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Rufus D
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Retired investor after a 25 year career in Silicon Valley, with management, engineering, marketing, and angel investing experience in semiconductors, software, and peripherals. Today's investment plan: Let dog out, surf Seeking Alpha, let dog in.
  • Rest In Peace Steve Jobs - My Encounter With The Great Visionary 0 comments
    Jun 11, 2013 4:09 PM | about stocks: AAPL, INTC

    I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Steve Jobs back in the early 1980s. At the time, he was working on the Mac design as head of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and I was working as an application engineer at Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) in Santa Clara. Apple was a design win we really wanted to get, so one of the sales guys set up a meeting to try and sell Apple on our upcoming 386 chip. On our side, we had a couple of the Intel founders, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore, our chief CPU architect at the time John Crawford, and a few of our other best guys. I was there to talk about the assembler and compiler software and debug tools that we had for the 386. Steve brought over a team from Apple, and also invited Bill Joy, the Computer Science wiz from Berkeley who had designed BSD Unix and written many of the key tools to implement it. (A side note, Steve and I were both born in 1955, and were the youngest guys in the room that day. Bill was a bit older, born in '54.)

    Apple had already started down the path of the 32 bit 'flat' architecture promoted by Motorola on their 68000 family CPUs, and their soon to follow PowerPC chips. The stakes were high for both Intel and Apple: Intel had the inside track for all of the upcoming 32 bit PC machines with the 386, but if Apple's Motorola design proved superior, it would be major trouble for Intel in PC land. On the other hand, Apple was implementing all proprietary software for the Mac, which Steve Jobs the Great Visionary knew was going to be far superior to anything out there, but if the CPU design underperformed or the supplier performed poorly, Apple would be in trouble. Steve Jobs and company arrived at the Intel Santa Clara 6 building, were shown to the conference room, and the meeting commenced.

    What ensued was one of the all time titanic debates regarding computer architecture. Both sides argued over every detail down to the register and bit level, the tradeoffs of every mode, addressing scheme, memory cycle types, and everything else having to do with CPU designs of the day. The Intel guys talked a lot about the hardware design details and tradeoffs, and Dr. Joy and the Apple guys countered with all the software design tradeoffs needed for everything from the compilers to the operating system. It was an amazing display of technical brilliance from some of the best engineering minds on the planet. I had very little to add to the discussion because we never got to the subject of development tools, but I really enjoyed the show.

    Throughout the battle, Steve Jobs sat coolly observing both sides, and taking in all the details. He said nothing. Then, at some point, Steve Jobs the Great Visionary revealed another major character trait, Steve Jobs the Great Risk Taker. He put his hands on the table, announced the meeting was over, then stood up and walked out of the meeting. He had considered the Intel option, given his and their best minds a chance to discuss it, and then he had made the final decision, and would never look back. He had more important things to do to make the Mac a reality.

    It was about 25 years later that Intel finally got the design win at Apple, and that was the day I went long AAPL. Rest in Peace Steve Jobs, you really did change the world, and my encounter with you was the most memorable of any I had in Silicon Valley.

    Stocks: AAPL, INTC
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