Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs - My Story

I never met Steve Jobs - but I did come close.  Here is my Steve Jobs story or how this person has impacted me today.

In 1978, my best friend Mitch got this new computer called a Commodore PET.  I was 15 years old and fell in love with this new gadget.  I knew I had to have one.  We didn’t have a lot of money, but I lied my way into getting a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken (was suppose to be 16 to work) and after I cashed my 2nd paycheck, I had enough money.  My mom drove me to the local computer store and I purchased one.

Around four years later, I was living in California and saved up enough money to purchase the latest and greatest, an Apple II computer.  While living in California, I wrote a few articles for COMPUTE magazine.  I was now twenty years old and I really wanted to work for Apple.  A friend of my grandmother worked at a company called MicroPro and they had this little word processor called WordStar.  He knew that I liked Apple and was into computers and invited me to spend the week with him to see how a software company worked.

While spending the week, he showed me the labs where they had future Apple stuff and told me that he had worked at Apple for a few years before working at Microprose. I told him that I really wanted to work at Apple.  He told me that Steve Jobs would walk the halls around a certain time and that on my way home, I should stop in Cupertino, bump into Steve Jobs and introduce myself.  I drove to Cupertino, stopped in the parking lot but never built enough courage to leave the car. 

Returning back home (Solvang, California), I had gained a lot of experience with word processors running on Apple computers and I applied for a volunteer position at C.A.L.L Apple Magazine as a word processor expert.   Basically, people from all over the world would call and ask questions to an expert when they got stuck.  I was accepted and then I wrote letters to every word processing company asking them for a free copy of their software so I could provide support.  Most companies sent me free software - with all the packages I got, it was like christmas time for a month.

A local computer store named “The Computer Terminal” of Buellton, California happened to be looking through the CALL Apple magazine and noticed that they had an expert living in the area and invited me to come speak at their local Apple user group.  I brought all my word processing software to demonstrate and it was a big hit and got invited back to do it again.  During my second visit, the same day, the salesperson of The Computer Terminal (the only one they had) quit and I happened to walk in immediately after and the owner offered me a job.  I explained I was not a salesman, but I knew Apples and software.

I started in October 1983 and during the last two months, the owner and I broke sales records.  We sold $400K worth of Apple computers in 60 days.  During the first week of January 1984 the owner called me over and showed me a picture of a new computer coming out in a few weeks.  It was the first picture of the Apple Macintosh.  I looked at it and said, “That looks strange, it will never sell”.  Apple had a training program to help Apple dealers learn about the Macintosh and they also had a unique program called the “Own a Mac Program”.  Basically, you can purchase a 128K Mac for $749 ($2999 was retail) and an Imagewriter printer for $249 and you got a free carrying case and other software.  It was a great deal and I immediately got one.

I continued to become the local Apple and Mac expert and sold a ton of these things.  I made so much money, that I finally had enough to move back to Chicago - my hometown.  In May 1984, I moved back to Chicago and accepted a job at CompuShop.  On the day I started, they made a corporate decision to drop Apple.  I was devastated, but I continued working there.

After 6 months I needed to be connected to Apple, so I moved on to a Dealer that sold Apple.  After 4 years of working at the other dealer, I was getting bored and wanted to get back to “working at Apple”.  I was nearing my 25th birthday and I gave myself a deadline, by the time I turned 25, I either wanted to work for Apple or start my own company.  I created a HyperCard/multimedia resume and sent it to people I knew at Apple.  The Apple Rep told me that I needed to get permission from the owner of the Apple dealer where I worked to interview.  That wasn’t going to happen, so I started my own company in 1988.

I did Mac consulting and programming.  Created some commercial software.  The first one was called NetUpdater - which was a HyperCard based program that allowed network administrators to update a network of computers from one computer.  This program got some attention with Apple and I even had contact with Jean-Louis Gassee and a meeting to show him NetUpdater.

The next project was something called Web Server 4D and WS4D/eCommerce, these were 4th Dimension created web servers and ecommerce servers that I released around 1994.  At first, they only ran on Macs and allowed developers to setup ecommerce servers on the internet.

In 2005, I changed the directions of my company and focused on this new mobile broadband (EVDO) that was just starting up with Verizon.  The problem, is that Verizon didn’t support Macs.  I figured out a way to make these data cards work with Macs and started getting a lot of attention (and customers)  We did fun things like iChat at 60MPH. continues on today.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Apple.  I have owned every Mac since 1984 and also iPad and iPhone and even Newton.  I have never missed an Apple keynote, been to a bunch of MacWorld presentations.  Once bumped into John Sculley and almost knocked him down.

While I almost worked at Apple in the early days - I remained connected to Apple and to Steve Jobs over the years.  I am 100% confident that his legacy will live on and his story will continue to inspire people for generations to come.

Steve, the world will miss you!


Michael Ginsberg
MDG Computer Services, Inc. 

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Favorite Videos

1987 Video of what the future might look like.  Shipping in the iPhone 4S next week :)

2005 - Steve Jobs Commencement Speech