Im keeping the picture, no matter what. There are very few Outies who would even admit to liking the Beatles, let alone have a picture of them on their desk. The fact that Im in the picture with them might even make someone think I was secretly an Innie, despite everything else.
But you see, I always liked the Beatles, and it was for their music more than anything else. People forget what it was that made them famous in the first place, and if you listen to their songs you have to admit, they got to where they were because they were first and foremost musicians. No matter what else you think of them later, it was in the 1960s where they made their mark, and thats something you cant deny them.
I think thats why I always stood by them even after it got real deep. Hell, I was thinking of them from the very beginning, so maybe its my fault -
No, not really, Im sure someone else also sent them letters like those I sent back in 77, maybe some other person in the Homebrew Computer Club. Or someone who knew someone, maybe read about it in the Chronicle. I know I sent those letters, and Im sure someone else must have also, so it was probably inevitable.
I mean, there had to have been other Beatles fans back then who were there when Steve and Woz came to that Homebrew meeting with their first Apple computer, and someone else must have known that Apple Computer was an old trademark that was part of Apple Corps. I cant imagine I was the only one who knew this and sent a letter to all four of their lawyers to let them know that these two guys here in California were infringing on their names.
I dont know whos letter it was that set up that meeting, although I heard about it afterwards. Steve Wozniak himself told me about it years later; all four sent cease and desist letters to them, and Steve Jobs actually vowed to fight for the name. And just when it looked like there was going to be a drag-down all-out war in court, he makes a counter-proposal for a face-to-face, him and Woz with all the Beatles together. Supposedly it was the first time all four had been in a room together since 1970, and they were there with their wives and girlfriends and their lawyers, expecting some sort of settlement. And in comes Steve with Woz and a few friends, and Steves wearing the best suit he could borrow, and he pitches the Apple like it was the Second Coming, actually willing to partner with them to come out with the first real piece of hardware Apple Computer could ever put its name on.
And the weird thing is, they bought it. It was one of those right place right time things; George was feeling pretty burned out by the divorce and Phil Spectors lawsuits, Ringo felt he was going nowhere, and both of them wanted to do something different. John was really into it; he hired that faker Magic Alex for Apple Computer the first time around, and Steve talked a better show than Alex and actually had something to show for it.
Id heard that Paul was reluctant at first. Supposedly, he had tabled the idea without actually killing it, and he went back to Lindas family to do some number crunching. The Eastmans must have really liked what Steve said, because a few days later Apple Computer was back in business big time.
You have to remember, in the beginning Apple was a lot different. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were in charge, and they liked working with the Beatles. And the Beatles were more involved in the company then; in addition to giving their blessing and offering to promote the venture, they actually had a say in some of the business decisions. And remember, an Apple back then, if you compare it with todays machine, was like the Model T to the Death Star; it was an article of faith that this contraption was actually going to do everything people promised it would.
I remember when the four of them promoted the Apple together, it was really big news. It was September of 1978, and all four were on stage together at the Waldorf ballroom in New York, but the only instrument they had was an Apple II. They answered questions, mostly ones about their music that Paul and John kept tying back into the computers, and through it all George talked about how when everyone got computers wed all be "connected to a higher mind greater than us." Add to it Ringo delivering a few quick jokes, and it was a hit. The press ate it all up, and Apple computers were hotter than Beatles records ever were.
It was right then when demand shot through the roof that I started working for Apple. Id been working towards a graduate degree in electrical engineering when I heard they were looking for both hardware and software people, and for me the chance to work for the Beatles was just too good to pass up. People ask me if I regret not going back for the degree after I left, but I learned so much on the cutting edge there that I dont think Id really learn anything new now. Besides, only Innies get into school these days, not to mention a job afterwards, so why bother?
But 1979 was a golden time. We were outselling IBM, at first because of the Beatles endorsement, but now because we were just making better boxes, and the demand was staggering. I even got to meet all four of them for the first time that year; back then when they werent doing something else like recording a solo album or starring in a film, each one would come around and visit the place. I guess after the last time, they all wanted to make sure that any company called Apple was a real company that actually worked. And never once did I see any of them have anything other than a real big grin as they made their way through the building.
I even had some great stories to tell about their visits after they showed up. Ringo was once there with a friend, Harry Nilsson, and the two of them kept quoting movie lines with bad imitations of who said it, trying to top each other while giving a perfunctory look-over. When Paul showed up, it was usually with Linda and the children, and sometimes Id take some burned out chips and give them to the kids; Stella once showed up with a bangle that had those chips glued on in a nice pattern. John and Yoko were almost maniacal about the whole thing; shed ask practical questions about business applications, hed want to know about leisure software, and between them they had everyone on their toes as they tried to separate the great ideas from the pipe dreams.
George, though, I remember the most. The more George took an interest in Apple, the more he wanted to learn about the computers and try to keep on top of things, and one time, right after Timothy Leary got out of jail, when he was there he seemed really up on modems. I remember he took me aside then and actually asked me as many questions as possible about modems, in particular how to make them a standard part of the box, and for someone who wasnt an engineer he had a lot of good questions. I remember in the middle of it mentioning something I was reading at the time about the ARPA-net, and after a few more questions he asked me to get him as much on that as I could. A few weeks after I tracked down every article on it he sent me a lovely note and an Indian scarf. I have both of those still too; the note I keep locked away, but nobody thinks to ask about where I got the scarf.
