When I joined Apple in May, 1996, the company was filled with geniuses who were trying to invent the future. Despite that brilliance, Apple was failing. I came on board because I was young, had just started using a Macintosh, and I knew something great was happening. I was eager to find out what it was and, if possible, to help it grow.
I was lucky to join one of the most cavalier and competent teams in the company: the Mac OS system integration team. In a nutshell, we were in charge of the Mac OS System File, “System Enabler,” and other crucial bits that made your Mac a Mac. Whoo-hoo! Power! We made or broke your Mac experience, hopefully making more than breaking. I took my new job seriously and stepped carefully with every change. It felt great, and I cherished every contribution I made.
Later, I moved to the Mac OS X team and did similar work on the infrastructure of Mac OS X. In particular, with how it deals with older applications that rely on the “Carbon” framework. After years of using a custom Mac-only environment called MPW, I was using standard UNIX tools and building UNIX libraries. This felt awesome! I had grown up using an Amiga, then switched to Sun OS, where I spent a lot of time getting familiar with UNIX. There I was, and Apple decides to put the best UI in the world on top of Unix. I was in heaven.
While I was at Apple I saw a lot of failure. I saw the Newton fail. I saw Pippin fail. I saw PowerTalk fail. I saw Cyberdog fail. I saw Apple desperate to sell even a few hundred thousand Macs in a quarter. I saw the press lambast us and declare us dead. “Beleaguered” became an unfortunately common word in our office life.
But I kept looking around me, and I saw nothing but signs of success. I marveled at QuickTime, speech recognition, networking technologies like ZeroConf (Bonjour), and other things that have never seen the light of day. This company is awesome! I want to work here! They’re going to change the world!
Of course, they already had changed the world with the Apple II and the Macintosh, but as a young 20 year old, I was anticipating future growth. It was a bad time for Apple: competitors and the press were declaring our obsolescence. Michael Dell said we should give the money back to the shareholders and close the company. We persisted on a wing and a prayer, driven by Steve Jobs’s admonition that we could beat Dell. I believed in that mission, and I believe in it still.
In 2005, I wrote boldly about the end of Dell, and I have to confess I was a little over-ambitious. I could see a path where Apple would take Dell down faster than they have. I was wrong. Dell is still a strong company. But that will change soon.
I joined Apple because they were threatening to change the world. I stayed on at Apple because they were changing the world. And I remain loyal to that company because, in spite of my absence, they have changed the world. In more ways than I can imagine, they’re inventing the future. And I’m along for the ride.
Dell is not changing the world, Microsoft is not changing the world. Hewlett-Packard is not changing the world.
Apple is changing the world, and damn it feels good to be part-Apple today.