back to article How I saved the Macintosh

Today, Apple seems unstoppable - its new products dominate their markets or create entirely new ones. But there was a time, 20 years ago, when Apple seemed to have lost everything. In 1984 I was caught in the middle of all this: I was a sales rep for ComputerLand Los Angeles; the top Macintosh salesman at the largest computer …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    history will repeating itself

    in a few year from now iPAD will follow the same fate-

    history repeating itself !

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Fascinating article

    Especially love the Pagemaker promo vid - it's hard for someone my age to grasp how revolutionary that must have been at the time.

    1. Daniel B.


      Me using PageMaker feels like being a Jedi Knight during the Galactic Empire; the last user of a long forgotten religion. During the early Mac days, PageMaker was one of the Mac's "killer apps"; unfortunately a lot of later users simply started using Word for everything, and PageMaker slowly slid into oblivion.

      Mac used to be bleeding edge for DTP; it also used to be a fun environment, lacking the fanboyism of the post-Jobs comeback.

      1. Franklin

        PageMaker and oblivion

        "unfortunately a lot of later users simply started using Word for everything, and PageMaker slowly slid into oblivion."

        I'd say more realistically "Unfortunately QuarkXPress came along, and PageMaker slowly slid into oblivion."

        I was working prepress professionally when Pagemaker and then Quark arrived on the scene. It was quirky and buggy, filled with all kinds of strange gliches...but it could do a lot of things (like rotate text in arbitrary amounts rather than 90-degree increments) that PM could not.

        Worse, Quark was responsive to its users. It remained quirky and buggy, sure, with a user interface that has never been very good, but updates came often and it continued to add features that PageMaker lacked. By the time PageMaker finally started to catch up, i was too late--most of the industry had shifted.

        I totally abandoned PageMaker for Quark, and have since totally abandoned Quark for InDesign. I still have clients who use both Quark and InDesign, but I can remember that by the time PageMaker 6.5 came to be, all but one of my clients had long since quit using it.

  3. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    I can just about remember ...

    I part owned an Apple Dealer back in the early 90's, and we had a number of customers in the print industry. It could be fascinating to walk in and see the old and new side by side - on one bench, an "old timer" manually setting out type from large trays, on the next table, a younger designer doing complex layouts on a Mac.

    Some things the Mac couldn't do though - the movable type guy had bars for cutting perforations, and a counter that could increment a ticket number ever time the press came down on another sheet of paper !

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aaaahhhh ...

    Orgasmic bliss of seeing a Linotronic. I recall my relationship with these, Monotype Imagesetters, Apple LaserWriter II IINT/X and hand-written PostScript.

    It was how I started and was extremely lucrative.

    Happy days, indeed.

    1. A J Stiles

      Some of us .....

      Some of us still write PostScript by hand.

      Although, I'm writing a Perl module to do it for me.

  5. bob's hamster

    Different times...

    Wow, what an interesting read. I worked indirectly for Apple for all the 90's and remember the wonderful feeling of supporting and promoting a product far superior to the whole PC market. Mac and LaserWriter or PC and dot matrix, and DOS. By the start of the 2000s with Job's return to Apple everything had changed. Certainly the fun had gone out of the whole thing. He probably saved Apple from going to the wall though.

  6. Shaun 1


    How did you save the mac?

    You gave a good presentation that they converted into a failed marketing campaign?

    1. Step'n'Fixit

      Do as I say ...

      He illustrated the importance of logo consistency by violating the rule and being corrected by an Apple guy, who was thus unwittingly thrust into the position of evangelizing for the principle. And the rest is history.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Saving the Mac

    Thank you so much :/

  8. DrewHew

    I don't get it...

    You cause Apple to lose a multimillion dollar customer (Disney), you flunk on a much hyped, much vaunted presentation, said presentation is mimicked for a national campaign that fails abysmally, and you're made redundant not too long before Apple goes into a tailspin and several years in the you "saved" the company/Macintosh how exactly???

    Interesting story, by the way. Now if you can only work on those titles.

    "How I used my innate creativity and Apple products, failed to win a presentation competition or get credit for my work, while simultaneously helping to send Apple into the Abyss" immediately comes to mind.

    1. Charles E

      Saving Apple

      We didn't lose Disney, they still bought millions of dollars worth of Macs. But they started shifting slowly towards PCs, and Macs were harder to justify. Still, with the expanding computer market, they never bought fewer Macs than before.

