ch 3. the port of redwood city


My first meeting with Steve Jobs was an impromptu negotiation over the license fees for Japanese fonts he paid quarterly to Adobe Systems on every copy of NeXTSTEP shipped to Japan.

The Redwood City NeXT campus was small and beautiful in its architectural precision. The buildings, well-appointed, sat planted in an exquisite Japanese garden said to be influenced by Larry Ellison Himself, who had an affinity for all things Japanese.

The Port of Redwood City sits close to where the NeXT campus (two to three buildings) stood. When settlers first came to the area, they discovered a natural deep water channel at the base of Redwood Creek. The Port was one of the many ways redwood trees made it down Redwood Creek from the Santa Cruz mountains. Located between south of the San Mateo Bridge and north of the Dumbarton Bridge, large bulk freighters still call, though redwood logging is long dead.

The campus, nestled between the port and a dump. Oddly quaint, sheltered, and out-of-the-way, the main building felt like a Bentley, a haven in what could be a wet, humid, and dusty peninsula into the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

A giant NeXT logo etched in glass greeted you at the door and a suspended staircase allegedly created by IM Pei led to the executive offices on the second floor. The bathrooms were prototypical, with only the best fixtures and etched glass logos. The paper towels were thick enough to serve as wash cloths.

But the main building was for another day, another meeting. I didn’t make it into the main building that day. 

My meeting was to be with Julie, an old friend who was very much into fonts (note the recurring trend) and had worked at Sun Microsystems before joining NeXT. Later, Julie went to Santa Clara University, got her JD, passed the California Bar, and became a successful Silicon Valley attorney. I did all those things in good time except for passing the Bar and successful attorney part.

Julie ran out to greet me before I got to the main lobby. At first I thought she was just happy to see me.

“Steve is coming.”


We were going to talk fonts. Talking Japanese fonts with Julie. Me and Julie. Alone. No one else. No cohort. No Steve. Just Julie.

“Steve will be there.”


OK. Steve will be there. Steve?

“He wants to negotiate the Japanese fonts.”


OK. OK. Yeah. Steve wants to negotiate.

This was to be my first meeting with Steve, and I was going to go head to head. Steve bypassed his people and wanted to do it himself—no middleman. But wait, what are all those people going into that room for? Is this our meeting?

I signed in at the main building, got badged, and walked with Julie to another building.

I had never met Steve. This was it. I was alone. I can’t remember if I shook his hand or not. 

It was ten to one, I wasn’t about to talk to Steve, I was about to talk to Steve and his cohort. The only thing I was sure about now was that the meeting would start, and that the meeting would likely end at the end of the hour.

Was I ready? Who knows, but I had no choice.

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