ROBERT SCOBLE: A Front Row Seat To Steve Jobs’ Career

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When the Apple PR person showed me to my seat at the iPad 2.0 launch, she reminded me that if I wanted to take photos I’d need to sit in the back section. I instead chose the front row, despite every journalistic bone in my body screaming at me to go take the photo position.


Because I had this sense that this was one of the last performances of Steve Jobs that I’d be able to view, and I wanted to just study him up close. It’s one of the few times when I was forced to just soak in a performance, and not try to capture the event I was viewing. Jobs didn’t disappoint.

First Encounters
For understanding just why you’ve got to go back through my entire life. When I was in Junior High, as a 12-year-old, I helped unbox the first Apple IIs that Hyde Jr. High in Cupertino bought. Seeing that green screen, cassette tape drive, and tan plastic case with the pop-off lid started a relationship with Apple that would ebb and flow for the next 34 years.

That year, enamoured as I was with this new device that my school had purchased (my dad bought an even better model a few months later) I got the courage to go into Apple’s first building (back then it was only one building, smaller than many of the startups I visit today) and ask for a tour. A guy gave me a tour, I have no idea who he was, but I still remember two things 34 years later: the piano and the sign “loose lips sink ships.” I got some posters, which are long gone, of Apple’s first multi-coloured logo.

It hit me that this was a different kind of company, very different from Tandem, which I also got a tour of (that company is now gone) and HP, where I worked a summer job on a wave soldiering machine.

Apple was part of my life at every turn. When I was 13-14 I earned my allowance by helping my mum stuff Apple II motherboards. I was paid $1 per board, if I remember right, and it took me a long time to do one properly. I learned later from Wozniak that Apple had run out of manufacturing capabilities, since Apple IIs were selling so well, and had hired Hildy Licht, who hired housewives around the valley to help build them.

At Prospect High School they had a brand new Apple II-based lab. I joined the computer club there, where we, um, ran a software piracy operation. Dads like mine would buy the latest games and one of the members of the club was so adept at hacking that he’d crack the copy protection codes, and put a copy in the school’s library. I liked playing the games, other people liked learning to code them.

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