      I think the main theme is that I was trying to save Apple from itself. Mac users and sales reps tended to know how to market the Mac better than Apple did. It is hard to realize the impact of the abysmal years just after Jobs was ousted, when the financial type people started running the show. Apple could easily have died off, but once I helped establish it into major accounts, it would never die out. And it did face that risk in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

      1. yeehaw....

        Doesn't matter, Mr. E!

        That was a damn fine article!

        I'm not a Mac fan per se(1), but that got me to think about where I was and what was going on at the time - no need for details but it was enlightening to say the least. Most of these folks here now are just too smart for the rest of us from back in the day - silly bastards! lol. They'd all die without their internet-based tech - First-Wavers I call 'em.

        Don't let them get to you, they don't count!

        (1)I secretly desire an iPad - the wifi version for dinking around with and using as a kindle - just cannot justify the price to the little wife (who has extraordinary power over my tech purchases it seems....)

  9. LinkOfHyrule
    Thumb Up

    Great article!

    I love these sort of articles that delve into the era of the industry that's before my time. A very enjoyable read, I can't view the videos at the moment but might check 'em out later!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Tears !!

    I had tears in my eyes when i read this....I am a salesman and i know the joy of selling Apple. Infact every apple customer is today a salesman for Apple products.

    Is it me or Steve actually looks like Jesus H C.

    Paris : She looks better on apple screens ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What a wag!

      Anyone still laughing at lines starting with "Paris because" or "Paris: "?

      Proof that like many other sayings, "it never gets old" is BS.

  11. ratfox

    I actually understood

    That the author saved Apple by returning back to art school and stopping trying to sell them... ?

  12. Alan Firminger

    And the moral is

    The presentation was on a slower machine than intended. The presentation overran the allowed time.

    Remember all readers, next time a plan changes by a tiny bit - think it through.

  13. Mark 110


    Nice article.

    I was still at school when this was going on. Interesting to hear the story from someone that was there at the time.

    Also ties in with my own perceptions of Apple products. Overpriced, proprietary lockins, etc. Decided a while back their business model is anticompetitive and unless it changes I won't be buying their products.

    And I'm tight ;)

  14. Bruce Ordway

    returned to Art School

    > where every student wanted to become a computer artist - except me


    I returned to school in 2006 as a painting major.

    I'd guess 80% of art students are studying computer art/animation.

    With film and photography digital too.

    Lot's of Mac's and not much real media around.

    1. Charles E


      I finished my BFA in 1996, majoring in painting. I had already been a professional computer artist.


    Interesting History

    This is an interesting piece, although the headline (How I saved the Macintosh) doesn’t seem to fit the subject matter (early technology innovation of the Mac vs. the PC, and how computers were sold and marketed and to whom).

    I remember the ComputerLand chain stores in Los Angeles. I visited the stores in Glendale (on Brand Blvd) and Pasadena (on Lake Avenue). They were more ‘computer boutiques’ than stores. The transition to ‘big box’ stores like CompUSA in the 1990s and to on-line stores like Amazon in the 2000s changed the way people shopped for technology, in some ways for the better (price and selection improved) and for the worse (customer services suffered).

    Unlike the disinterested teenagers at the big box stores, the sales staff at ComputerLand were knowledgeable (if not a little snobbish about their technology preferences) and could answer questions. I think the Apple Stores of today strike a good balance between the boutiques of yesteryear and big retail of today.

  16. veskebjorn

    A few corrections and notes

    RR Donnelley was then (and still is) the world's largest commercial printer. But it was never "the Yellow Pages company." That would be Reuben H.Donnelly, which then published most of the Yellow Page directories. The companies were completely separate but quite friendly; Richard R. having been the father of Reuben H. RR Donnelley printed many, but far from all of the various Yellow Pages directories.

    So the question is: did Mr. Eicher meet with RR or Reuben H.? I would guess it was RR, since Reuben H. didn't do much typesetting for any of their many publications. I know this, because my father was a Reuben H. Donnelley trade publishing executive at the time.

