From our 5-part series on Silicon Valley Pioneers meet Andy Hertzfeld known as “software wizard” at Apple computers. In Part-2 of our conversation we pick up the threads and discover Hertzfeld’s thoughts on kindness and empathy, how he came to be known as software wizard, how he came to work on Apple’s Macintosh project and working with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Here is show Hertzfeld got his title as “software wizard” at Apple. “I tell the story in my book that once the Mac project got going, Steve Jobs wanted us to get business cards, and I was reluctant to get a business card, because I thought my title, which was something like Senior Member of Technical Staff, was just insipid. And I didn’t like idea of a business card where basically he said something like, “Well, why don’t you get whatever title you want if you don’t like that title? Just make one up.” And so I thought, Software Wizard kind of popped into my head, because conjuring up software is a little bit like magic. And so I thought that was suitably irreverent.”
Hertzfeld describes the early days of working on Apple’s Macintosh project. In February 1981 Hertzfeld says, “I had a call from Steve Jobs’ secretary, setting up an appointment to meet with him. And Steve — the first thing Steve said to me when I walked into his office, “Are you any good? We only want good people working on the Macintosh. And I don’t think you’re good enough.” Hertzfeld I said, “Yeah, I’m good.” And then what he went and did, he said, “Okay, well, I’ll look into it.” He went over to the Macintosh building, I found out later, and started asking Burrell Smith and Brian Howard, “Hey, is this Hertzfeld guy any good? ” And I guess I passed muster ’cause a few hours later, he came by my cubicle, said, “Congratulations. You’re on the Mac team now.” This was late on a Thursday afternoon (Feb 27, 1981), maybe about 4:30 pm. So I thought, well, maybe — give me a day to finish up the work I’m doing to get it in shape for someone else. So he goes, “No, I want you to start now.” And what he did was he went and took my Apple II and pulled the plug on it. So I lost the code I was working on. And he picked up my Apple II and started walking away. That was his way of convincing me to start now, just taking my computer. What could I do but follow him? He plopped it in the trunk of his car.I got into his car with him.He drove it over to the little Mac building where, like, at the time, there were, like, only four people working on the project, took my computer, plopped it on a desk. Says,”Here’s your new desk,”and then left.”
Tune in to watch the rest of our conversation where Hertzfeld talks about working on Apple’s Macintosh that was unveiled in 1984 and working with Steve Wozniak and why he left Apple Computers in 1984. Hertzfeld went on to work on some of his own projects and then co-founded General Magic with Marc Porat and Bill Atkinson.
In case you missed it, you many want to listen to Part-1 of our conversation where Hertzfeld shared how he discovered his love for computers in high school in Pennsylvania. He thought he would become a math professor and had no idea he would end up working for Apple Computers. Hertzfeld shares how he dropped out of his PhD program at University of California Berkeley after getting his Master’s degree in order to join Apple computers. He had a job offer from Apple and decided to get his Master’s degree before joining the company.
This conversation is part of Season 3 of our Silicon Valley Pioneers series that spotlights the role of “hidden figures” in Silicon Valley. This 5-part series featuring Hertzfeld and Atkinson is sponsored by Zoho.
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