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  The Early Days of Apple Computer

 We were just beginning to realize that the computer store might be a success beyond our dreams and that the little space in Polk's Hobby Store might not be enough, when I received a phone call.

It was a very fast-talking young man who told me, "I'm Steve Jobs." He said that he had been sent by Paul Terrell and John French, who had both bought his great single board computer and become dealers. Paul had bought 50 of them! This was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and he had to send me one.

"Sure, send it," I said. After all, Paul and John were friends and I would go with their choice. Whamo! Next day Fedex delivered a package C.O.D. $500.

I was a little taken aback, but I paid the charge and gave the package to Dave, one of my techs.

"Here. Look at this, and let me know what you think," I told him.

"What is it?" he answered.

"A computer, the Apple 1."

"Whaddya mean a computer? All in that little box? Common!"

He took the box and disappeared. Later, he took some money from the cash register and went to Radio Shack. When he came back, he fiddled with some wires and a video monitor, and called me over to see what he had done. A Radio Shack transformer was wired to a plug that went into the wall. The other side had wires into the page-sized PC board. A black square appeared on the video screen.

"See! It works," Dave told me.

"What does it do?" I asked.

"Nothing, needs a keyboard. I'll get one," Dave told me.

Dave came back with one of our SWTPC keyboards and wired it in after studying the schematic.

"Don't work," he told me. "Better call 'em."

So I called the number listed in the paperwork and asked for Steve.

"Which one?" the young man at the other end asked.

"The fast talker," I told him.

"Oh, Steve Jobs. Wait a minute." Steve came on the line, and I told him the keyboard didn't work.

"What kind of keyboard did you use? South West? Nah, they won't work. I'll send a good one and some software tomorrow."

"Wait." I told him I didn't need it Fedex next day_I could wait. Too late, he was gone.

Next day, another C.O.D. for $60 arrived, and a little plug-in circuit board with two chips on it arrived, and a cassette. Fedex collect. Again I called California for Steve.

"Got the keyboard? Good one! I'm going to buy a lot and we will get them cheaper. The little board, oh yes, that's the cassette interface, only two chips, Woz invented it, runs at 1200 baud. Great, you'll love it. the software is the "Game of Life."

All of this in one breath! I hung up.

Dave figured everything out and hooked it all up. It worked just as Steve said it would. The cassette interface was terrific. All the other ones we had ran at 300 baud and had a full board of chips and parts. This interface ran four times as fast and always got a good load. That alone was unusual. The Game of Life was very complex software for that time. It put figures representing cells on the screen. They lived, died, or reproduced, depending on their proximity to other cells, generation after generation. I was impressed. I called Steve and told him.

"Wait, Woz is working on BASIC. We should have it shortly," he said.

I also found out that Woz was his partner, Steve Wozniak, and he was the inventor.

Now it just so happened the New York Chapter of the Association For Computer Machinery (ACM) was holding a dinner meeting, and our store, together with other metropolitan area computer dealers, had been invited to show our equipment. This was a first experience for these big computer people who had little contact with microcomputers. I knew other dealers were planning to bring large, complete computer systems. With the arrival of the Apple 1, I changed my ideas. I asked one of the hangers-on at my store to take the Apple, and mount it, the keyboard, and power transformer into a large attaché case. He did a great job, and I had a portable microcomputer. My wife and I went to the dinner, and all we took was the case, a 9-inch video monitor, and the cassette recorder. We seated ourselves next to the wall, where there were electrical plugs, and I quietly connected everything and loaded The Game of Life. The monitor faced the podium where the chairman was conducting the meeting.

He could not help but notice it. He stopped in his introductions and said, "What in the world is on that tube?"

I answered, "It's the Game of Life running on my computer."

"What computer? I don't see any computer. What are you talking about?" the chairman answered. Now he was really upset!

I got up and said, "My computer is in that case, and I am sorry, but I have it running just for practice. I did not think it would disrupt things here."

"You are telling me that there is a computer in that little case? What kind?" he sputtered.

"It's the Apple," I replied.

"Apple? Never heard of it. Well, turn it off now!"

After the formal part of the meeting, all the computer dealers set up their equipment to demonstrate their products.

I waited until last and got up and said, "I thank all my fellow dealers for showing off their systems because we at Computer Mart sell exactly the same products. However, I have here the future of personal computing. It is called the Apple Computer, and it requires no expensive terminal and no big box of electronics. It's all here in this little attaché case, and I invite you to see and use it."

It was the Apple that caused the greatest excitement of the evening. However, they all asked me to call them when BASIC was available and when the little computer could be expanded. I called Steve Jobs the next day and told him what had happened. He was even more excited than usual and told me Woz was working hard on BASIC, a typical Steve Jobs half-truth.

