Great read, and made me miss my days working on my old NeXT work stations.
Great read, and made me miss my days working on my old NeXT work stations.
This was an incredible read. You've lived quite the life. I'll have to check out more about Bill Atkinson. I wonder what sort of neuroscience he worked on?
Great series of posts, Chris! At Microsoft, we used to say that “the #1 feature is shipping”. It wasn’t always good for customers, but it sure did let msft exploit their user base to quickly learn and develop a decent product.
it always amazes me what it takes for things to happen good and bad.
If this didn’t happen this wouldn’t have happened. Almost at times like there is some sort of design going on in the universe.
Fascinating. Tangentially, Intel saved the X86 architecture (boosting it 10x, 100x, etc.) after DIGITAL had asked them to "analyze" its breakthrough MicroPrism (aka DEC Alpha) chip for "second sourcing" at Intel's state-of-the-art FABs. The dishonesty of lifting that IP to "rescue" the X86 led to a legal settlement wherein Intel consented to purchase DEC's Hudson plant, that included not just the Alpha's chips, but also the StrongARM chips. (Old money on both boards and that's the way they handle scandals.) Chris' testimonial makes me believe that more people besides Andy Grove at Intel knew that the X86 was being "rescued" in this way...
I totally agree with Steve about Gassée, convinced there was an Amiga 1000 in the basement of One Infinite Loop fueling all of that period's innovations (GfxBase->QuickDrawGX, ARexx->AppleScript, Speech->PlainTalk, etc..) sustaining an unbelievable amount of politics much to Bill Gates' delight.
I still believe it or not resell NeXT Computers , 25 years plus , my first day of work at Alembic Systems reselling 3rd party products and NeXT hardware ; NeXT shut down their hardware production line February 9, 1993 , everyone took it as an omen and after all these years later I'm still here ! Best Regards Rob Blessin
I notice this article is near the top of Hacker News today. An amazing thing happened since I wrote it: a documentary about General Magic came out that has been the #1 documentary on iTunes for weeks, and one of the few documentaries included in in-flight entertainment. I'm in it but the filmmakers who made it tricked me a little and asked me tough questions, which were the ones that made the film. It's okay, I love the filmmakers and the General Magic team, and Steve seemed inspired by using our device when he produced the iPhone.
I also wrote about General Magic and it went to the top of Hacker News for almost a full day:
BeOS probably would have been popular with devs. The CLI in BeOS had all of the usual *nix tools. They used Bash as their shell, and GCC as their compiler. MacOS being a commercially supported Unix desktop is the big draw, at least for me anyway.
Thanks for the history lesson. I am going to watch the General Magic movie.
Thanks! I gave a TEDx talk last month and the second half is a Steve Story:
I signed up to your service to say thank you. The post was enjoyable to read but the Ted Talk broke me. You are incredible. Thank you.
I was the Intel FAE calling on NeXT who set up the meeting between Steve and Andy. I loved reading this recollection of those days from your perspective. We had gone in hoping to close you guys on the 860, but Andy wisely realized that was a dead end and calmly mentioned that we had a 100 MHz 486 running in the labs. Steve turned to Rich Page and asked what that would be like in Vax MIPs. When Rich gave a number that Steve liked, the 45 minute meeting stretched to 5 hours, resulting in having me put together a mockup of a NeXT PC in black. I have a long version of this same story in my book Nerd Story (on Amazon).
One other aspect of this meeting that changed the industry and my subsequent place in it was an offhand comment Steve made to Andy at the end of the meeting: "You aught to check out Rambus. They have some interesting ideas about memory. " I ended up being the JEDEC chairman driving the DDR specification to fight back against Intel and Rambus' attempt to take over the memory industry.
!!!!! I was hoping when I wrote this story that the guy from Intel who picked up the phone when I called would discover it. Dunno if you are him and I didn't know about your book, but I bought it after you posted and already got sucked in:
Grove Meets Jobs
Ironically, as things worked out, I believe I might have been present at the beginning of the Rambus War. My partner and I had been calling on NeXT Computer for years, slowly building up our relationship there. Steve Jobs, the president of the company, used to drop in on our meetings often, take control of the meeting, and mesmerize us with his off the cuff oratory that, because of his incredible speaking skills, sounded like prepared speeches. I had come to respect Steve Jobs as the single most charismatic man I would ever meet.
