ch 8. the dark times


These were Steve’s “dark” times, exiled from Apple by John Scully and struggling to replay his first run with an innovative, but unprofitable computing company—NeXT.

NeXT technology was second to none. All NeXTStep needed to succeed was hardware processing power and liberal licensing terms from companies like Adobe.

Unfortunately, both were lacking in 1995.

Adobe’s Display PostScript system was NeXTStep’s imaging system. Not surprisingly, today’s iOS and OS X have evolved from the work done at NeXT. The use of PDF as an imaging system in OS X is analogous to using DPS as an imaging system. At OS X’s heart beats a Unix kernel based on FreeBSD, conceived in Berkeley by Bill Joy and his East Bay cohorts.

Steve loved Adobe and its co-founders, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke. He loved them without reserve. Imitation (and copying) is the greatest form of flattery.

Steve’s cloning of PDF for the OS X imaging system was a true nod to Chuck and John’s imaging genius, a karmic tribute which is incisive in its rank simplicity and eternal cementing the three men together in one the world’s most important collaborations.

Beyond their brilliance, Chuck and John were truly personable (Chuck more than John). They became Steve’s surrogate fathers filling a constant void in his life. It was a cross generational collaboration benefiting the three, whether they knew it or not. These men made Photoshop Photoshop, PostScript PostScript, and PDF PDF. 

Together, they created the first wave of desktop publishing. Steve put Adobe PostScript on the map by building it into the first Apple LaserWriters, a real example of what happens when you marry software with hardware.

Adobe, fueled by Apple’s endorsement of PostScript, eventually turned it into a $200M per year licensing business. PostScript and PDF. We take it for granted today, but PostScript (and its analogous offshoot PDF) rival the Gutenberg press in importance. Before PostScript, everything was mechanical, all about film, photochemicals, X-acto knives and rubber cement. Carbon footprint? Think benzene footprint.

Children of print trade professionals, people whose parents were printers, coming home with their forearms blue with ink, revolutionized the publishing trade and made the impossible possible — helping stretch our imaginations to a global level. Their humility only reinforces their importance.

Countless lives and environments have probably been saved by desktop publishing—it killed rubber cement, which included the use of benzene-based cleansers, a notorious carcinogen liberally used in the publishing production process.

Jobs gave power to and fueled the creative underclass, allowing them to live longer and produce more. 

NeXT was eventually purchased by Apple as part of the deal which brought Steve back to Apple,but these were his dark times.

I was to intercept the incoming calls to the Adobe CEO’s office and help Steve. Take on some of the pressure directed by Steve at Chuck and John. Stand in front and take the daily bullets. Above all, keep Steve happy.

My management spoke to me about the “Steve situation.” Something had to be done. 

Someone discreet.

Someone both proactive and passive. At the same time.

A Jesuit.

I was Steve’s new sales rep.

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