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    • Part 4: It's funny how formal we were back then. Steve and I both showed up at the show in dark suits and white shirts. We thought that corporate IT heads were the buyers for our machines and we had to dress the part. I remember pitching NeXT machines to JP Morgan in their board room, and everyone including me was in a pin-striped banker's suit.

      One Saturday I was at work when we got a delivery at the front door. I went down to sign for it and it was case after case of white shirts that Steve had ordered from his favorite tailor in Florence, Italy, where he had spent the week. He loved hanging out in art museums. My memory could well be off, but I remembered it as 300 new white shirts. He wanted a new one each time he dressed up.

    • Part 5: Steve had paid Paul Rand $100,000 to design the NeXT logo during the time Steve envisioned NeXT as a computer for education. He wanted to attract students and schools. The logo was tilted from the vertical at 28 degrees.

      At Unix Expo, Steve wanted his presentation desk to be turned at 28 degrees to the audience and the keyboard and monitor to be turned at 28 degrees to the desk. We brought a protractor to get the angles right. He also wanted a clear vase to the right of his mouse with a single red rose in it.

      I think for Steve this was performance art. His desk was in the middle of the stage and would be lit with a spotlight as if he were playing the piano. Someone would give an intro from the front of the stage, Steve would be behind the stage, and then a spotlight would follow him as he took his place at the desk.

      At about 7 minutes to showtime, with 4,000 seats ready, people were pushing at the doors. I said something then I've reflected back on 1,000 times that I wish I hadn't: "Steve, just to make sure, you're not demoing Lotus Improv, right? I don't think Lotus would like that."

      Steve had been testy and and some people had warned me that right before going on he's wound up and anything could happen. He said something like, "Then you do the demo!" And he left.

      I had seen this once before where he bailed on a demo at the last minute for a crowd of 700. The blood drained from my body as I ran through the demo I'd have to do in a few minutes, and what I would tell the audience.

    • Part 6: I told the show organizer to wait, not let people in at 1:00 as planned, but to give us a few more minutes. No matter who demoed in place of Steve, this was going to be a crushing disappointment. Nobody that I've heard of has ever been able to demo like him. And he was still a celebrity then.

      At something like 7 minutes after 1:00, we let them in. The show organizer had been right: people were lined up around the block and we couldn't take them all. They were rabid Steve fans. As I watched that audience pour in and thought about breaking the news that Steve wasn't able to do the demo, I wanted to vomit.

      But somehow I glanced behind the curtain where Steve would have entered and there he was. He smiled and I didn't have to say anything except "ready?" He nodded.

      He took the stage and I took a reserved seat on the front row. I was pretty much shaking, my hands were clammy, and I felt sick. I was worried about his machine crashing, worried about apps that weren't fully baked, worried about hecklers.

      And then Steve showed why he was Steve Jobs. He had the crowd adoring everything he said, even though I knew where the exaggerations were.

      30 minutes in, he looked at me and gave one of his mischievous smiles we all miss so much, then looked at the crowd and asked, "Who wants to see the most revolutionary spreadsheet ever developed?!" 4,000 hands immediately went up high. Steve looked back at me with a big grin.

    • Peter Drucker, the famed business book author, gave the advice that you should always hire for strengths, not absence of weakness. Steve had so many weaknesses. Sometimes it seemed like he could see what nobody else could, but he couldn't see the obvious that everyone could see.

      But those strengths. I don't know where they all came from. Intensity? Drive? Quickness? Passion? A deep frustration with anything that wasn't insanely great? All of them?

    • Amazing story.

      I wasn't lucky enough to ever meet or work with Steve, but one thing I've seen during my time in the tech industry is that there are a lot of people who try to emulate him. Unfortunately it's a lot easier to emulate Steve's weaknesses than his strengths, so the result is that some people are just whiny entitled jerks without much else to offer.

      The thing that always impresses me when I read about Steve is that he allowed people to convince him he was wrong. He was a stubborn jerk about it, but if smart people argued with him strenuously enough, he would listen and eventually (sometimes) come around. I think that's where a lot of his magic was.

    • Thanks for sharing, Chris! Awesome story! It's really neat you got to know Steve Jobs in such an up close and personal way. My dad's company was responsible for making the chips that went between the memory and microprocessor for the first geration of iMac and iBook in the late 1990s. He saw more of the ruthless side of Steve Jobs, haha.

    • As a matter of fact, my dad's company was actually in some hot water because a distributor of the chip was delaying production. Steve Jobs didn't hold back, calling my dad and a few other guys a certain obscene name. They got themselves jackets to commemorate this special name, putting stars on their jackets for each time Steve Jobs called them that name. My dad was part of the 4-star club, lol.

    • That's so funny. 😁We had a certain dark humor about that and wore it as a badge of honor too.

      One of my friends & coworkers at the time, David Grady, read this thread and responded with this email. I print it by permission:

      :-) excellent! 

      My favorite Steve story is Improv centric. In its beta it came up on the screen as what I started calling the simplest form of spreadsheet life, a one-celled spreadsheet. He’d talked them into demoing at NeXTworld but they were nervous about that one celled thing so they showed it to him coming up as a 10 by 10 array. He literally left the floor. 

      “NO!!! If you want people to do something different you have to pull them through the pain of making the change! Want to see the scars here? (reached across his body to point at his left shoulder blade) no letter quality printer for the Mac! Want to see the scars here? (other arm other shoulder blade) no cursor keys on the Mac. Why do you think we made it a cube?

      Because it looks different!!!”

      I still miss his presence in the world.

    • I can’t even imagine the fear of something happening with the machine. Everytime I do a keynote I am petrified of something going wrong and sometimes it does.

      Back then it must have been terrifying.

    • Using the track pad now, I have 1 button or no buttons depending on how you count. Most people would know know that a proper mouse in 1988/89 was supposed to have 3 buttons. Some 'really important' things turn to dust which no one can even remember.

    • Oh my God, Baker, that traumatized me for life. That's the audience of 700 I was referring to, where Scott Abel had to be SJ for the demo. I think he was sweating, but he did a great job.

      Ralph told me that day that it was nice to meet me but if the IBM relationship didn't go well, it was nice knowing you.

      Let's tell that story.

    • It was Mark that has to deliver the presentation. He called from the plane in SJ Airport to say Steve failed to board.

      As I am really new to Cake, you tell me how best to back up your fine storytelling.

      I am living in London these days so signing off for the night.

    • Thanks for sharing this great story. When I met Steve at a client meeting at NeXT ~91, I spent my 5 minutes complaining about NeXTstep’s UUCP implementation. I was truly a forward thinker.