The secret call to Andy Grove that may have helped Apple buy NeXT

“The thing I loved most about working in developer relations at NeXT was how Steve could call anyone,” Chris MacAskill writes for Cake. “He would burst in my office and say, ‘I’m gonna call Bill about TrueType,’ and gesture for me to follow. A minute later he’d have Bill Gates on the speaker phone with me in fly-on-the-wall mode. ‘BUT BILL! You ripped off Adobe and made John cry.’ (John Warnock was the CEO of Adobe.) ‘Steve, we didn’t want to get into the font business. It’s a nightmare. But Adobe wouldn’t open their fonts until they had competition.'”

“One visitor was George Fisher, the superstar CEO of high-flying Motorola. Their processors powered Apple and NeXT computers,” MacAskill writes. “He dropped a bomb that caught me completely by surprise: the Motorola 68000 line of processors we used was near its end of life because it had become too hard to cool.”

“I can’t explain why I couldn’t just chill and trust Steve, George Fisher, and our engineers. Who was I to get so worked up over it? Steve called me at 11 one night to settle me down but I couldn’t let it go. I wanted to know what Intel was doing and everyone just shrugged. Steve had a philosophy of betting on technologies in the spring of their lives, not the autumn,” MacAskill writes. “The next day Steve held a meeting with our engineers and me where he punctuated the air dramatically with his finger and said, ‘This company will live or die by its choice to support the 88110.’ I don’t know what came over me. I said ‘die.'”

“That was the last word spoken in the meeting and I could tell Steve was mad. I was mad too,” MacAskill writes. “An engineer walked me to my office while saying it had been nice knowing me.”

Tons more in the full article – very highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: A very enjoyable read.


  1. Very interesting trip down memory lane. Thanks for posting MDN.

    The last commentator made this interesting observation:

    I was convinced there was an Commodore Amiga 1000 in the basement of One Infinite Loop fueling all of that period’s innovations:

    – QuickDrawGX
    – ARexx
    – AppleScript
    – Speech
    – PlainTalk

    Funny I wondered the same thing at the time. Every time I fire up my Mac or my Intel Nuc I notice similarities between MacOS and Windows 10 and the old Amiga.

    1. Yeah, those Amigas were *great* computers. That OS was the shizz, at the time.

      Too bad that Commodore was a victim of managerial incompetence.

      Made me get my first Mac in 1999, though…

  2. That is an amazing read I had never heard of Bill Atkinson, yet you realise having read more about him what an important figure he was. So many hidden geniuses in this early period of creative compting who deserve far more of a limelight than they ever got… though I suspect many would not want that anyway. Interesting that Bill is now a well respected nature photographer with subject matter than still seems to reflect apparently some of his thinking in software and neuroscience he started out on.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.