My first face-to-face with Steve Jobs

One of my company VPs got the measles in Spring of 1985, and I was sent in his place to a “secret” unveiling of postscript for developers. It took place in Cupertino at Apple HQ. Presenters were Steve Jobs and John Warnock. Jobs gave an incredible demo of postscript (all by entering code; there were no SW applications yet), and he clearly had a visionary “handle” on how PS and the coming birth of DTP would transform our lives.

Most of the audience were programmers from Microsoft and Silicon Valley developers. There was a mild pattering of applause from a crowd who had no idea what a historic shift they were witnessing. I was one of only two people in the room who had a background in typesetting and graphic arts. I then knew how Silent Movie stars felt when they saw their first talking picture.

It was the end of an Era, but the beginning of “everyone’s a publisher” and the eventual free-flow of information that used to required highly trained (and expensive) gate keepers. I had a brief hand shake with Jobs and told him what I thought his LaserWriter and postscript would do to the world. Evidently he kept my biz card because I was contacted a few days later by a member of his entourage, seeking my advice on what to charge for fonts. “We’re thinking of $25 per font FAMILY.” At the time, a single typeface like Helvetica Light Condensed Italic cost $149 from Mergenthaler! I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but I explained that fonts could become a cash cow and that a moderate, but higher price was warranted. ::duh!::  If only fonts WERE that cheap!

There were other encounters with Mr. Jobs over the next 10 years. Although he could seem cool, even rude “off stage” when prepping for a product roll out, once he stepped on stage he was capable of inciting an audience to do anything. I saw him influence people to run out and buy the “NeXT” computer during his hiatus from Apple. (With dual Motorola processors, the cube was slower than molasses, but was sexier than anything on the planet.)

If there was one way to describe Jobs in a historical perspective, it would be as if Nikolai Tesla had Madison Avenue or social networking skills to persuade and engage his potential customers and empower them to embrace a technology that was 10-15 years ahead of his time. And to be fully appreciated for his vision and genius while he was alive.

It’s hard to imagine that he isn’t with us anymore. Although Jobs will still be with us; every time we fit 5,000 songs into our pockets, or read digitally “alive” content via WiFi on something as thin as a clipboard. We may never see the likes of him in this lifetime. But he has influenced 1,000,000s who will follow in his footsteps and never be content with “the way things are.”

Thanks to Jobs, change will always be “the new normal.”

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3 thoughts on “My first face-to-face with Steve Jobs

  1. Well done Max. When I heard the news that Steve Jobs had passed away, I felt the same heaviness in my heart as I experienced the day John F. Kennedy died. We lost another great leader and visionary.

  2. Great note, Max. The man was one of a kind and it’s hard to imagine where the next truly innovative ideas in technology will originate…

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