Today’s the 27th anniversary of the Apple/NeXT merger, and instead of my annual rehashing of what that was like, you can just read what I wrote up for the 25th Anniversary.
So here’s a slightly different Apple/NeXT memory.
I really knew nothing about the Mac growing up. Although Dad had bought an Apple II, I never really even touched a Mac, not even in university.
(I do remember one other grad student who was using his Mac to write his thesis, while the rest of us were using LaTeX or troff or some other Unix command line formatting thing on the mighty Vax 11/780, which proved we were REAL computer scientists. Oh, how we laughed at Terry, trying to write his thesis on that Mac toy. Of course he got the last laugh, he finished his work about a year quicker than I did.)
In 1995 or so while working for Steve Jobs at NeXT, we had some sort of a sales contest. If your region hit 120% of its quota, you’d win a big-screen TV.
Our region did OK, and I did not particularly want a 1995-era big screen TV – which would have been some giant rear-projection thing in a huge cabinet – so I bravely asked the NeXT sales VP, “Can I get a Mac instead? I hear they’re kind of interesting. And we’ve got a two year old here and there are some educational games etc etc” and the VP said, “Sure.”
So, NeXT bought me a Performa 5200CD, which had a place of honour on our kitchen breakfast nook for years.
We had a lot of fun with that computer, even though I have since read that architecturally, it was one of the worst Macs. But what did I know? We hooked up a Microsoft EasyBall to it – a giant trackball, the size and colour of a grapefruit – and spent many happy days playing classics from Humongous like Backyard Baseball, or Freddy Fish, or Putt-Putt, or my favourite, Let’s Explore the Airport, with Buzzy the Knowledge Bug.
Buzzy would explore the airport, and you got to operate baggage conveyor belts and try to steer bags to the right destination.
update: holy cow there is a full 90 minute walkthrough of this game, and now I am getting superextranostalgic watching it – here’s part of the baggage handling game –
Of course this machine didn’t have Wifi, nothing did back then, but I managed to string an Ethernet cable from my office upstairs to the kitchen, thinking “It’d be nice if I could print from this Mac to my NeXT printer upstairs How hard can that be? It’s just a Unix print queue”
Well, interoperability was not exactly the Mac’s strong point back then.
I think I dropped a couple of hundred bucks on some sort of Mac print spooler package that was supposed to let you print to a Unix printer and never could quite get it to work.
I spent a lot of time futzing with that.
My wife, trying to be helpful, would say “Why don’t we just buy another printer and connect it to the Mac directly?”
because that would not be FUN, that’s why.
I don’t think I can quite spin this story as “Steve Jobs bought me my first Mac”, although it was Steve’s VP Marty Yam who did, but anyway, architecture be damned, my kids and I had a lot of fun with that Mac, and I started to think the odd positive thought about Apple, and a year later, Apple acquired me and 400 other NeXT employees.
Happy anniversary. Especially to the handful of us NeXT folks who are still here at Apple.