    Given Mr. Eicher's self-professed expertise in print production, he should have known that the idea that RR Donnelley might "[outfit] its entire corporate print production on Macs" was an absurdity. Printers the size of RR were using a variety of mini and mainframe computers [the Atex and Quadex systems are two excellent examples of off-the-shelf solutions] to drive CRT and film phototypesetters, whose output was vastly superior to the laser-imaging Linotronics of the day, whose film output did not register from one sheet to the next. The Scitex system was also popular with the big boys, because it could merge type and color seps and output entire 40" press forms on punch-registered color scanner film.

    In short, RR Donnelley may have expressed interest, but they were only "kicking the tires."

    As a manufacturing and distribution director for national weekly and monthly publications. I was a regular visitor to the facilities of RR Donnelley, Brown Printing, and the Devon Group (parent of Black Dot as well as at least two large commercial printers).

    I think Mr. Eicher's view of the printing world has been colored by a good deal of wishful thinking. A quick check of the editions of the Pocket Pal which were published at the time will authoritatively demonstrate the difference between the real world then and the "if only" world Mr. Eicher was promoting.

    P.S.: At least in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley printing and publishing communities, ComputerLand was regarded as being almost as inept as Fry's Electronics is now. Prices were high, and problem-solving was poor. I find it startling that RR Donnelley would be talking to a ComputerLand salesman about new technologies, when they had legions of technical wizards on their payroll.

    1. Charles E


      Personally, I rely on my 1975 Pocket Pal. I kept it on my desk even when I was running Scitex equipment at a service bureau.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux is great, but...

    You cant beat the solidity of the apple hardware.

    Much as I despise Steve, his walled garden and the kind of people who HAVE to buy the latest iOS device to have any sense of self-worth, you gotta hand it to apple, they make solid devices, and by controlling the entire stack you can provide the optimisation of gentoo to a mass market of people who have better things to do than waiting for the damned thing to compile.

  18. nyelvmark
    Paris Hilton


    So - do you still use Apple products?

    I only ask because Paris wants to know.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Mac is OK, but ...

    Cow Gum was even sexier.

    1. BorkedAgain

      Oscar Mike Golf...

      I remember cow gum!

      My Dad had a printing business in the late seventies / early eighties (offset lithography; big in its day) and I remember many happy afternoons after school, making my own stinky, sticky bouncy-balls with dried-up cow gum.

      Ah, the days when "cut" and "paste" meant something...

      1. Dave Murray

        Big in it's day?

        So printing most of our daily newspapers is small?

        Personally I always preferred Spray Mount to cow gum.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Big in it's day?

          "So printing most of our daily newspapers is small?"

          I believe you're talking about web offset - subtly different from the sheet-fed offset-litho the original poster mentioned ;)

          Still, offset litho in itself is still big business with digital print only eating into the shorter run market for general full colour print. You still can't print metallics digitally and registration is yet good enough to allow for accurate blind embossing and spot UVs. So for the time being, litho still has its place in the world.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    I suddenly feel very old

    Please excuse this Four Yorkshiremen moment:

    I worked on multimedia presentations in the early 70s using computers with hand-punched 8 hole paper tape memory to control multiple slide & film projectors, lighting and other devices. By the mid 70s we had microprocessor controlled computers to do the same job.

    One of the products we helped launch using this kit around 77 or 78 was Xerox's GUI-based office networking system. It had printers that used a network so everyone could share them.

    Apple, what a bunch of creative pioneers.

    1. Step'n'Fixit

      How Apple or Xerox Saved Xerox or Apple

      Xerox's chief claim to fame today is that they developed all the great ideas that Apple dumbed down and popularized (so that Microsoft could make them marketable).

  21. bugalugs

    So let's just call Charles' title ironicomical shall we ?

    see above

    The one with the granny smith in the pocket, please.

  22. Rambler88
    Jobs Horns

    pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

    I remember back about then, in a type shop in New York, working on ads designed by a major agency touting Apple's desktop publishing capabilities. The ads were being produced on a dedicated DOS-based typesetting front end printing to a Linotype L300. The Mac-generated paper comps (mockups) we were working from were pretty awful.

    The worm turned a few years later, when, at another type shop, I supervised production of a raft of IBM ads containing language which implied but did not state that the ads were produced on IBM equipment. They were, of course, produced from scratch on Macs using Quark, though the ad agency twiddled around with PCs and Pagemaker to produce mockups. That was back in the days of Quark 2 and 3. IBM was still pretending its ads were done on Pagemaker. Quark by then was the only wheel in town for high-end production, but even then, the better you knew it the more you hated it. Yes, some of us had been waiting that long for InDesign.

