The Pirates Abandon ShipUpon his return from Europe in August 1985, while he was casting about for what to do next, Jobs called the Stanford biochemist Paul Berg to discuss the advances that were being made in gene splicing and recombinant DNA. Berg
described how difficult it was to do experiments in a biology lab, where it could take weeks to nurture an experiment and get a result. “Why don’t you simulate them on a computer?” Jobs asked. Berg replied that computers with such capacities were too expensive for university labs. “Suddenly, he was
excited about the possibilities,” Berg recalled. “He had it in his mind to start a new company. He was young and rich, and had to find something to do with the rest of his life.”
Jobs had already been canvassing academics to ask what their workstation needs were. It was something he had been interested in since 1983, when he had visited the computer science department at Brown to show off the
Macintosh, only to be told that it would take a far more powerful machine to do anything useful in a university lab. The dream of academic researchers was to have a workstation that was both powerful and personal. As head of the
Macintosh division, Jobs had launched a project to build such a machine, which was dubbed the Big Mac. It would have a UNIX operating system but with the friendly Macintosh interface. But after Jobs was ousted from the
Macintosh division, his replacement, Jean-Louis Gassée, canceled the Big Mac.
When that happened, Jobs got a distressed call from Rich Page, who had been engineering the Big Mac’s chip set. It was the latest in a series of
conversations that Jobs was having with disgruntled Apple employees urging him to start a new company and rescue them. Plans to do so began to jell over Labor Day weekend, when Jobs spoke to Bud Tribble, the original Macintosh
software chief, and floated the idea of starting a company to build a powerful but personal workstation. He also enlisted two other Macintosh division employees who had been talking about leaving,
That left one key vacancy on the team: a person who could market the new product to universities. The obvious candidate was Dan’l Lewin, who at Apple had organized a consortium of universities to buy Macintosh computers in bulk. Besides missing two letters in his first name, Lewin had the chiseled
good looks of Clark Kent and a Princetonian’s polish. He and Jobs shared a bond: Lewin had written a Princeton thesis on Bob Dylan and charismatic leadership, and Jobs knew something about both of those topics.