‘We made that day like a rock concert’: the launch of the Apple IIc

John Sculley, 78, remembers the early days of Apple, 24 April 1984

The first time I drove out to Silicon Valley, it was 1982 and I had no idea where I was going. The place was mainly still homes. Apple was based in a handful of converted houses and tilt-ups. There was a one-storey building where they’d started designing the Macintosh. It had a Bösendorfer piano inside and a pirate flag on the roof.

Steve Jobs was in jeans when I arrived. He’d co-founded the company in 1976 and wanted to be the CEO but the board had refused. He was 26, and Apple had $550m in revenue. The board said there needed to be someone more experienced in charge. That’s why I was invited; they wanted me to be the adult supervision.

I didn’t take the job immediately. I was CEO of Pepsi, and that’s not a post you walk away from lightly. But Steve and I became great friends. I was 16 years his senior but we’d meet up every weekend in New York or California. That thing about him being ultra-charismatic is true. He was magnetic. And he was insistent I join Apple. Eventually, he talked me round. He said he was going to change the world, and I knew he would.

This picture of Steve, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and me was taken at the launch of the Apple IIc – essentially the world’s first compact computer. It was revolutionary: you could call it an early notebook.

The launch itself was at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. We didn’t want it to be the same old predictable industry showcase. Those kinds of events were OK for IBM but said nothing about what Apple was. As a company, we felt we were different. We were creative and countercultural; as much about design – making beautiful things – as technology. And, at our helm, we had two geniuses who embodied that ethos: young, aspirational, forward-thinking.

So we made that day like a rock concert: exciting and edgy. We installed giant video screens and commissioned a song. We sent out beautiful invites. About 2,000 people came: press, dealers, industry. If you think of an iPhone launch today, this was the blueprint.

Two things stand out. The first is that we gave away about 1,000 IIcs. We planted people in the audience and, after the on-stage reveal, they stood up and handed out the computers. Within seconds of it going live, people had one in their hands. The buzz was tremendous.

The second thing was an earthquake. The epicentre was in Morgan Hill but it shook the whole centre. It lasted only a few seconds, but there was a lot of joking about how Apple launched a new device and the world moved.

Not long after this, the two Steves left the company. Woz and I have remained great friends. But the other Steve and I had our differences over the direction of Apple and, when he resigned, he blamed me. We went from being so close we could finish one another’s sentences to not speaking. That hurt.

But I think that period away was good for him. I left Apple in 1993 having built the company into an $8.3bn revenue business. By 1997, it was struggling. Steve returned as CEO and saved it.

I’m not sure he could have done that without the maturity that came with those 12 years out. It was a happy ending for him, for me and for Apple.

• Are you in a notable photograph? Email thatsme@theguardian.com


Colin Drury

The GuardianTramp

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