The second most charismatic man I’ve met is Andy Grove, who at that time was the president of Intel. Not as smooth as Jobs, but with a depth of intelligence and insight that is impressive to watch in action. I was thrilled when we had built the relationship with NeXT to the point where Andy would join us on a sales call. Somehow, these two highly influential men had never met before that day.
Andy and Steve hit it off right away, both being...
You are so right about Steve's gift, his reality distortion field as those of us who worked for him described it. But he worked at it harder than any man I've ever heard of:
Awesome of you to weigh in! 👏👏👏
Yes, Chris, I recognized your name, too. I was indeed the other half on this bit of history. A friend sent me a link to your posting. You might get another smile from this bit of swag that I've kept on my shelf all these years...
So great to reconnect all these years later! When I write these stories I wonder how good my recollection really is and it's great to talk with people who were really there to hear their perspectives. I always remembered how kind you and Andy were to us when it felt like we were desperately trying to keep the doors open.
I spent some time working with Steve's other disastrous failure — Pixar — and I'm dying to write about what changed in Steve as he went from near-certain bankruptcy of both companies to joining the pantheon of Ford and Edison. When I was at NeXT, I watched the other 8 original members that Steve had brought from Apple quit as they lost faith in him. My good friend and former boss, Joanna Hoffman, said she quit because NeXT was all about getting revenge on Scully.
Somewhere along the line, Steve was able to let the terrible way many of them quit go, like my boss at the time Mike Slade. Mike wrote a resignation letter to Steve listing three things Steve had to change to succeed. Two years later, Steve called Mike back, acknowledged he was right, and asked him to help him with Apple. Mike had the idea to build an audio player they named the iPod.
Steve ended up being a lifelong friend of Joanna's and made up with most of the people he once felt betrayed him. I think that was a big key to his turnaround.
What I imagine and have read, is that it was Ed Catmull who told Steve to just focus on great products and let the personal vendettas go. Maybe Andy helped too.
Some years later an extraordinary thing happened: a black man was elected president in America. A journalist asked him why his campaign didn't have the drama of McCain's and Hillary's even though they had more executive experience. His reply was it was his philosophy of focusing on the mission instead of personal grievance or personal ambition, because focusing on the mission was the best way to satisfy the other two.
I wonder if Ed told Steve something like that. 👆
I still believe it or not resell NeXT Computers , 27 years plus , my
first day of work at Alembic Systems reselling 3rd party products and
NeXT hardware ; NeXT shut down their hardware production line February
9, 1993 , everyone took it as an omen and after all these years later
I'm still here !
It is cool to hear the story from the topside :)
Garrett Rice transitioned from Alembic to OpensSource then to NeXT and onto Apple .
I was the very last guy still selling NeXTSTEP and Openstep for NeXT on the planet fun job for me , NeXT's focus was on WebObject's so they sent all the small and academic customers my way. Garrett was our contact at NeXT and Max Pollard our tech and myself had the conversation about how NeXT should talk to Apple as they were courting BE.
I wrote this on December 10, 1996 spot on.... NeXT and Apple a logical fit http://www.nextcomputers.org/forums/index.php?topic=3671.msg20906#msg20906
It happened , I had a what did you do lol at work... Alembic which eventually settled on the name Optimal Object set to close there doors 2 weeks later. I tried to convince them it was a good thing , you have to realize Apple was in a tail spin and NeXT was struggling for identity. Steve Jobs will turn it around , me the "crazy one" , is laid off for 4 hours. People are calling for you , do you want to take over 3rd party product sales. Yes, then a call from Apple do you want to handle all sales of NeXTSTEP an Openstep for us , yes.... I had already had my company Black Hole , Incorporated going for about 8 month's reselling NeXT black hardware kicking back to Optimal. I'll write a book as well.
So I'm blackholeinc.com , fairly sure I have the world's longest running web blog as we were first on the web thanks to one of my customers Tim Berner's Lee . I'm computerpowow on eBay and one of the NeXT forum sysadmins at nextcomputers.org , feel free to join up if you have a NeXT.
If you are interested you can see hundreds of the NeXTcomputer projects , I've done for customers at my youtube.com/robblessin channel. If if you don't buy from me and you have a NeXT computer you would like to get back up and running we can help !
We even have a free homebrew NeXT 68K emulator called previous you can run on Mac and PC's . Fun stuff and once more a great article !
I'm proud owner of NeXT Cube #4
Best Regards Rob Blessin