Early Macintosh developer: We would have worked for free

During an event celebrating the 30th birthday of the Macintosh, the team that created the iconic computer reflected on the early days.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
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Members of the original Macintosh team reflected on creating the machine. From left: panel moderator Steven Levy, Bill Atkinson, Randy Wigginton, Bill Fernandez (standing), George Crow, Steve Capps, Bruce Horn, Andy Hertzfeld, Caroline Rose. Tom Foremski

This article is part of a CNET special report on the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh, looking at the beginnings of Apple's landmark machine and its impact during the past three decades.

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- For the people who created the Macintosh, it was the proverbial labor of love.

On Saturday evening, the original Macintosh development team came together to celebrate the machine it had created three decades earlier -- a product that had paved the way for hits to come, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Apple Macintosh 128K
It was in this building 30 years ago that a young Steve Jobs changed the world of personal computing -- all to the soundtrack of the "Chariots of Fire" theme.

Looking back fondly on the process, the team said creating the product was not about the money. "If Steve said, 'How about you guys don't get paid?' said Rod Holt, Apple's original hardware guru, and one of the company's first 10 employees. "We would have still had a group."

"But there would have been a lot of grumbling," he added, laughing.

Macintosh 30th anniversary celebration (photos)

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Bill Atkinson, who created the MacPaint program, described Jobs pitch in recruiting him, even tearing up at one point during the panel. A grad student at the time, he was reluctant to join. But Apple flew him to Cupertino and Jobs personally convinced him. "Think of how fun it is to surf on the front of a wave," Jobs told Atkinson. "Come down to Silicon Valley, where we are inventing the future."

The event had a party atmosphere, complete with a rock band to kick things off. The MC for the night was Bill Fernandez, the person who introduced Jobs and Steve Wozniak the last time around. Some of Apple's other earliest employees were in attendance, including Daniel Kottke and Larry Tessler.

Steve Hayden, who conceived of Apple's famous Ridley Scott-directed "1984" commercial, was on hand to provide insight about the now iconic TV spot. He mentioned Jobs' original mandate to him for the commercial: "Stop the world in its tracks." No easy task, but after Jobs saw the rough cut of the spot, "Steve could barely contain himself," Hayden recalled.

Rod Holt, Apple's early hardware guru. Dan Farber/CNET
CNET's Dan Farber also moderated a panel of folks who used and developed for the Mac once it was released. David Bunnell, who founded Macworld, described the shooting session behind the well-known picture of Jobs cradling three of the machines on the inaugural cover of the magazine. Turns out the cover almost didn't happen: At the last minute, Jobs changed his mind and didn't want to be on the cover. "Sorry Steve, it's already on the printers," Bunnell fibbed.

Mike Markkula, who provided the first funding for Apple and served as chairman of the board for 12 years, was given special recognition and a trophy during the event.

Former Apple chairman Mike Markkula Dan Farber/CNET

Tributes have been pouring in all week, reveling in the machine's history and its role in bringing computing to the masses. (Check out CNET's special report on the anniversary.)

Apple bigwigs -- SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, software engineering chief Craig Federighi, and vice president of software technology Bud Tribble -- gave a rare interview to CNET -- reflecting on the Mac's role in today's Apple. Journalist Steven Levy, who moderated a panel on Saturday, wrote about his coverage of the original event, as a writer for Rolling Stone. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook granted an exclusive interview with ABC News looking back at the machine. Apple also overhauled its homepage with a tribute to the Mac and put out a video celebrating the anniversary.