MOUNTAIN VIEW -- In Silicon Valley, it's not a question of "What have you done for me lately?" -- the question is, "So, what are you going to do for me next?"
And so, you have to wonder what it's like to be best known for something you did 30 years ago.
"It's awesome," says Wigginton, who led the effort on the MacWrite word processor. "People don't get to change the world very often. How much luckier can a guy be? I've had a very blessed life."
The blessings were very much on Wigginton's mind the other day as he and a long list of early Apple employees got together to check out the resurrection of a rare machine known as the Twiggy Mac. The prototype was a key chapter in the development of the original Mac, which of course was a key chapter in the development of the personal computer and by extension the personal music player, the smartphone, the smart tablet and a nearly ubiquitous digital lifestyle that has turned the world on its head.
Some of the key players in that story, first immortalized in Steven Levy's "Insanely Great" and again in Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" and most recently, docudrama fashion, in the movie "Jobs," gathered at the Computer History Museum to get a look at the Mac and at old friends who'd done so much together.
Sure, their story has been told over and over again. But there is a reason for that and a great good that comes from it. The story is told again and again, because what the Mac team did -- building a computer with a graphic interface, a mouse, never-before-seen software, a look-and-feel that was so easy a child could take it out of the box and get to work -- was remarkable and important. And the good that comes from remembering the Mac and the team that built it is that the Mac was not the first world-changer and it won't be the last.
In Silicon Valley, especially, where so much entrepreneurship seems to be about matching what's already been invented, or turning the screw of innovation just a bit, it's good to seek inspiration; to remember that big changes, meaningful changes, are within our grasp. And it's good to remember that innovation is a team sport; very few paradigm shifts grow out of one individual's vision. So, we should celebrate the teams that have gotten us this far.
Celebrate they did at the computer museum, where more than a dozen Apple alums with badge numbers in the double digits or lower and their friends gathered for an informal and private reunion. It was a hall of fame lineup including Steve Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld, Daniel Kottke, Chris Espinosa, Guy Kawasaki, Ed Ruder, Don Breuner, Jerry Manock, Terry Oyama, Larry Kenyon, Patti Kenyon, Donn Denman, Rod Holt and Wendell Sander, among others.
They were there ostensibly to check out the Mac prototype revived by Gabreal Franklin, the guy who was president of Encore Systems, the company that developed MacWrite. With the help of a team of his own -- including Canadian computer-collector Adam Goolevitch and Kottke, a man who had a Shakespearean friendship with Jobs in the early days -- Franklin got the Mac running this year.
Yes, there were memories of the machine at the museum, particularly for Wigginton and Hertzfeld when they took turns sitting down at the ancient keyboard.
"It brought back a lot of the happiness and the terror of working on the Macintosh," Wigginton says, remembering his days with Jobs, "because you never knew when Steve was going to be in this horrible mood and say, 'This is terrible,' or when he'd be in a great mood and say, 'This is awesome, it's going to change the world.'"
But the gathering was really more about honoring not only what they had done, but the friendships they had developed over days, weeks and months of trial and error and more trial.
"It's really about all the people here, that I admire and who taught me everything that I know," says Hertzfeld, who recently retired from Google (GOOG). "I love seeing everyone. It's my family, in a way."
And sure, Hertzfeld had thought about the question that I was wondering about: What's it like to be best-known for something you did decades ago?
"You always like to think that the work you're doing is going to be the best work you've ever done," he says. "But after enough time had passed, I saw that, well, the Mac is probably the best thing that I'll ever do. And I can live with that."
It is quite a legacy. And thanks to the Mac team, it's a legacy that the rest of us are living with, too.
Contact Mike Cassidy at email@example.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.