The early days of Apple Computer, Inc.

Filed under: People

2017 marks quite a few big anniversaries for Apple.
While most news outlets and users celebrated the first 10 years of the iPhone, on January 3 longtime Apple employee Chris Espinosa reminded us that forty years ago, Apple was incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc.

The April 1, 1976 date which many remember was Apple’s first and acerbic incarnation, when Jobs, Woz, and Ron Wayne formed the Apple Computer Company as a partnership.
Nine months later, backed by Mike Markkula’s venture capital financing (plus his experience, contacts and credibility), and with Ron Wayne gone, Apple was reborn as a corporation, growing enormously in the following years, making personal computing a reality, revolutionizing multiple industries and becoming a giant of the market.

40 years ago Apple also got its first real offices, moving from the Steve Jobs’ parents’ house and garage to 20863 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite B3-C, also know as “Good Earth”, from the name of a restaurant which was in the same building.
The Stevens Creek Blvd space was later instrumental in at least two groundbreaking projects. When Apple moved to a bigger location, it was used by the team working on the Lisa when it had fewer than ten employees, and in 1980 by Jef Raskin’s supersmall team (initially just four people!) toiling on the Macintosh project.

As Espinosa recounts, when Wozniak got the key, in early january, the space Apple leased was still empty, and just had carpeting on the left side for the office work and linoleum on the right for the engineering.
So, what did Wozniak do? He called up his friends (and early Apple employees) Espinosa and Randy Wiggington and invited them to come over to play a game of tag/dodgeball!
You see, there was one thing in the new Apple offices: a series of Bell 2565HK five-line phones, wired to a Centrex telephone exchange system.
A lover of technology and jokes, Woz concocted a game where each player would take a phone, start with it on-hook and then try to dial each others’ extension. To redial one had to hang up, leaving himself open to the other’s attacks. If someone got rung five times he was out. They played that game for an hour, and then went to a restaurant down the street.
The next day desks, bookcases and lab benches were delivered and the space was occupied by marketing and other clerical workers on one side (on the carpet) and engineering and manifacturing on the other (on linoleum).
It was time to begin to promote, assemble and sell Apple IIs, and work on the next products.

When someone commented to Espinosa that Apple was born “because one guy was a technical genius and another guy saw the future.” he promptly added “and a third guy had the money and knew how to get more and a fourth guy knew how to run a company and a fifth guy knew analog power…” pointing out that from the start (its real start as a company), Apple had already attracted a formidable combination of people. Some of them are well-known, and some are not.
Here’s a partial list of early Apple execs and employees, starting from the “guys” mentioned by Espinosa.

Wozniak and Jobs were supported by Mike Markkula, i.e. “the guy who had the money” (and knew how to get more) and steered by Mike Scott, i.e. “the guy who knew how to run a company”, helped on the technical side by Rod Holt, who Jobs hired from Atari and who was the “fifth guy who knew analog power”.
We should probably add to this list a few names, such as Bill Fernandez, instrumental in making Woz and Jobs meet and also Apple’s tech jack of all trades; Dan Kottke, who assembled, tested and built Apple computers; Chris Espinosa, who used to be in testing and then wrote the first real user manual for the Apple II; and Randy Wigginton, who rewrote BASIC for the Apple II.

But let’s not forget less famous but important figures in the early growth of Apple such as accountant Gary Martin, Jobs’s right hand Sherry Livingston, Apple’s first European sales manager Andre Sousan, office manager Sue Cabannis, engineer Elmer Baum, hardware technician Don Bruener and last but not least Mark Johnson and Robert Martinengo, who assembled hundreds of Apple IIs and boxed them up for UPS.

Friday 30 June 2017, 1:00 pm
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