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The early days of Steve Jobs and Apple

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Stacey Vanek-Smith: Apple CEO Steve Jobs has announced he’s resigning as head of the company he founded. The 56-year-old has battled pancreatic cancer in the past. In a letter to Apple’s board, Jobs said he felt he could no longer perform his duties effectively. Apple’s a company that has not only thrived in the markets — earlier this month, Apple was briefly the most valuable public company in the world — but it’s also influenced the way we live.

Guy Kawasaki joins us now. He’s the former Chief Evangelist at Apple and one of the early employees at the company. Guy, welcome to the show.

Guy Kawasaki: Thank you.

Vanek-Smith: Guy, is there one specific moment that you can you can think of that maybe helped make Steve Jobs and the company Apple so significant?

Kawasaki: Probably his introduction of Macintosh back in 1984. It was a magical moment — an enchanting moment, if you will — because the entire direction of personal computing changed when he brought that Macintosh out and showed the graphical user interface, the friendliness of the computer. And he had his bow-tie on — today Steve is jeans and a black mock turtleneck —

Vanek-Smith: Right? The iconic —

Kawasaki: Back then, the iconic dress was bow-tie.

Vanek-Smith: So even back then, it was all about the meetings and the unveiling, that was still very much a part of Apple’s DNA?

Kawasaki: Well there’s no one ever has been a better introducer of products than Steve Jobs — no one, ever. But 90 percent of it, I’ll tell you, is that the key to a great introduction is dependent on introducing something great. If you have a great product to introduce, it’s a lot easier to make a great introduction.

Vanek-Smith: That is. If you can do that, I guess it makes the introducing part easier — bow-tie, turtleneck, whatever you want to wear, right?

Kawasaki: Yeah, you could wear anything. You could be naked if you had some great products, and you do a great introduction.

Vanek-Smith: And you’d get some headlines for that too, probably.

Kawasaki: Yeah.

Vanek-Smith: So, we hear a lot of stories in the early days about the pirate flag in front of the office, and tinkering with computers in garages — what is the real history of Apple? You were there.

Kawasaki: The pirate flag is a true story, it was on top of the roof. I can’t tell you that it was without stress. But looking back, it’s one of those kinds of experiences that for the few people who had the experience, you would say it was an honor. But, we thought we could make history, and looking back, you know, we probably did make history. And there’s not too many opportunities in any person’s career where you look back and say, “Wow, we really made history back then.”

Vanek-Smith: What was Steve Jobs like?

Kawasaki: Steve Jobs is the most demanding person I’ve ever worked for. He was a perfectionist, he was autocratic, he had a very definite idea of what’s right and what’s wrong. He flies in the face of convention of just about everything. Where most people would say that the way to motivate people is a participative democracy, Steve Jobs was most of the time a benign autocracy. But not always benign either. I think from the outside looking in, one of the dangers of analyzing Steve Jobs is you would say, “OK, so he was like this, and he produced success — so I’ll be like that, and produce success.” They forget that there is only one Steve Jobs.

Vanek-Smith: Guy Kawasaki is the former Chief Evangelist at Apple and an early employee. Guy, thank you so much.

Kawasaki: Thank you.

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