    A bit later, IBM moved all its advertising to Ogilvy & Mather, and I followed shortly afterwards. O&M finally persuaded IBM to drop the Pagemaker pretense, because O&M wasn't about to drop Mac/Quark, and O&M was big enough to talk strong even to IBM (and was giving IBM the first decent creative it had had for some time).

    Another ad agency that had retained a small piece of IBM work was sucking up to Big Blue by running a small PC/Pagemaker section for IBM work. They called me in to see if I was interested in taking over for the departing lead for that section. The lead, whom I knew professionally, made it graphically clear why he was departing, and compassionately and successfully exerted himself to persuade me not to take over the disaster. One reason was that nobody in New York who was any good was willing to work on Pagemaker.

    But now that it's accepted that graphics production is done on the Mac, all is transparency and light, no? Har har har har har har har ha-ck gakhhh -ahem.

    The ad agencies claimed to be doing work that was actually sent out to type shops. After the type shops were proclaimed obsolete (that is, after kickbacks from the type shops were replaced by kickbacks from creative temp agencies supplying production people to the ad agencies), the agencies claimed that their designers were doing work that was actually being done by a separate in-house production department (staffed, back then, by former type shop people). The designers--you guessed it--just twiddled around producing more or less awful comps, and sent them to production to "take care of the details". They made a pretence of sending the digital files too, though they could rarely assemble all of them.

    At one ad agency, they had three levels of this--the designers sent their comps and files to a department staffed by people they found more congenial than those awful production people. That department, after doing I know not what, sent the stuff to MY department, where the work was done that went to the press.

    It's the designers, of course, or their bosses, who were interviewed by the trade press and the software vendors about production. As these experts walked the visitors through the "pre-press" department, we'd hear them explain how the work was done using technology that we had quietly stopped using months ago, or used for something else, or had never used at all.

    It's the designers, of course, or their bosses, who you see in the Apple ads, and who were about all Cupertino ever knew about print graphics production in the digital studio.

    The one constant through time is that if a moderately difficult job goes to press without problems and looks good when printed, it was probably not done by the person who is supposed to have done it, may not have been done using the claimed technology, and was certainly not done using the claimed techniques.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Me too

    Where I work, everyone says I'm great, I personally know as a fact that I'm the best of the top of the cream, and I've always have the best ideas in the world ever. My company doesn't implement them, never promoted me and they're talking about making me redundant, but deep inside, I know that I saved my company single handedly with my awesome greatness.

  24. Terry Kiely

    Oh the memories!

    wonderful artical, very interesting and how it took me back!

    I was site engineer for Watmoughs sheetfed litho plant in St Albans, great guys producing the highest quality work available at the time on 6 colour MAN Roland presses which were controlled from a huge star trek style console which hid a tiny 286 pc inside.

    We had traditional typrsetters working wonders with string and sticky tape but in the mid 90s got three MAC IIlx machines. Looking back they were indeed primative but did great things very quickly. At the same time we got pcs for the office linked to head office in Bradford. I remember the opinions that were expressed that the macs were good but the PCs were amazing. Different tools for different jobs though (no pun intended) I cant help thinking that if Apple had nailed the email and WP market as well as they did the DTP we would be using different machines today.

    We were bought out in 97 but my interest in those Macs led to a new career in IT support, of course going through the whole windows cert stuff. 13 years later I have the best of both worlds, 75 users on Macs with a Windows server farm. Frustrating? ~VERY, interesting?~ always :)

    thanks for a great read.

  25. Anonymous Coward


    If I understood correctly...

    1) You managed to show Disney Execs that things would be done BETTER and FASTER on Macs, but they chose instead to notice that PCs could ALSO do things, albeit in cumbersome and wonky manner. They failed, not you. They were uninformed of what PCs could do, and you, a MAC SALESMAN FOR CRISSAKES, showed what PCs could do. I see that as a double-win.

    2) Top Apple anal ists managed to bork your presentation by forcing you to use underspec'd hardware (where it took 2 minutes longer?), made (or maimed?) your marketing campaign FUBAR and still slapped you on the wrists for playing with their logo. I think $500 was cheap, but enough not to tell them to shove it, leaving dignity and job intacts. I think you walked out of it gracefully, despite that. They failed, yet again, not you.

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