percentage of white Americans dropping since the 60s and how awful that supposedly is.

I've thought about trying to identify how many of the tech companies we rely on were started by first or second-generation immigrants. Apple and Google, obviously, but I'm sure there are many more.

You should be able to find many reports that say that half of the startups based in Silicon Valley have at least one foreign-born founder. And this was before Y Combinator and other incubators encouraged and funded engineers to visit and start a company in Silicon Valley.

I've heard the same discussed in circles of founders quite a bit as well. Example:

Study: Immigrants Founded 51% of U.S. Billion-Dollar Startups http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2016/03/17/study-immigrants-foun...

Even more interesting is their spiritual background as well -- I didn't know Bill is a Baha'i -- that is phenomenal!

  Bill : Also, be prepared as either a founder or an employee to spend your life on it. Be prepared to
  give your life to the enterprise. Forget about family, forget about children, forget about your pets
  or your garden. It is going to be all-consuming and that’s one reason why I’m starting my startup so
  late. I waited until I could neglect my children without harm to them.
  Craig : [Laughter] How so?
  Bill : They’re out of the house now so I figured, “Okay, now I can do what I want.”
I really like this attitude, and it's something that's on my mind too as I'm abandoning my kids by working 6 evenings a week to deliver my startup's first product. I hope there are a whole bunch of older entrepreneurs hiding in the wings, just waiting until their kids are young adults before jumping out into startup land with amazing ideas and a career's worth of experience to actually build them sensibly.

I've always considered Job's advertising campaign - "Here's to the Crazy Ones" - which announced his return and Apple's new direction to be such a masterpiece because it was so PERSONAL to Jobs.

A recognition of what it had taken to START apple and the recognition that to survive, and thrive, they would need to get back to those roots, toss the beige boxes to the wind, devil may care here comes the blue bomdi iMacs dammit!

Fernandez' quote puts a finger on it:

"It wasn’t like this glamorous thing. It was this huge risk. Basically people would say, “Why would you quit Hewlett-Packard to go work for a couple of lame ass guys, you know, one of whom is like this hippy guy who wears Birkenstocks and torn jeans and dropped out of school and had to sell a beaten up VW van to just afford to get started on this. . . The short way of saying this, I guess, is there was no startup culture."

And as much of an egoist as Jobs was he nevertheless realized that he had to squarely define & embed that culture of "be crazy / think different" into Apple, and make it bigger than just more to the Jobs' mythos:

"According to Jobs’s biography, two versions were created before it first aired: one with Richard Dreyfuss voiceover, and one with Steve Jobs voiceover.[5] In the morning of the first air date, Jobs decided to go with the Dreyfuss version, stating that it was about Apple." (1)

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_different

That slogan always bothered me. It was only 'Here's to the Crazy Ones who had Mainstream Success', and relied on Survivor Bias. There is no place in that sentiment for a person like Stallman, or from another angle, a person like Trump.

I disagree — there were hundreds of scientists working in the era of Einstein, and without them Einstein would not have reached the conclusions he did, despite them thinking he was destined to fail. His peers weren't crazy, they were the mainstream successes of their time. Here's to the crazy ones who flew in the face of adversity, success or not.

Stallman firmly fits within the statement: "And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Stallman may not be popular, but you can't argue that he's not crazy, flying in the face of adversity, and has had a great influence on the state of computing today.

> Here's to the crazy ones who flew in the face of adversity, success or not.

No. My whole point is that they only chose the proven (and famous) 'crazies'. There's only room for 'success'. No room for the 'or not'. Stallman is proven to a niche of techies, but outside that niche, people think he's a whack-job, despite his profound effect on computing as a whole.

I've got a high opinion of Stallman, but Stallman is very much the kind of 'crazy' that Jobs would want to hide. Not 'bankable' enough.

Listen to the whole message. It's about the crazy people who end up changing the world. Hence proven and famous.

(Meanwhile, from a storytelling perspective, it would be needlessly distracting to have to simultaneously educate people about some quiet unsung heroes. Your implied alternative version would be unworkable.)

IIRC a Netscape employee got into a spot of bother by making a satirical version of the ad depicting serial killers which was accessible from the old Netscape about: hierarchy. Or something like that.

Like all slogans, its not meant to be universally applied. A slogan allows very little words to go into much detail, so the idea is to appeal to emotion but be smart/intelligent about it.

My point is more that it's only celebrating the ones who were still acceptable. Crazy, but not too crazy. Maverick, but not too maverick. Ones that we'd gotten used to.

Basically, safe 'crazy' people, with the benefit of historical hindsight. How safe? Of the 17 'crazy ones', only 4 were alive at the time of the tv adverts, and apart from Branson and Turner (both business figures rather than cultural), the glory days were long gone for all of them.

You're being intentionally obtuse. They chose specific people to aid the subtext of the narrative. To provide a visual shorthand to help clarify what they're saying. Oh sure, you could include Adolf Hitler in the list of people crazy enough to think they could change the world, but that's not relevant to their statement of purpose.

