If you’re vaguely familiar with Apple and its history, you’ve probably heard a few familiar names, such as Steve Wozniak, Jony Ive, John Sculley, and of course the man himself, Steve Jobs.
But the new film about Jobs’ life debuting this Friday focuses on another key character in Jobs’ life that helped shape the Mac: Joanna Hoffman.
Hoffman hasn’t received as much attention in the media for her contributions to Apple as some of her former colleagues have. But in Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s new movie, she’s portrayed as Jobs’ right-hand woman.
Hoffman, played by Kate Winslet in the movie, joined Apple as the fifth member of the Macintosh team in 1980, according to Folklore.org, a collection of anecdotes about the Mac’s early days written by people who were on the team back then.
Jef Raskin, who put together the original Mac team at Apple, hired Hoffman when the two met at a lecture at Xerox Parc.
“We got into a heated discussion after the lecture about what computers should look like and how they should improve people’s lives, and he asked me to come interview at Apple,” Hoffman said to CNET in 2009.
Hoffman was the only marketing person on the Mac team for more than a year, and she made a lot of crucial contributions early on.
For example, she wrote the first draft of the User Interface Guidelines for the Mac, according to Folkore.org, and defined the market that the Mac was intended for. She pitched the Mac to the higher education market before it became a hit with businesses.
“They really liked the product and lots of students bought them, so it really helped Mac into its transition before it discovered its niche in desktop publication and other applications which require graphics,” she also said to CNET.
She eventually became the international product marketing manager for the Mac as well.
But Hoffman is known for more than the work she’s done — she was famously unafraid of Steve Jobs. At the 10:30 mark in the video below, you can see how Hoffman pushes back against Jobs in a meeting at NeXT, the computer company Jobs built during the 12 years he wasn’t at Apple.
Here she talks about Apple’s goal for the Mac around six minutes in:
Kate Winslet told Entertainment Weekly that she understood Jobs more deeply after meeting with Hoffman.
“I loved spending time with her because she shared stories with me about her time with Steve and her relationship with Steve that a lot of people just don’t know anything about,” Winslet said to Entertainment Weekly. “And I actually came to understand a much softer, gentler side of Steve Jobs, a side of Steve Jobs who I think was kept sort of hidden away and private to those people or to his family.”
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