Throughout his life, Steve Jobs reinforced some of his own philosophies, such as his “rule of three” or his many inspirational phrases that are still repeated as a mantra in some industries today. But he was also branded a bully, a despotic attitude, and an irresponsible father. His relationship with some subordinates was peculiar, to say the least. Such was the case with the temporary hiring of Michael Geary.
Unlike Bill Fernandez, Michael Geary wasn’t even hired. Michael Geary has an impressive CV: He has worked with leading programming companies, as an assembler, developer and director, in virtual reality, ethical hacking, at Microsoft, Google, Adobe, even for TV companies. However, his relationship with Steve Jobs was fleeting, but he left his mark for more than forty years.
Michael Geary, Apple’s first employee, was fired before he was even hired
Michael Geary in 1976. Owned by Michael Geary
Michael Geary was one of the first professionals to approach an Apple computer, which didn’t even exist when Steve Jobs and Wozniak met in this garage every afternoon to mold the first Apple I. Geary described himself as “a scruffy looking hippie”. who met another “sloppy looking, stinky hippie.” Yes, the second was Jobs. United by his love of electronics, the two hit it off quickly.
Geary was then working as a computer scientist in Palo Alto. In fact, nearly 50 years later as a consultant for IBM, he’s still influenced by Silicon Valley. 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 back then, a microprocessor like the 6502 cost a fortune to buy. He operated as an employee with mainframes, huge computers comparable to today’s data servers. So if he wanted to understand the chip’s assembly language, you’d have to write your own disassembler program with emulation. Geary would use a mainframe of his work and an emulator to program for the 6502 chip without having to discard it. A good plan.
That same week, Geary got to work and began writing the disassembler code. But before he even sent it to Jobs, Steve called him and fired scathingly, “They only work on mainframes and that’s for a microprocessor. […] Forget it.” A hit that Geary took as a personal challenge: could code and would show. “I’ll write a partial proof of concept and visit you and show you the code.” She did.
The success that earned him a contract
Shortly after this event, Geary was looking for a phone that would appear in Apple Computer’s “offices”. When he managed to find the address, he actually came across a garage. And there were the two Steves working between their pots and pans. It seemed like a joke. “These guys are flakes,” he said, referring to someone who disappoints, is a loser, someone who sets expectations but doesn’t live up to them. “You’ll never make it.” He was completely wrong.
Geary says he met Jobs a few years later at a grocery store in Los Gatos, California. They talked and relived their first meeting, laughed and caught up, but Geary didn’t tell him that he finally managed to write this program. What he did get, however, was a small commission.
Geary never considered Jobs’ first relationship on his resume. In fact, only a fixed-term contract from 1986 appears in the huge map of his collaborations and projects. He spent a few months developing a gateway for Diplomat, an email tool for Macintosh. He wrote “screenplays in a FORTH-based language” for a few weeks. And that was no more. But if he left an important mark on his memory, he pierced his view of Steve Jobs.
It was many years later before Geary met Jobs again. She was at a restaurant in Menlo Park, California, and Jobs was at a table next to her. Apparently he already looked distinctly ill from his pancreatic cancer. And Geary didn’t mean to bother or be rude. “I should have said hello. I should have told him I wrote this series. I didn’t have the courage to talk to him at the time. In the back of my mind I’ll always regret not talking to him that night,” he recalls. Steve died shortly thereafter.
Home | Originally by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (April 8, 2010, Cupertino, California).
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