And right up until 1981 it was very beautiful. I loved my job, especially the bonuses we got because of those remarkable years, because Apple back then was a warm place. It was so warm that employees actually looked forward to the annual picnics every July, down by the beach. Just the week before this one IBM announced that it was abandoning the personal PC market, giving us not just the sky but the whole damned Solar System as the limit. And the day before we got an exclusive order from the federal government to supply them with all their desktop machines.
So when we had the annual picnic that year, everyone who was there with their families and lovers and hanger-ons were really psyched. And that made that picnic so amazing; there was even a brief moment when the four Beatles sang together. John hadnt sung for anyone since 1975, George hadnt made an album since 77, and no one remembered if Ringo even sang, but it just happened on its own. It was impromptu, and it was only one song, an a cappella version of "Dont Be Cruel," but it just blew everybody away. I heard someone actually taped them doing that, and for a while there were actually people who liked the Beatles enough to pay up to one million dollars for it.
And it was just minutes after that that I was by them. They all knew me by name, although Ringo needed to be reminded a little, and it was in the middle of that flushed moment of elation that I asked them if theyd mind having a picture taken with me. Thats what I keep on my desk, the five of us smiling as the shadows got longer over the picnic, Ringo, Paul, me, John and George, on that sunny afternoon in 1981.
It was probably the best day of my life ever, considering what came after it.
For a while, it just got better and better. That September, we released the Apple Max, which was mostly Georges dream child. His questions about connectivity and modems and the ARPA-net led to it, a computer that could talk to other computers anywhere in the world. Suddenly, no matter how much software you put on your old desktop system, this machine was far better because you were connected to every other computer out there, and all of its software, not to mention the communications with all these other users. It was Georges "higher mind" made real, and because everyone wanted a new Max to replace their old Apples sales just blew up like an H-bomb. We were no longer just the sole standard for computers, we were now the main gatekeepers for the new electronic frontier; Apple Interactive was actually handling more communications through their main processor than AT&T ever did.
The first sign things were starting to turn bad was the lawsuit in late 82. We had a hot software developer-guru then, head of the software department, and one time after Yoko visited with a lot of exacting questions he loudly said some nasty things about her; you remember the quote, disparaging her nationality and sex in three nasty words. John went livid and demanded he be fired, and it became a nasty family squabble for a while; whether you were with Apple Software or the Beatles on this actually ended a few friendships and careers. It hit us then just how big wed gotten, because even with a real generous severance the guy got from us he was going on in court about how if you werent working for Apple you just didnt work in computers, period. He lost the suit, and he proved he was right, because everyone who left the company disappeared from the industry, poof. To this day no ones ever heard of Bill Gates or the others who left with him anywhere in computers, its like they all disappeared. I thought about looking him up, but its hard for Outies to do that.
Then in 84, before the wounds could heal, there was the Potomac Affair. Suddenly connectivity for a while became a dirty word. I myself dont know if Apple really deserved all the blame after that; after all, whatever it was that Col. Oliver North did for the government that would make anyone want to kill him, it couldnt be blamed on us. One of the better stories Id heard was that he was with the White House, maybe on some secret government staff project. All the FBI ever said was the basic facts, that he was shot in the head three times and dumped where the Tidal Basin meets the river.
But the next thing that happened was, the government at first blamed the computers. By then just about everyone had a Max on their desk, and almost everyone around the world had one that allowed you to talk to every other Max user. And supposedly whatever it was North was doing found its way from one computer to the next, and the feds claimed that it was the computers abetting a breach of national security that killed North.
There was a lot of scrambling at Apple after that. Id heard George was badly depressed about how easily people were blaming their machines, and he tried to say something consoling, perform some gesture. Steve and John, however, they both had anti-authoritarian streaks and bad self-control; when they put out letters over the Net to everyone with a Max to let them know how they felt, the anger they stirred against them was amazing. A lot of people wanted John deported, forgetting hed been given citizenship back in 75; a few wanted Steve deported even though he was born here; and a few wanted to shoot them both. There were even a few scary-looking young guys who were stalking John for a while after that; thank God none of them succeeded, although I wonder if John feels lucky to have lived to see what happened to Apple and the world.
By then it was getting crazy there. Woz announced his retirement and became a teacher, and Steve was running the show alone. Without Woz to keep him in line, Steve was just getting crazier; he even once said aloud as a joke, "Im bigger than the Beatles!" which didnt get him fired.
Not that the Beatles were doing too much with Apple after the Reagan White House was banging the drums for their heads. Ringo never showed up after the Potomac Affair, and Paul looked silly trying to speak out on other things like vegetarianism and animal experiments, anything except Apple Computers, trying to change the subject. John kept a low profile, partly because of the stalkers, and George just walled himself off from the rest of the world, only communicating through his Max.
