Steve Jobs was the best showman in business.He’s keynote presentations were so good, people would actually watch them for fun.
Can you imagine what it would be like to work at Apple, and see Jobs get excited about showing off your hard work to the world?
Thanks to a cool blog post, you can get an idea of what that magical feeling must be like.
Don Melton was once in charge of the team that built the Safari browser for Apple. He’s no longer with the company, and he’s now pursuing a writing career. He has a blog.
It’s a great read.
The best part is where Melton gets into watching Jobs prepare for, and then go through with, a presentation on Safari.
Until I watched that video I found and posted of the Macworld keynote, I had completely forgotten what else was announced that day. Which is pretty sad considering I saw Steve rehearse the whole thing at least four times.
But you have to realise I was totally focused on Safari. And Scott Forstall, my boss, wanted me at those rehearsals in case something went wrong with it.
There’s nothing that can fill your underwear faster than seeing your product fail during a Steve Jobs demo.
One of my concerns at the time was network reliability. So, I brought Ken Kocienda, the first Safari engineer, with me to troubleshoot since he wrote so much of our networking code. If necessary, Ken could also diagnose and duct tape any other part of Safari too. He coined one of our team aphorisms, “If it doesn’t fit, you’re not shoving hard enough.”
Ken and I started at Apple on the same day so, technically, he’s the only original Safari team member I didn’t hire. But because we both worked at Eazel together, I knew that Ken was a world-class propellor-head and insisted Forstall assign him to my team — essentially a requirement for me taking the job.
Most of the time during those rehearsals, Ken and I had nothing to do except sit in the then empty audience and watch The Master Presenter at work — crafting his keynote. What a privilege to be a spectator during that process. At Apple, we were actually all students, not just spectators. When I see other companies clumsily announce productsthese days, I realise again how much the rest of the world lost now that Steve is gone.
At one rehearsal, Safari hung during Steve’s demo — unable to load any content. Before my pants could load any of its own, Ken discovered the entire network connection had failed. Nothing we could do. The IT folks fixed the problem quickly and set up a redundant system. But I still worried that it might happen again when it really mattered.
On the day of actual keynote, only a few of us from the Safari team were in the audience. Employee passes are always limited at these events for obvious reasons. But we did have great seats, just a few rows from the front — you didn’t want to be too close in case something really went wrong.
Steve started the Safari presentation with, “So, buckle up.” And that’s what I wished I could do then — seatbelt myself down. Then he defined one of our product goals as, “Speed. Speed.” So, I tensed up. Not that I didn’t agree, of course. I just knew what was coming soon:
And for the entire six minutes and 32 seconds that Steve used Safari on stage, I don’t remember taking a single breath. I was thinking about that network failure during rehearsal and screaming inside my head, “Stay online, stay online!” We only had one chance to make a first impression.
Of course, Steve, Safari and the network performed flawlessly. I shouldn’t have worried.