Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Feb. 1, 2023

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Everybody Has a Story: Two unknown geeks in a garage

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I have always enjoyed being anonymous. Book reports in front of my fourth-grade class: yuk. Piano recitals: awful. Public speaking of any ilk: apoplexy.

So I just loved it when I found myself reporting behind the scenes in the mid-1970s about the growing hobby computer revolution. The hobby group called The Southern California Computer Society transformed its quarterly newsletter into a magazine called Interface Age, which took me on as editor. Now the entire country was in on the dialogue, including Bill Gates. The conversation was about what the future of hobby computing would lead to and how it would get there.

As time went on I became a freelancer for other computing magazines, one of which was called Kilobaud. The editor, John Craig, gave me monthly assignments to interview entrepreneurs and write product descriptions and reviews. One of those assignments sent me to the Bay Area to cover a startup called Apple Computer.

I flew up on a chilly Wednesday, and was picked up by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a little red pickup. My travel bag was tossed into the truck bed and off we went to a restaurant for lunch and conversation about Apple history and philosophy, which I tape-recorded. (No clue where that is now.)

These guys didn’t even have a business location. After lunch we went to one of their homes — not inside the house — inside the garage where I was shown Woz’s engineered circuit board electronically strung to a small TV. A few demos were provided, followed by Jobs’ explanation of how this innovation would one day take over homes, schools and businesses.

Jobs was animated — he could hardly stand still for all the excitement he felt. For me, it was just another story for the magazine. I took photos of the computer kluge — not of the two Steves. Alas.

As was my style to work behind the scenes, I went on to become a graphic designer (at a drafting table with pens and inks) and copywriter (using an IBM Selectric typewriter), forming the first ad agency for high-tech wannabes. That was so much fun. I hit the ground running every day, trying to help other people to become famous and successful. Then the time came to move on. So I accepted a position with the startup InfoWorld, a newspaper that became a magazine that’s still in publication. That led to starting an advertising data collection service which grew successfully for the next 20 years, and which I sold to a similar New York firm. Ah, retirement at last.

Fast forward to May 2015. I read an article about Apple’s beginnings in Business Insider Magazine. The author invited readers to fill him in on any other history, so I did. As a result, he published an interview with me along with the article I wrote, and fact-checked my story with Steve Wozniak, who in essence said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went.”

“Because the system is really easy to buy and use,” I wrote in 1977, “the system may well be in the homes of several hundred hobbyists within a few months.” How prescient that seems now!

I loved my high-tech career — being at the forefront of the technology revolution was the perfect spot for this entrepreneurial spirit. That budding industry served me well. I hope in some way I also served that industry.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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