And then it just got worse. Someone tried to hack into the Department of Defense computer base "Hacking," you see, is a technical term for using your computer to try and enter another computer over the phone wires. Its not something the government likes to talk about, and supposedly in a Max world where all computers freely talk to each other hacking isnt necessary, but some people dont want their information to be free.
To get back to it, it was October 1984, and in a well-wired world like ours it was a nasty surprise to find that not everyone felt that all they needed was love and a Max. That got people in government scared, and they reacted. I remember being at Apple when I heard about the Meese Directives, how the Justice Department would take immediate steps with executive action to fix the problems by going after the troublemakers. And within twelve hours we were subpoenaed to provide as much information as possible concerning how our machines worked and what systems we used to keep track of Max users around the world.
I was pretty upset, yeah, but you should have seen Steve and John. Steve would get more inflammatory with every interview in the press, and John tried a 60s-style protest movement that Ed Meese and Ronald Reagan werent going to let get in their way. I bet right up until John was required to spend six months in jail for contempt, he thought it would just be like the 70s again, being able to stir up folks that day and go home to a warm bed later that night.
It would have helped if the other three had been with him, but it was like the last time. Paul decided to make an album, George walled himself off, and Ringo pushed hard to be in a James Cameron film. Just like the last time, they were there when times were good, but no one wanted to be around for the tough spots, and this time there was a lot more at stake than records by Mary Hopkin and Badfinger.
I dont have to tell you about what happened next, how Apple got federalized, how the CIA claimed the hackers were Iranian with government sponsorship, the SEALs that were sent in to get them got caught, the intervention of the USSR, North and South Iran. When we went to war with Russia in 85, I thought for sure we were only going to be alive for thirty minutes; I cant believe its been fourteen years and we kept the nukes from flying. Of course, a fourteen year state of war with another superpower doesnt make me too happy either, especially as no ones guaranteed the nukes are never going to be used.
I wouldnt mind seeing the nukes fly right now, though. All this national emergency and need for security has just really gotten out of hand. The way the Innies and Outies came about, you know? How you cant really be a citizen without a Max on your desk and be part of the in crowd, which means your winning candidate is always a Republican, your news is never critical of your government, and your every move is watched for your own protection.
Opting out of that mess isnt any easier, though. Being an Outie, living a standard of living at least forty years behind a Max user and not able to rise far because you dont behave yourself, that hurts. I dont mind being an Outie myself, but theres a lot of people who dont want to be sheep that are suffering from it. Amazing, isnt it, how few white Protestants there are who are Outies? If you -
Yeah, it is off topic. You came here looking for a story, trying to explain the Hollywood Massacre. How do you explain that? Ringo had given up any real connection with Apple Computer just as Russian tanks entered Tehran. Unlike Paul out in Scotland or George hiding God knows where, he didnt go put his face under a bag and try to be ignored. He was no Steve Jobs, impotent in his office taking orders from Washington, and he was no John, in and out of jail for sedition or loitering or whatever President Quayle wants to accuse him of, he just wanted to make movies.
And here he is, whats supposed to be the happiest night in his life, going to the Oscars ceremony with a nomination and a good shot at winning one, and who should show up but this guy with pounds of plastique hanging off him, trying to rush Ringo and blow him up to kingdom come. Yeah, it was sad, those 45 people having to die, but because Ringo was able to get taken out of there by a hired bodyguard without a scratch before the crazy could blow him up, people are actually blaming Ringo for this?
Let me tell you something: Yes, theres a large group of people among the Outies, anarchists or Soviet dupes, whatever you want to call them, that blame the Beatles for bringing Big Brother to life with the Max. True, yeah, if it werent for them things might be better, but can you really blame them? Look, they had a business interest together, they got involved with Steve Jobs, and at the time the four thought they were doing something good for people.
You want blame, look at the folks that saw how the Max connected everyone and took advantage of that. All those people who got a taste of power when Ronald Reagan got elected, and decided to hold on to it. Thank God we have the 23rd Amendment, what with how out of touch Reagan is these days. The Beatles only made a tool, and it was those Reagan Republicans who turned it into a weapon.
And what about everyone who had a Max, huh? They could have just disconnected, but they were too used to their news and music and mail and games coming in from all over, and when their toys turned on them, the Innies just saluted along and followed the thugs.
Me? Maybe my admiration of the Beatles influences me, yeah. I dont have much to show for my admiration; because Im an Outie I dont have access to most of the money I made in options and pensions at Apple. Its not like I was that close to the Beatles or anything, really, all I ever did was write a few letters and talk to them when they hired me.
But the truth, for your story? I have my memories, like their music, and I have this photo. And even though its eighteen years ago, for one day in 1981, to be with the four of them after they had sung, for that one shining moment, I think my life was worth it just for that.
James Ryan has been on the verge of actually being recognized as a writer in the past; who knows, someday it may happen.... His work has appeared in such places as Dragon magazine, Lacunae, the Urbanite, the New York Times, and some of the better men's room walls across the state of New York. Until he gets the chance to follow the program for disenfranchised neurotic writers, he's doing the regular job and grad school schtick. His wife Susan and son Jamie just nod and smile when he starts to rant, which, all said, makes things that much easier.