A week later, I went to a Processor Technology dealer's meeting at Emeryville , California . There were several telephone messages from Steve Jobs to me during the meeting. When I could break away, I called Steve at the number he left. He begged me to come down to Los Gatos to visit him that day. Not having any idea how far it was from Emeryville, I agreed and set off in my rented car. I arrived at the address, which turned out to be his sister's house, and Steve was there with Dan Kottke and another friend. He told me he had great plans, and Apple was going to be a big company. He asked me to invest $10,000, and said he would give me 10% of Apple Computer for my investment.

Looking at this long-haired hippie and his friends, I thought, "You would be the last person in the world I would trust with my ten grand!"

What I said was, "Steve, all my money is invested in my store, but I will help you. I have a double booth at the big computer show in Atlantic City , New Jersey this August. If you come to the show, I will give you free booth space and publicize the Apple computer."

He was somewhat disappointed at my turn-down but quick to take advantage of my offer. Booth space was expensive, and the show was a sell out. "I don't know if we can raise the fare to get to the show, but if we can I'll take you up on your offer. Woz has just finished the Apple II prototype, and he is bringing it over to show you."

When Wozniak came over I was a little more impressed with him than Jobs. He brought a computer board with jumper wires all over and parts hanging off all over the board. This was to be the Apple II! After Woz hooked his haywire rig up to the living room TV, he turned it on, and there on the screen I saw a crude Breakout game in full color! Now I was really amazed. This was much better than the crude color graphics from the Cromemco Dazzler.

After a few minutes Woz turned it off and said, "I am still working on it; everything heats up after a while!"

"How do you like that?" said Jobs, smiling. "We're going to dump the Apple I and only work on the Apple II."

"Steve," I said, "if you do that you will never sell another computer. You promised BASIC for the Apple I, and most dealers haven't sold the boards they bought from you. If you come out with an improved Model II they will be stuck. Put it on the back burner until you deliver on your promises."

I suppose I wasn't much encouragement for the young businessman because I told him things he didn't want to hear, but a week later he called me in New York .

"We have the tickets, and we are coming to the Atlantic City Show. Woz almost has BASIC finished_we will bring it with us. Get me a room at the Hotel."

I called the Shoreham and was told there were no more rooms. So I doubled up two of my people and gave the room to the Apple characters.

On August 26, 1976 , we all went to Atlantic City , New Jersey and the old Shoreham Hotel for what was to be the first national computer show, and the most important. We had our booth set up with our Apple I housed in a case with a monitor inside and the keyboard in front. It was a one-piece masterpiece made by a friend of mine, Mitch Bogdanowitz, who was a great model maker. We called the new desk top computer Eve, because she ate the Apple! Of course we also showed an Imsai, and we expected to receive our first SOL at the show. Half of the booth we saved for the two Steves and their Apple Computers. They showed up later in the day. Steve Jobs and Dan Kottke came into the booth and started to set up signs.

"Woz is in the room finishing BASIC. He's using the hotel T.V." said Jobs.

At this point my mother-in-law came over to Steve. She looked him up and down and said, "Young man, your backside is sticking out of holes in those jeans! You are NOT going to be in my booth like that. Take 'em off and I'll sew them up, now!"

Steve Jobs was more than a little surprised_I don't think anyone had ever spoken to him like that! However, you didn't fool around with Elizabeth Olivet, who was a very formidable Italian grandmother. Steve went behind a curtain, took off his pants, and handed them to her. She took out the sewing kit from her commodious bag and mended the worn jeans until they met her standards of modesty.

All Jobs said was, "Thanks, I think we better get back to the room to see how Woz is doing."

The next day, on August 28th, the show opened. Steve Jobs had several Apple I computers running_the new Apple Basic, and he had one encased in a wooden cabinet that he was really proud of. Their exhibit attracted a lot of attention, as well it should. In this show full of 8080 computers with large cabinets, flashing lights, and colorful switches, the Apple was the lone 6502-based machine. It was a single board, yet it had its own video display and ran full BASIC. In addition it could load from a cassette faster than any other machine there. Nobody who walked anywhere near the booth failed to be buttonholed by Steve Jobs, who told them in no uncertain terms what a great thing the Apple was. He even got press coverage_ no mean feat in a show where the new SOL computer was introduced, where the Altair B dominated the largest booth, and where TDL showed the very first Z-80 CPU for the S-100 bus.

We did not get the new SOL during the show, but one was given to us at the end. When the show closed, the partners went back to California somewhat disappointed because, in spite of all the attention , they had not sold one Apple 1. Neither had I, although I had taken orders for several SOLs and a couple of Imsai systems.

