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When Steve Jobs Was a`Joker': Echoes

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By Leslie Berlin

In June 1976, Steve Jobs went looking for someone to print the manual for the Apple I computer, the first product from the company he had started with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne a few months earlier. Jobs's friend Regis McKenna, the head of Silicon Valley's premier advertising and public relations firm, suggested he contact Mike Rose, who ran a small advertising agency in Los Altos, California.

After speaking with Jobs on the phone, Rose was leery. He wrote a short note to his business partner, warning him that young Mr. Jobs would be in touch. That note, which Rose donated to the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford in 1998, is reproduced here.

"They are 2 guys -- they build kits -- operate out of a garage," Rose wrote. "Sounds flakey. Watch it!"

The note is wonderful in part because it reveals how much Silicon Valley has changed in 35 years. In 1976, two guys trying to launch a tech company from a garage in the heart of Silicon Valley were flakes. Today, someone in Rose's position might well ask for a piece of the action -- payment in the form of a small bit of stock, perhaps?

The note also shows us that in some ways, the 21-year-old Jobs was not too different from the man he later became. Jobs may have struck Rose as a "joker," but the young entrepreneur is concerned about secrecy ("Wouldn't trust me," Rose writes) and drives a hard bargain ("wants it for nothing").

In the end, Jobs rejected Rose's bid as too high and went on to have a typesetter handle production of the Apple I manual. That manual, too, shows how much has changed in 35 years. On the cover, the company was called Apple Computer, not Apple. The logo was not the famous fruit with a missing bite, but an elaborate illustration, drawn by Wayne, depicting Isaac Newton reading a book -- reading a book! -- beneath an apple tree. A quote from William Wordsworth encircles the drawing: "A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought -- alone."

And the product described in the manual's 12 pages, although advanced for its day, is far from the elegant, user-friendly device associated with Apple today. The manual includes schematics and instructions for a test to run upon starting the machine: Step Two: "Type- 0 : A9 b 0 b AA b 20 b EF b EF b FF b E8 b 8A b 4C b 2 b 0 (RET)."

And then there's the description of the computer itself: "The Apple Computer is fully assembled, tested, and burned in. The only external devices necessary for operation of the system are: An ASCII encoded keyboard, a video display monitor, and AC power sources of 8 to 10 Volts (RMS) @ 3 amps and 28 Volts (RMS) @ 1 amp."

(Leslie Berlin is the project historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University and the author of "The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley." The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this blog post: Leslie Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this blog post: Timothy Lavin at


-0- Dec/21/2011 21:33 GMT

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