In early 1985 I got a call from Clement Mok at Apple Computer to prepare some materials for the upcoming Apple Computer World Wide Sales Conference being held that year in San Diego. The theme if I remember right was “Bluebusters”. Earlier in 1984 the Macintosh had been released, and had already attracted an avid group of Mac users. IBM, known as Big Blue was considered the enemy, they were everything Apple wasn’t. Big, formal, structured and very corporate. Apple was more like being on college campus, in fact that is how they described their headquarters as a campus. I visited with Clement and he gave me visuals from the Mac, the Lisa (remember that), Apple 11 and other Apple images, and I went off and decided to make a video to a song that was popular at the time called Ghostbusters.
Normally, when I made these pieces there was applause, a buzz of conversation, then the CEO came on stage and everyone cheered. In San Diego the response was very different, when it started to play the entire room began dancing, singing and yelling. They asked to replay it three times so they could dance harder and sing louder. I had never witnessed employees having so much unrestrained fun. At the end of the evening a guy introduced as Steve came up to thank me, he was dressed in casual formal attire, is the best way to describe it. I got asked back again in 1986 to the meeting at Boca Raton, and in 1987 they flew me from Paris to Maui. In that time things had changed, the free spirited yelling of 1985 was now more formal, there was a tension in the air. Apple had grown and Wall Street wanted the kids to grow up. They brought in John Scully, from Pepsi, soon the Mac had a new line of branded computers 512, Classic Plus etc but the magic was gone, some of the best employees were leaving, this was not what they signed on for, and then so had Steve Jobs.
I remember doing a video conference after he left at their HQ in Cupertino, now no longer a campus but an office, it was just that a job, before working with them was fun and stimulating. A year later an old friend Alex Fitz called me, he was the Communications Manager at a new company called NeXt, started by Steve Jobs. They wanted me to do something for an opening party. Their offices were modest, informal, like earlier at Apple, there seemed to be no pecking order, most wore jeans and worked in a collegial and democratic manner. There were not a lot of people at the opening maybe 80 guests, but I do remember one thing vividly. I had brought along some computer graphics work done by artists out of UCLA and Cal Arts and put it up on the screens while people were arriving.
Soon little groups were forming around the monitors, I was surprised they knew the names of some of the work like “Sunstone”, I was even more surprised that they knew exactly how it was made and were having involved conversations about the work. Interesting, I thought, so I then put on some work by a video artist called Nam June Paik. He is considered one of the founders of Video Art, known only to an elite group of Art aficionados, museum curators, the sort of people that would be invited to parties held by Yoko Ono or John Cage in New York.
To my surprise the people at the opening party at NeXt knew about Nam June Paik, TVTV and all these other esoteric artists. I thought at the time, what possible interest could they have in all this stuff to turn an opening party into a discussion of computer graphics and video art. I found out the answer a number of years later it was a company called Pixar. That sums up for me how innovation worked in the mind of Steve Jobs. He inspired people to imagine the possibilities even at an opening party, he knew how to make work something fun and challenging.
Peter Doyle is an award winning media marketing, news and documentary producer using rich media to accelerate innovation and commercialization. Check me out at http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterjdoyle