The Steve Jobs Archive sent this email, which, oddly, I can’t find on its website.
40 years of the Macintosh
When photographer Norman Seeff arrived at Apple’s offices in January 1984, he didn’t know what to expect. An editor at Rolling Stone had told him only that this was a “weird company” full of hippies making computers. Now Seeff, along with reporter Steven Levy, was covering these “whiz kids” as they prepared to launch their latest product—a new machine called Macintosh.
The atmosphere inside the office was a world away from the power suits and perms typical of 1980s corporate America. An expensive Bӧsendorfer grand piano sat in the lobby; employees often played it during breaks. Nearby stood a first-generation Sony CD player hooked up to a gigantic pair of speakers. There were scooters. Pets. Babies. Everyone wore jeans; some even had bare feet.
“It looked like a commune,” says Seeff. “It was so alive.”
The staff had good reason to feel exuberant. The Macintosh aimed to be the first mass-market personal computer that was truly user-friendly. From seeds planted by others, including former Apple manager Jef Raskin and researchers at Xerox PARC and the Stanford Research Institute, this young team had worked around the clock to create a computer that was simple and sophisticated, designed to encourage creativity as much as to enhance productivity. Now they were just days away from launch.
Among the group’s one hundred staff, Seeff saw the small software team joking around in front of the colorful cubicle of designer Susan Kare. He grabbed his Nikon camera and started shooting rapid-fire. The team played along and then—hands on shoulders and knees on backs—assembled themselves into a human pyramid.
“I’m the lightest one, so I ended up on top,” says Rony Sebok, who had joined the Macintosh the previous summer as a software engineer. “It wasn’t a childish group: this was a bunch of mature people, even though we were young. But it was playful.”
Seeff snapped away.
Top to bottom, from left: Rony Sebok, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Owen Densmore, Jerome Coonen, Bruce Horn, Steve Capps, Larry Kenyon, Donn Denman, Tracie Kenyon, and Patti Kenyon.
On top of the pile next to Sebok was Kare, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and jeans: she had designed the system’s fonts and icons, and her smiling Mac logo made the machine feel almost human. There was Bill Atkinson at the center, with his striped sweater, glasses, and mustache: his graphics software was key to making the Macintosh so easy to use. Next to him in a bright red T-shirt was Andy Hertzfeld, a primary architect of its brave new operating system. The pyramid seemed a perfect encapsulation of the wider Macintosh team: talented individuals combining to build something stronger than any of them could make alone.
The group continued goofing around until the pyramid collapsed, everyone laughing.
Steve Jobs, who had managed the Macintosh team since 1981, had been peeking in on the shoot throughout. As the group fell to the ground, he saw his opportunity and joined the end of the huddle.
Seeff kept shooting.
From left: Randy Wigginton, Jerome Coonen, Donn Denman, Rony Sebok, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn, Bill Atkinson, Susan Kare, Owen Densmore, Steve Capps, Larry Kenyon, Patti Kenyon, Tracie Kenyon, and Steve Jobs.
Steve knew that the very best work conveys the ideas and intentions of the people who created it. And he believed deeply that this team of engineers, designers, and programmers, who were also sculptors, photographers, and musicians—a team that integrated technology and the liberal arts—could create a machine for everyday people, “a computer for the rest of us.”
At a time when computers were complex and difficult to use, it was a radical objective. To get there, Steve encouraged the team and protected them; he pushed them hard and shared his critiques. He asked them to sign their work like artists, even while reminding them that they were building a tool for others to use. “We’re going to walk into a classroom or an office or a home five years from now,” he promised, “and somebody’s going to be using a Macintosh for something we never dreamed possible.”
Not long after these photographs were taken, the Macintosh was announced to the world. The road ahead would not be straightforward—not for the product, not for the group who made it, and not for Steve himself. But one realization was clear even in January 1984: new things were now possible.
“I remember the week before we launched the Mac,” Steve recalled in 2007. “We all got together, and we said, ‘Every computer is going to work this way. You can’t argue about that anymore. You can argue about how long it will take, but you can’t argue about it anymore.’”