Half my life at Apple and NeXT

Well, I just turned 64. So half my life ago, I was 32, in September of 1991. And in September of 1991, I started work at NeXT, which then merged into Apple in 1996.

So I’ve been doing this job – with great delight! – for half my life. (I figured out the actual day when I’d spent half my life here; it was a few days ago, I won’t bore you with the calendar math.)

I had been working at Indiana University, and bought a NeXT Cube workstation for $11,000. I was fascinated with this computer. A Unix machine, with a great graphical interface, amazing built in sound, awesome object-oriented developer tools, and it’s only $11,000 with the academic discount? I’ll buy one!

Me and my NeXT Cbue

That’d be a much younger me, and my brand new NeXT cube in my Bloomington, Indiana apartment (and in the background is an Atari 520ST. It was my previous favourite thing that I think never got turned on again after I got the NeXT cube.

Of course, I still have that NeXT cube. The watch on my wrist is its direct descendant – it’s running sort of the same operating system, using sort of the same developer tools, and it’s a better computer by almost any measurement. That NeXT cube was the ancestor of everything Apple makes today.

IMG 0754

So anyway, Indiana was swell but eventually I wanted to move back to Canada, so not knowing anything about sales or anything, I asked the local rep Pat Wootan if, by any chance, did NeXT have an office in Canada and would they have any use for someone like me?

Turns out, yes! There was a sales office in Toronto consisting of a whole two people, and one of them (the “Systems Engineer”, whatever that meant) was leaving, so Pat put me in touch with Phil Hume (the “Account Executive”) and a chain of interviews started.

NeXT flew me out to Redwood City, California, and I remember a theme during the interviews. Multiple people asked me “Wait – you paid $11,000 for a Cube? Did nobody tip you off that a cheaper, faster, $2,000 NeXTStation was about to ship? Geez, I’m sorry. Maybe we can make it up to you by hiring you.” And they did, and I started in September 1991.

Here I am now, half my life put into this job. 32 years of wonder, of fascination with new technology, of nagging impostor syndrome that I still don’t really understand a lot of it, and of excitement about what comes next.

So what were YOU doing half your life ago?


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