The return from Atlantic City was a great letdown for the partners. Wozniak felt that he should be only working on the color version and that Jobs was keeping him from it. In fact, Woz tried to sell the idea to Processor Technology, maker of the popular SOL computers. They relied on the advice of Lee Felsenstien, who didn't think much of Apple, and turned Woz down. Then Commodore came to Jobs as a result of the Atlantic City Show and wanted to buy the company as an easy entry into the microcomputer business. Jobs asked for $100,000 and fairly big salaries for the partners. Commodore thought the asking price was ridiculous from two young men working out of a garage, and luckily for Apple the deal fell through. They were just about at the end of their resources. The dealers had not re-ordered because the Apple 1 simply did not sell. I had to make mine down below cost to get rid of them.

At this point Jobs decided that they needed help with marketing, advertising, and public relations. Asking around Silicon Valley , he was give the name of Regis McKenna as a top practitioner of these arcane arts. Steve contacted Mc Kenna for an appointment but was shunted to an employee whose job was to screen out people who might waste the company's time. Job's appearance seemed to put him in that category, but when he started to talk he was able to convince the interviewer to pass him along to Regis McKenna himself. Again, in spite of a less than qualified endorsement from Paul Terrell, McKenna saw something in the two partners and their product. He decided to take on Apple as a client.

Because he realized that the first thing Apple needed was more money, he introduced Jobs to Don Valentine, a venture capitalist. Valentine liked the idea but did not invest in Apple himself because he felt it did not offer a big enough market for him. He introduced the partners to Mike Makulla, a man who had made a fortune by investing in the Intel company, and retired at 30. Makulla saw a future in microcomputers and decided to make Apple his venture into the business. He invested money, borrowed more from a bank, and with the two partners formed Apple Computer Company.

Wozniack was a hold out for the longest time because he wanted to keep his job with Hewlett Packard and moonlight with Apple as he had been doing up to that time, but Makulla wanted a 100% commitment from both partners as a condition for his investment. The company was incorporated in January 1977 and bought out the partnership completely. Markulla brought in Michael Scott as President because he felt that neither of the partners had the skills to run a corporation, and he himself did not want to become too deeply involved. Nevertheless, he was the engine that turned a garage workshop company into a major computer corporation.

I spent the year after the Atlantic City show selling SOL computers, SWTPC computers, and developing a dealership in Alpha Micro Time Sharing computers. However, when Apple II's started to arrive they slowly built into our major line, displacing the SOL and SWTPC 6800's. The Apple II changed the entire business. No longer did solder wielding techies hang out at our store_the Apples came completely built and ready to run. The Apple disk system was priced within everyone's price range, and soon there was a lot of very useful software for it, lead by Visicalc, the most important program. Businessmen would come into the store to buy "A Visicalc Machine" and that's all they used it for. In the Apple II users, we saw a different type of enthusiast. The Apple users did not mix very well with the S-100 users, just as there is a division between the Mac users and the MS-DOS users today. In New York City, The Big Apple Club was formed just for Apple owners and met at our store. The Apple users were much more oriented toward software and graphic applications. They were more interested in what a computer did then how it did it.

Being the major Apple dealer in New York brought us a lot of business and growth, but then trouble struck The Computer Mart of New York. I had signed a very large purchase order with Apple, and I distributed the extra computers to several other Computer Mart stores, with whom I was loosely allied. We all got a good volume price from Apple, who only had to deal with me instead of five other stores. I marked the machines up 5%, for my trouble and expenses in distributing them.

This worked well for all until Apple decided to open a distribution center in Boston under control of my old competitor and friend, Dick Brown. My contract was canceled, and I was told to buy through Dick Brown. This would work no hardship on me, but my fellow Computer Mart owners in Boston, Vermont, and New Hampshire were in direct competition with Dick Brown's Computer Store, and they did not trust him to deal fairly with them. This was particularly important because there was an acute shortage of Apple disk drives, and people would buy only if they could get a disk drive. Instead of signing with Brown immediately, I tried to reach Steve Jobs to make some other arrangement to get our computers. Not only did he refuse to talk to me, but all my computer shipments were stopped.

Finally I decided my friends would have to shift for themselves, and I signed with Brown. It took some time for me to get my orders back into the pipeline, and I lost a lot of sales to other dealers in the New York area. This loss of business, coupled with the closing of Processor Technology, finally did in my business in 1979, and I left the retail computer store.

People who have read my articles often ask me if I regret refusing Steve Jobs the $10,000 investment for 10% of Apple, which is now a multi-billion dollar business.

I always answer, "No, I did not lie to Steve Jobs. Every cent I had was invested in my own store. I tried to help him in every way I could, but when I needed him he turned his back on me."

I did not see Steve Jobs for a few years after the store closed, but I heard plenty about him. Then one day my wife Dede and I were crossing Central Park West after a walk in the park. As we emerged near the Tavern On The Green we saw a party of young men and women heading for the Tavern.

All of a sudden my wife stopped and exclaimed, "My God! Steve Jobs in a three-piece suit!"

He looked at her and smiled, the very picture of sartorial perfection. "Hello, Dede, you sure know how to humble a fellow."

There was never anything humble about Steve Jobs.

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