Biting the apple
by Ellen McGirt, FORTUNE Magazine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - They were known as dropouts, artists, evangelists, geniuses, iconoclasts, pirates - and friends. Sometimes even best friends. The early team of four, which grew to dozens, wanted to make a personal computer easy enough for a civilian to use without fear or loathing and inexpensive enough to be affordable. But the happy few who worked on the Mac also saw in the new world of computing a potentially profound force. Their ultimate goal was to unleash, in themselves and others, limitless individual creativity.

The Mac team, headed by Apple (Research) co-founder Steve Jobs, operated like a superstealth startup within the company. Holed up in an ascetic, two-story building near a gas station dubbed the "Texaco Towers," the team was intensely competitive with other Apple divisions, such as the Lisa computer. Jobs set ridiculous deadlines: The caffeine-fueled software team once debugged for 48 hours straight rather than face him without having finished the task. There were epic battles and broken friendships - Jef Raskin, who started the Mac research project in 1979, got frustrated and left Apple in 1982. But Jobs' famous rebel yell - "It's better to be a pirate than join the Navy" - captured the renegade spirit that saw the team through 90-hour work- weeks at stunningly low pay.

In 1983, after three years of labor, the Mac was born. Priced at $2,495, it featured a clean, intuitive graphic user interface that allowed nonprogrammers to use it almost instantly, without geek supervision. When it was turned on, a friendly little icon smiled out at the world. And the world smiled back - the Mac sold faster than any PC that came before. Although the Mac went on to a difficult adolescence, it was the collective expression of the people who loved it - and marked a turning point in the history of the PC. Top of page