Perhaps best known as the guy who introduced Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Fernandez speaks out on Apple’s founding magic, how love built the first Mac, and the interface of the future.
The Apple II got there first. It was the Wright Flyer I of personal computers.When the Wright brothers made their historic first flight in 1903, lots of other inventors were trying to fling their own shoddy little planes into the air. And in 1977, when Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple II, there were a zillion other nerds working on building a personal computer.
But Woz beat them to it, and Jobs knew how to sell it.The Apple II was the product that turned Apple into Apple. It was the iPhone of its era, the product that redefined every machine like it that came afterward.Its real magic was Wozniak’s minimalism. He integrated many technologies and components that no one else had put together in the same device, and he did it with as few parts as possible. It was, as Wozniak wrote in his autobiography, “the first low-cost computer which, out of the box, you didn’t have to be a geek to use.
“But as genius as Wozniak was, the Apple II almost didn’t make it out of his brain and into a product that the rest of the world could use.Daniel Kottke, one of Apple’s first dozen employees, said, “[In 1976] the Apple II did not even work. Woz’s prototype worked. But when they laid it out as a circuit board, it did not work reliably… It was unacceptable. And Woz did not have the skills to fix that… But, it was even worse than that. They did not even have a schematic.”
Newly funded by investors, Apple had just hired Rod Holt as the company’s first engineering chief, and this was one of the big problems that Holt walked into when he took the job. At the time Woz’s Apple II prototype was a bunch of wires and chips in a cardboard shoebox. The tiny Apple team had to take this amazing concept machine and turn it into a product that could be manufactured and sold in stores.So Holt handed the first task to Apple technician Bill Fernandez.