(Sigh, Godwin.)

After Jobs' passing, didn't Apple air the version with his voiceover?

It was released on YouTube 2 years before his death. They haven't aired it as a commercial on tv at all

> The infrastructure was there so you could say, “I want sheet metal done. I want a printed circuit board made.” You could just go out and someone would do it for you. “I want to buy parts,” someone could do it for you.

The ability to reach out locally and have hardware components custom made seems kind of important for the small innovator in today's fast economy. The speed of revisions and product evolution and all that.

Today that is Shenzhen.

> many people, many engineers are really great at designing a product but absolutely terrified to actually tell anyone about it or to promote themselves or to say it’s good. So marketing and sales are complete anathema to them. But you’re going to have to step up to the plate and do some of it.

I agree. There's always a lot of talk about how engineers neglect sales and its utmost importance to a startup's success. But I haven't seen lots of literature on encouraging engineers to come out of the shell to (rationally) "brag" about your product. Not all engineers have the confidence to do it or are just plain humble - Woz comes to mind.

A search for "marketing for engineers" only turns up content that explains marketing concepts and strategies to the uninitiated (inbound, organic, SEO...), but I'd like to see more on how to effectively step outside of your code editor, take pride and broadcast your technical creation to the world - for either economic or nonprofit motivations.

Cool guy. His analysis of his economic situation is much different than we'd do today:

I figured that this could be pretty interesting and I was living with my parents and my car was paid off and I was very employable. So I figured that if this fell through that it would be easy for me to get another job and there’s no big loss, right?

Is it? I had the same thought process not too long ago.

Your thought process was, "I'm in good shape, my car is paid off and I'm living with my parents?"

Pretty much, except for me it was "It would suck, but I could always go move back in with my parents". The gist of it was that I wasn't risking much except for my time and a bit of pride, so why not.

Indeed I am thinking similar things right now

Technically speaking, Woz was employee #1 and Jobs was employee #2, although Jobs assigned himself #0 and always had 0 printed on his badge.

From Isaacson's biography of Jobs:

> An early showdown came over employee badge numbers. Scott assigned #1 to Wozniak and #2 to Jobs. Not surprisingly, Jobs demanded to be #1. “I wouldn’t let him have it, because that would stoke his ego even more,” said Scott. Jobs threw a tantrum, even cried. Finally, he proposed a solution. He would have badge #0. Scott relented, at least for the purpose of the badge, but the Bank of America required a positive integer for its payroll system and Jobs’s remained #2.

Isaacson, Walter (2011-10-24). Steve Jobs (p. 83). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

It's kind of unbelievable what a jackass he was in addition to being a genius. People are weird multifaceted creatures.

I actually never finished the book because Jobs, as a character, was just too inscrutable. And I don't mean in the interesting, complicated ways that humans generally are. The abrupt shift from brilliant leader and visionary to petulant asshole child is understandable, even at the start of Apple -- he was just 21, after all. But the emotional/personality swings pretty much continue through his entire life, and it was just too bewildering for me to fully empathize with Jobs. Maybe if other CEOs were as highly scrutinized as Jobs we'd see the same kind of inexplicable complexity? As it stands, I enjoyed iWoz (albeit it was written as an autobiography) much more than the Jobs' biography.

That's the fault of the biography, which refuses to ever analyze him and seems to not even notice when he's changed. Not the only thing it didn't notice - check out how often people are blatantly misquoted, like where Bill Gates supposedly claims a disk drive has "too low latency".

Seems like the actual event right before coming back to Apple, where he mysteriously becomes an amazing CEO, is when he met his wife.

Or indeed where Bill Gates claims that the purchase of NeXT technologies were just "warmed up UNIX" and was "never really used" by Apple. Isaacson failed to fact-check anything Gates said, and a lot of it was demonstrably, factually, objectively false.

Yeah, I wonder how much of the aloofness of the book had to do with the writer, Steve Jobs's personality, the unique and prominent place Steve Jobs has in tech history, and the unusual circumstances and deadline of the book (i.e. in his final days, and the rush to publish within a short time of his passing).

One passage that stuck out to me in which Isaacson clearly pressed present-day Jobs on his personal viewpoint was bringing up the episode in which Jobs, according to Woz and Bushnell, cheated Woz out of his bonus for building the Breakout game:

> Astonishingly, they were able to get the job done in four days, and Wozniak used only forty-five chips. Recollections differ, but by most accounts Jobs simply gave Wozniak half of the base fee and not the bonus Bushnell paid for saving five chips. It would be another ten years before Wozniak discovered (by being shown the tale in a book on the history of Atari titled Zap) that Jobs had been paid this bonus.

