The Early Days of Apple Computer
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.
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.
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.
was a little taken aback, but I paid the charge and gave the package to
Dave, one of my techs.
Look at this, and let me know what you think," I told him.
is it?" he answered.
computer, the Apple 1."
mean a computer? All in that little box?
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.
It works," Dave told me.
does it do?" I asked.
needs a keyboard. I'll get one," Dave told me.
came back with one of our SWTPC keyboards and wired it in after studying
work," he told me. "Better call 'em."
I called the number listed in the paperwork and asked for Steve.
one?" the young man at the other end asked.
fast talker," I told him.
Steve Jobs. Wait a minute." Steve came on the line, and I told him
the keyboard didn't work.
kind of keyboard did you use? South West?
Nah, they won't work. I'll send a good one
and some software tomorrow."
I told him I didn't need it Fedex next day_I
could wait. Too late, he was gone.
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
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."
of this in one breath! I hung up.
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.
Woz is working on BASIC. We should have it
shortly," he said.
also found out that Woz was his partner,
Steve Wozniak, and he was the inventor.
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
could not help but notice it. He stopped in his introductions and said,
"What in the world is on that tube?"
answered, "It's the Game of Life running on my computer."
computer? I don't see any computer. What are you talking about?"
the chairman answered. Now he was really upset!
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
are telling me that there is a computer in that little case? What
kind?" he sputtered.
the Apple," I replied.
Never heard of it. Well, turn it off
the formal part of the meeting, all the computer dealers set up their
equipment to demonstrate their products.
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."
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.
week later, I went to a Processor Technology dealer's meeting at
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!"
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
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
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.
a few minutes Woz turned it off and said,
"I am still working on it; everything heats up after a while!"
do you like that?" said Jobs, smiling. "We're going to dump
the Apple I and only work on the Apple II."
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
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
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."
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.
is in the room finishing BASIC. He's using the hotel T.V." said
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!"
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.
Jobs said was, "Thanks, I think we better get back to the room to
see how Woz is doing."
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.
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
this point Jobs decided that they needed help with marketing,
advertising, and public relations. Asking around
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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."
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.
of a sudden my wife stopped and exclaimed, "My God! Steve Jobs in a
looked at her and smiled, the very picture of
sartorial perfection. "Hello, Dede, you
sure know how to humble a fellow."
was never anything humble about Steve Jobs.