Bill Fernandez describes himself as an “User Interface Architect” but he is much, much more. Being one of the first employees he has contributed immensely to Apple’s growth and development in various areas and has helped in the development of the Apple I, II and of course of the Macintosh.
We contacted him and he graciously and provided us with answers to our questions, covering in the process quite a big chunk of Apple’s history and also revealing interesting tidbits about his contribution to some well-known products, for which we thank him.
Stories of Apple: At Apple you worked as a hardware engineer, software developer, interface designer, project manager. Would you tell us more in detail a bit about all of your various roles?
Bill Fernandez: Shortly after Woz and Jobs incorporated Apple as a formal company they hired me as an Electronic Technician. Initially I worked in the garage of the Jobs family home where Steve’s dad had set up some workbenches for us. Later we moved into our first office on Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino, CA, and then to our first Apple building on Bandley Drive, also in Cupertino. Over that time period I did a wide variety of technical tasks to assist and augment the efforts of the engineers and managers we werer rapidly hiring. For example:
- I ran a lot of errands.
- I built a burn-in box for the Apple I circuit boards (we’d put a dozen computer boards in a box that kept them hot while running so as to force any that were likely to fail early in their lives to fail in the first couple of days so we could fix them and insure that they’d be reliable once we shipped them).
- I drew the first complete schematic of the Apple II on drafting vellum so that we could make blueprint copies for everyone that needed them.
- When we received the first printed circuit boards for the Apple II, I assembled the first one.
- I built a burn-in box for the Apple II circuit boards.
- I modified a TV set to accept direct input from an Apple II.
- I taught Jobs how to use super glue to attach a speaker to the Apple II base plate (the secret is to use an extremely thin coating of the glue).
- And lots of other things.
After about a year and a half I left Apple, then returned in October of 1981 to become about the fifteenth member of the Macintosh development team, and stayed at Apple for the next twelve years.
Happily, I was given my old employee number (number 4), and my new title was “Member of Technical Staff”. Again I was a general technical resource and jack-of-all-trades, but this time at a higher level.
My role shifted as the needs of the group evolved. I laid out the floorplan for the first dedicated Macintosh building and coordinated our move into it. I kept the engineering lab stocked with tools, parts, and equipment. I managed a technician.
When we needed someone to oversee the development of the first external disk drive I became the project manager for that product, managing all the engineering work, travelling to Japan to work with Sony, working with the plastic molding company and so forth.
The first 50000 Apple IIgs were released in a special “Woz” limited edition which had identical hardware but featured the signature of Steve Wozniak on the front right corner of the case.
The owners of this edition were also mailed back a personal letter from the Apple cofounder and a “Certificate of Authenticity” which was signed by Wozniak and twelve key Apple employees.
While Wozniak need no introduction, I think it’s important to pay a homage to the other names, which had a substantial role in the most powerful and ambitious incarnation of the Apple II line.
The full list of names I managed to transcribe (and check) is: John K. Medica, Dan Hillman, Nancy Stark, Adam Grosser, Robin (?) Moore, Don Porter, Harvey Lehtman, Fern Bachman, Curtis G. Sasaki, Jim Jatczynski, Eagle I. Berns, Jay Rickard.
Here is some background information on some of the names.
Codenamed “Centossa”, the Apple IIsi was the swan song of the Apple II line: dating back to the first half of 1988 and envisioned as an heir of the IIgs.
The Apple IIsi predates the Mac IIsi with whom it shares not only the name but also some form elements and is probably one of the lesser known Apple products of the Eighties. Its mastermind is Jean-Louis Gassèe, head of R&D after Jobs departure and it si just one of the many projects which were started after the successful launch of the Mac II in 1987.
The industrial design of Apple IIsi is of course heavily based on the form factor of the Apple IIgs for hardware reasons, but also shines on its own, thanks to the work of Ken Wood and Robert Brunner of the Palo Alto studio Lunar Design. In fact this was proably one of the jobs that helped Brunner later becoming the head of a reformed Apple IDG (Industrial Design Group), envisioning new guidelines and a brand new direction after the frogdesign era.
Nota: l’intervista è disponibile anche in una versione tradotta in italiano su Storie di Apple.it
At the MOCA2008 “hacker camp” in Italy I had the pleasure to meet and speak with John T. Draper. Draper is better known as Captain Crunch a man whose work and life are deeply intertwined with the history of hacking, phreaking and the personal computer industry.
Here’s the transcription of the short chat we had, which verged mostly on his interactions with Apple, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs and also his use of Macs.
Stories of Apple: What’s the story behind you doing the Apple II phone board?
John Draper: Let’s start talking a bit about how I met Steve Wozniak. [...] He contacted me when I was a DJ at KKUP radio. He asked whether or not I could come down and see his bluebox. He wanted me to show him how to use it. I was very suspicious of him. It was at a time during which there was a lot of busts going on and I thought this might have been a setup.
So I made my arrangements to go see him without having anything on me and illegal things not being there. When I saw him he showed me the bluebox: I was not impressed.
The problem with this bluebox was that it had a square wave instead of a sine wave: the tones are not pure, They sound crappy and anybody using one of those Woz’s blueboxes would often drop a trouble card in the switch because the switch wouldn’t recognize tones and wouldn’t accept them.
[...] As my relationship with him grew [...] he introduced me to Steve Jobs. (more…)