> “I think that Steve needed the money, and he just didn’t tell me the truth,” Wozniak later said. When he talks about it now, there are long pauses, and he admits that it causes him pain. “I wish he had just been honest. If he had told me he needed the money, he should have known I would have just given it to him. He was a friend. You help your friends.” To Wozniak, it showed a fundamental difference in their characters. “Ethics always mattered to me, and I still don’t understand why he would’ve gotten paid one thing and told me he’d gotten paid another,” he said. “But, you know, people are different.”

> When Jobs learned this story was published, he called Wozniak to deny it. “He told me that he didn’t remember doing it, and that if he did something like that he would remember it, so he probably didn’t do it,” Wozniak recalled.

> When I asked Jobs directly, he became unusually quiet and hesitant. “I don’t know where that allegation comes from,” he said. “I gave him half the money I ever got. That’s how I’ve always been with Woz. I mean, Woz stopped working in 1978. He never did one ounce of work after 1978. And yet he got exactly the same shares of Apple stock that I did.” Is it possible that memories are muddled and that Jobs did not, in fact, shortchange Wozniak? “There’s a chance that my memory is all wrong and messed up,” Wozniak told me, but after a pause he reconsidered. “But no. I remember the details of this one, the $ 350 check.” He confirmed his memory with Nolan Bushnell and Al Alcorn. “I remember talking about the bonus money to Woz, and he was upset,” Bushnell said. “I said yes, there was a bonus for each chip they saved, and he just shook his head and then clucked his tongue.”

This passage, early in the biography, cast a negative pall over Jobs's personality in my mind. He's in his final years, and not only is he facing death, but he's experienced success so far beyond the first Apple days and his name will likely be much more well-known and remembered than Woz's. Assuming that Jobs isn't actually right, what purpose does he have to perpetuate this mistruth? Why couldn't he just own up to it, to say something like, "Yes, back in those days I did things I regret, and I regret even more that I did it to my future business partner, Woz, one of the [insert superlative] men I've had the pleasure to work with"? But no, he had to keep denying it until his near-death, even slagging on Woz as if Woz was some lazy bullshitter who sat on Jobs' coattails.

The episode as recounted by Isaacson at least ends with something that reflects well on Woz (as if Woz's honest reputation needed more bolstering). In fact, I think Woz, in his characteristically honest and straightforward way, has the best description of Jobs' legacy:

> Whatever the truth, Wozniak later insisted that it was not worth rehashing. Jobs is a complex person, he said, and being manipulative is just the darker facet of the traits that make him successful. Wozniak would never have been that way, but as he points out, he also could never have built Apple. “I would rather let it pass,” he said when I pressed the point. “It’s not something I want to judge Steve by.”

Yeah, I could have skipped the book and rewatched 'Pirates Of Silicone Valley' and imagined Steve pitching a fit and crying more often. Both were quite kind to him in their depiction of his eccentricities, IMO.

Not really related to the OP (except that it's a story from early Apple lore), but your comment about Jobs' employee badge reminded me of this: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story...

As a side note, reading through all of Folklore.org is a great way to kill a few hours next time you have a free evening. I'm pretty sure I've read through all of it 2-3 times at this point, but there's part of me that wants to read through all of it again. It's basically just a collection of Apple anecdotes, mostly about the development of the first Macintosh. I'm sure it was hard at times, but it does sound like a fascinating project to have participated in.

I always liked this story, also from Andy Hertzfeld: http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Negative_2000_Lin...

Was that to one-up Woz?

I figured Woz as an electronics engineer would prefer 0 for technical reason (i.e. 0 to 9 or binary 0) and he's such a math freak too.

In the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, there is a scene where WoZ doesn't really care about the employee number but Steve does. That seems most likely to me having read iWoz too.

This is a series of interviews they are doing with early employees, meaning non-founders.

I know, and it's a great series. I just always liked this story about Jobs.

Employee is a legal term, were they really employees?

In a corporation, just about everyone is considered an employee of the company (in the legal sense), including major shareholders who do work at the company, as Jobs and Woz did. It's part of the protections provided by incorporation.

Yup, thats why you can take with a grain of salt when someone says something like "We'd like to pay you more, but startup just isn't profitable enough", that doesn't mean the owner isn't taking a nice salary away from the place.

Bill himself says he was #4

Happily, I was given my old employee number (number 4), and my new title was “Member of Technical Staff”.


'Member of the Technical Staff' was traditionally the only job title at Bell Labs; it didn't matter if you were a technician or director, you had the same job title.

And wasn't Mark Markkula #3?

So what is his new company that he is starting?

Google Omnibotics?

Robot assisted surgery

FYI, "the Hamurabi game" links incorrectly to http://themacro.com/articles/2016/07/employee-1-apple/[https... which causes an error 404.

Fixed. Thanks :)

> We became fast friends. I got him interested in electronics and so…

> Craig : Wait, really?

I don't know what is so surprising about think. Jobs was not an engineer or even really a geek. He was a visionary and a businessman. If he had gotten Woz into electronics, that would have been a big deal.

The surprise is that Woz isn't the one that got Jobs interested in electronics.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact