I was toiling away at Stream International on the Apple Customer Relations phone line when it was announced. I’d been at Stream for about 2 years, which made me practically an old-timer. Phone support is stressful, and Apple Customer Relations was considered to be the highest stress team; we were called (by the other teams and ourselves, with equal levels of pride and loathing) “The Scream Team”. When I’d started, I assumed it was the customers doing the screaming, but found that wasn’t always the case. Thankfully, most of the employee screaming was done after the phone call had ended.
Not always, but mostly.
At the time the iMac was introduced by Steve Jobs, several of my co-workers from Stream had made the move to Austin, TX, to actually work at Apple. They were doing much the same job but at a “Senior” level, though they were still contractors and not full-on, white-badged Apple employees. So I fired off an email or two to find out more, but there wasn’t much more to give. Internally, Apple was just as secretive as they were (and still largely are) with their customers. So we had to wait for the information to filter down to us. We at Stream, supporting Apple products, felt like we needed to know this information; after all, we were being asked by customers about it, customers that largely assumed we were still operating out of Steve Job’s garage. Why couldn’t we just go down the hall and knock on Steve’s door and get the straight poop, customers seemed to believe (but never actually said out loud, not that I can recall).
But me and my team existed on some twilight ground, not quite Apple, and yet seemingly given the full authority of “speaking for Apple”.
By the time the iMac was actually released to be sold, I myself had made the move to Austin. That’s a story for another time.
The gumdrop shape, the translucent blue plastic, the all-in-one-ness, the new-fangled USB interface… The iMac stood out, definitely. And there were always the reminders from our managers and the Apple liaisons, that Steve was banking the company on the success of the iMac.
Turns out to have been a good bet in hindsight. AAPL traded for $7.00 a share on 1 May 1998.
10 years later, it closed at $180.00 a share on 1 May 2008; there’s been two stock splits in those 10 years.
So much for Michael Dell’s (in)famous quote, when asked in 1997 what he’d do if he were running Apple: “What would I do… I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.“