The first time I met my hero

I met Steve Jobs shortly after I was hired by NeXT Computer.

They hired me to be editor of a quarterly publication they wanted to publish for system administrators — the people who ran networks of NeXT computers. This was 1993: Computer software and hardware companies still printed manuals, very nicely written and formatted and printed manuals for users and for more techie types. I’d been an Apple and NeXT fan for years, member of the Bay Area NeXT User Group — and managing editor of their newsletter, which I assumed was the main reason I’d gotten the job. 

I’d also for years aspired to do something amazing. I didn’t have much idea what that might be, and I couldn’t locate among my meagre talents anything that struck me as promising. I couldn’t write novels, I didn’t know how to make films, I wasn’t beautiful, I couldn’t sing. 

I did have an inkling that I could organize and run things though, so I thought I might lead a company. So Steve Jobs became my focus. He’d started a company that made amazing computers, then when he was forced out of that company he started another that made even better computers. And more than that, he inspired people. I wanted to be like him. 

I was hired just weeks after NeXT dropped its hardware line to focus on its operating system. I settled into my snazzy private office in the front building of the Redwood Shores headquarters, with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall and floor-to-ceiling blonde wood door that I could shut to gain some quiet and focus. Such a treat after my cubicle at Oracle Corp!

Everything at NeXT was a treat, from the fancy workstations to the espresso machine in the developers’ building, to the photo directory of my new colleagues (very helpful for me as I tried to figure out who everyone was), to the astonishingly brilliant and eclectic and quirky colleagues themselves.

I was in the Documentation group, which included Art & Production (all the digital graphics for the manuals as well as the operating system and software, plus production and printing for documentation and marketing collateral) and the writers. We had weekly meetings to keep each other informed on progress.

And it was at my first documentation meeting that I met Steve. He came in to talk with our director about something, and she introduced me as the new team member.

I have no idea what he said. I’m fairly sure I said something banal, much too quickly to be understood and with silly energy. “Nice to meet you!”

Then Steve Jobs extended his hand for me to shake, so I stood up and shook it.

He has very soft hands, I thought.

Of all the things I might remember from my first meeting with my hero, all I retained was the sensation of improbably soft hands.

6 replies on “The first time I met my hero”

  1. (I mean, really, the stuff is good only for Nostalgia purposes at this point; the things boot, and using them is oddly familiar and distantly wonderful and greyscale and excellent, that war horse of a keyboard so very energetic under fingertips, that stupid angular mouse.

    And then I say, dammit, because there’s no anti-aliasing, and the ssh client is only v1 and the most advanced web browser available can barely render text.

    But they’re fun to have lying around. :)

  2. Cynthia, I couldn’t agree with you more. Working at NeXT was a treat, everything you describe. Nothing has matched that yet in its entirety…the people, the place, the leader (Steve) and the experience of it all.

  3. In the last twelve hours I’ve read so many stories about Steve Jobs. I’m a little amazed that the man has inspired so much happiness and so many memories. I’m sorry, Cindy.

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