Throughout his life, Steve Jobs strengthened several of his own philosophies, such as his “rule of three” or his many inspiring phrases that are still repeated today as a mantra among some sectors. But he was also branded a tyrant, despotic attitude and irresponsible father. His relationship with some subordinates was, to say the least, peculiar. Such was the case with the fleeting hiring of Michael Geary.
Unlike Bill Fernandez, Michael Geary wasn’t even hired. Michael Geary has an impressive resume: He has worked collaborating with leading programming companies, as an assembler, developer and director, in Virtual Reality, ethical hacking, at Microsoft, Google, Adobe, even for television companies. His relationship with Steve Jobs, however, was fleeting but he left a mark for more than forty years.
Michael Geary, Apple’s first employee fired when he wasn’t even hired
Michael Geary was one of the first professionals to approach an Apple Computer that didn’t even exist yet, when Steve Jobs and Wozniak met every afternoon in that garage to shape the first Apple I. Geary he defined himself as “a scruffy looking hippie” who ran into another “scruffy looking smelly hippie”. Yes, the second was Jobs. United by their love for electronics, the two soon hit it off.
At the time, Geary was working as a computer scientist in Palo Alto. In fact, still under the influence of Silicon Valley, as a consultant for IBM almost 50 years later. Jobs told him that he was trying to start his own computer company, so he could use a profile like his: “I need a disassembler for the 6502 chip“.
The problem is that Geary had never worked with these tools before. And, in those days, buying a microprocessor like the 6502 would cost you a fortune. He operated as an employee with mainframes, huge computers comparable to today’s data servers. So if he wanted to understand the assembly language of the chip, you would have to write your own disassembler program using emulation. Geary would use a mainframe of his work and an emulator to program for the 6502 chip without having to dispose of it. A good plan.
That same week, Geary got down to business and began writing the disassembler code. But before even sending it to Jobs, Steve called him and fired withering: “you only work with mainframes and this is for a microprocessor. (…) Forget it.” A hard blow that Geary took as a personal challenge: could program and would show. “I’ll write a partial proof of concept and visit you and show you the code.” She did it.
The success that earned him a contract
Shortly after this event, Geary looked for a phone to appear at “the offices” of Apple Computer. When he managed to find the address, he came across, indeed, a garage. And there were the two Steves, working among their pots and pans. It seemed like a joke to him. “These guys are flakes“, he came to say, referring to someone disappointing, a loser, someone who generates expectations but does not meet them. “They’re never going to make it.” There he was completely wrong.
By his own account, a good handful of years later, Geary ran into Jobs in a grocery store in Los Gatos, California. They talked and relived their first meeting, laughing and catching up, but Geary didn’t tell him that he had finally managed to write that program. What he did get, however, was a small commission.
Geary never considered the first relationship with Jobs for his CV. In fact, in the immense map of collaborations and projects of his, only a temporary contract appears in 1986. He spent a few months developing a gateway for Diplomat, an email tool for Macintosh. He wrote “scripts in a FORTH-based language” for a few weeks. And that was no more. But if He left an important mark on his memory, penetrating his perspective on Steve Jobs.
It took many years later for Geary to run into Jobs again. She was at a restaurant in Menlo Park, California, and Jobs was sitting at a table next to hers. Apparently, he already looked clearly sick from his pancreatic cancer. And Geary didn’t want to interrupt or be rude. “I should have said hello. I should have told him I wrote that show. I didn’t have the guts to talk to him at the time. In the back of my mind, I will always regret not talking to him that night.“, he remembers. Steve passed away shortly after.
Home | Original by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (April 8, 2010, Cupertino, California).
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