Monday, December 17, 2007

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

I walked through the doors of Apple's De Anza 3 building on December 13th, 1987. I'd had a variety of jobs and I will admit that I hadn't been a model employee in almost any job I'd had before. The concept of showing up to work "on time" wasn't one of my strong suits. I have problems with authority. I'd work hard and smart, but I wouldn't put myself out to make someone else look good. There are few things in this world more difficult than a prima donna with an inferiority complex. The truth of that about me comes as a surprise because I've just realized it.

Apologies to everyone who put up with that.

The main influences in my life beside the usual ones everyone mentions--parents, school, church, etc.--had been the Boy Scouts and music. I encountered my third great influence on that day in December.

I was under contract to test products for Apple because my late best friend had identified me as someone who knew programming on the IBM PC and Apple needed PC people to test some of its new products. I was placed at a desk with a Mac Plus and a twenty megabyte hard drive, and my supervisor said, "see you next year." She then went on vacation for the rest of the year.

That was the first test Apple presented. Left to your own devices, what do you do with your time? I learned to program for the Macintosh (Pascal was its primary language then and I had been trained to write it).

That was the beginning of my education. The most important aspect of my time at Apple was the people I worked with. Jerry (good to see you again), Robert, Derek, Michelle, Anna, Ginny, Carol, Matt, John, Chris, Robin, Sharon, Leland, Paul, Andreas, Steffond, Vladi, and so many others have taught me so many things. Some of them were so patient with me. Some of them were examples of commitment to thoroughness, quality, and excellence. Some of them nagged me into quitting smoking--something that couldn't have happened if they didn't genuinely care about me. I was encouraged to use my talents. I was allowed to figure out the best path toward a goal and follow it. Apple supported me through my most dire health crisis without a blink or a hitch. They bore me up through my mother's passing. The company offered me the opportunity to be the first person in the world to do things. I was taught the difference between reasons and excuses; if I couldn't accomplish a task, there'd better be a reason. An excuse wouldn't do.

I was hired on as a full employee in 1989. The plaque I received in celebration of the fifth anniversary of that event hangs on the wall of my bedroom. I was just reunited with the gold Apple pin with five gems in it that the company used to offer along with that plaque (thanks to Elena).

Some of the products I worked on? System software from 6.0 through Mac OS X 10.1, the Scriptable Finder (test lead), AppleShare 2.0. AppleShare IP 6.0, most of the machines released between 1988 and January 2002 (I was laid off in 1997 and returned later that year), the Apple II emulator card, cross-platform floppy reading, the first attempt at transforming the operating system to a more modern model, and, finally--thank you, John--wireless networking.

Apple's current success was being built when I left. Steve Jobs had returned. Say what you will about him, he has two qualities that have infused the company since he and Steve Wozniak founded it--qualities that are in the company's DNA and will always be with it: Passion and taste. Passion makes you unstoppable and incorruptible. Taste is the vision you want to realize.
The combination makes you unwilling to settle for less than your best. The people working on every Apple product CARE.

A co-worker provided me with Apple's unofficial motto: We do good work. I'm now an Apple Authorized Service Provider. My business couldn't run without the standards and practices I learned at Apple.

I went back on December 13th to say "so long, and thanks for all the fish." It was an event I will remember the rest of my life.

Thank you, Apple.

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