The photographer was not what Steve Jobs wanted.

He was going to introduce the iMac, the machine that would take Apple on the wildest journey to its biggest corporate comeback, in May 1998. That August, twenty-five years ago this month, the product was scheduled to ship. Jobs had also picked me, who was working for Newsweek at the time, to get an early look and spend time with him as he prepared for the launch. At the time, neither Jobs nor the almost bankrupt Apple had the power to demand a cover, as he would frequently do in the years to come.

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Newsweek would not provide any assurances, even in the future when Apple possessed such influence. However, as Steve Jobs, he was extremely particular about the person shooting his photo. As soon as he found out who Newsweek had assigned to take the behind-the-scenes photos, he lost it. It appears that Jobs thought the person had performed poorly during a previous picture shoot for Next, the firm he founded after being sacked by John Sculley from Apple in 1985. Furthermore, he had serious doubts about the portrait photographer our art director had selected to capture the heroic image. Wayan Brakha? Jobs was unfamiliar with the man.

Floors suddenly became knee-deep in virtual eggshells when Steve became agitated like that, causing everyone in his immediate vicinity to move with gravity-defying lightness. His public relations team had to almost beg him to leave his office, come downstairs, and sit for the photo. Jobs grinned at me and reluctantly followed through.

Having shot Joni Mitchell, Devo, and the Ramones, Brakha was no stranger to uncooperative subjects. He had traveled up to Cupertino from Los Angeles. He moved Apple’s cofounder into the desired poses while whispering comforting words to Jobs, much like a cowhand from Yellowstone Ranch does with a wild stallion. Jobs seemed to be less alarmed by Brakha’s bravery. As soon as the photographer requested that the acting CEO sit with his legs crossed and place the machine on his lap, Jobs realized he was in the company of another creative person. In the picture that went on to become the cover photo for Newsweek and one of the most recognizable images of Steve Jobs ever, his smile was endearingly sincere. In the end, Apple purchased the rights to regulate its use.

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It was twenty-five years ago. This week, we are commemorating not just the iMac G3’s launch anniversary but also the time when doubts about Jobs’ ability to make a comeback lifted from Cupertino. Despite lacking any revolutionary new technology, the machine was thoughtfully designed to offer the best of Apple’s advances up to that point. This included a robust G3 chip, a sharp 15-inch display, a built-in modem, and software that helped to simplify the then-frustrating process of accessing the internet.

The bundle included the removal of technology; at the time, computers came with floppy disk drives as standard equipment. Jobs said, “A complete nonissue,” when I inquired about potential complaints. What was most remarkable, though, was how Jobs’s young, new design whiz, Jony Ive, designed and polished its appearance. The end product was a translucent plastic blob that was curved and resembled a blue watermelon, reminiscent of the Jetsons. (The hue was given the name Bondi Blue in honor of the dreamy waves of a well-known Australian beach.) Following months of marketing to instill in us the notion that Apple was a different kind of company, the corporation had produced a new computer that truly lived up to its tagline.

In addition, I am commemorating the anniversary of a change in my personal dynamic with Jobs. I had been acquainted with him when I covered his comeback to Apple in 1997, having written for Rolling Stone about his original Macintosh debut in 1984. However, his offer of an early glimpse at the iMac marked the beginning of a routine whereby I would have an early look, or at the very least a personal briefing after the keynote, on almost every significant product that Apple released over the following ten years. For this specific subject, I was granted access to several interviews as well as several casual get-togethers. I watched him answer a call from Jerry Seinfeld in his corporate room at One Infinite Loop. Seinfeld was assisting him in obtaining a tape of the comedian’s debut appearance on Johnny Carson for a Think Different commercial. And I witnessed a tense moment when he reprimanded one of his staff members at the launch rehearsal for not living up to the Jobsian standard of perfection after we had driven in his Mercedes to the event venue.

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The most significant moments, though, came when Jobs predicted that he would revive Apple. He declared, “This is a project straight from my heart. The world is a slightly better place with Apple Computer in it, and if Apple can return to its roots as an innovator, the whole industry would benefit from that.” He proposed a “whole-widget” approach, in which all of Apple’s products would be designed from the ground up, including the software, and would be sold directly to customers. Sony was the sole business operating in a similar capacity. According to Jobs, at first he believed Apple may become the Sony of the computer industry. Now, though, he saw himself topping even that titan of Japanese technology. He remarked, “Now I say, Apple could be the Apple of this business.” And that is what we intend to do.

Jobs, of course, did that. The iMac G3 was the beginning, but the iPhone was the pinnacle of the whole-widget approach. He informed me that the iMac’s internal codenames, Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, were modeled after the ships of Christopher Columbus. Why, I asked him? “It is a different world,” he replied.

While going through the transcripts of our talks from May, I stumbled onto a conversation I had completely forgotten. Jobs had informed me that he would disclose a specific aspect of his software approach live during the official launch of the iMac. We were going to publish our piece after the tragedy, so I reasoned that Newsweek would appear foolish not to include it. He mockingly snorted at me. He remarked, “You are going to look really smart.” “You will have the first excellent photos of this item and the first comprehensive report about it.” He was correct; even after 25 years, people still remember the piece for the picture as much as the words.

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The iMac’s design, which excited our imaginations in addition to pleasing the eyes, was a major factor in its success along with its affordability and simplicity. The iMac moniker endures on its silver anniversary, and it continues to represent the whole-widget approach perfectly. However, it is a very different machine—much less enjoyable and far more powerful. Furthermore, Steve Jobs will never again exist.

Here’s my article from Newsweek regarding the iMac. Even if I added a few of the cautionary remarks that are needed by journalistic convention, my excitement about Apple’s prospects under Steve Jobs proved to be well-founded.

The launch of Apple Computer’s consumer-focused device, the iMac (only Apple would dare to lowercase the “I” in Internet), which replaced its own hall-of-fame classic, the original Macintosh, last Wednesday garnered a more resounding thumbs-up from Jobs himself. The majority of those in attendance at the historic Mac launch event held at Flint Center in Cupertino, California, fourteen years ago, were workers of Apple. But few had known about the new product since it was cloaked in an industrial-strength cone of quiet. Thus, following an uplifting slide show showcasing the company’s recent profits and showcasing the speed of its stylish new laptops, the audience went absolutely crazy when Jobs, the interim CEO, made an uncommon appearance in a business suit and physically unveiled a piece of hardware that combines sci-fi glitz with the whimsical kitsch of a cocktail umbrella. The iMac, which is set to launch in August, is not only the coolest-looking computer to be released in years, but it also makes a bold statement indicating that Silicon Valley’s original dream firm is no longer sleepwalking. Its curves are reminiscent of the [VW] Beetle, and it is clad in retro-geeky, translucent plastic.

When 43-year-old Jobs took over the firm he cofounded in a garage ten months ago, many saw it as a desperate attempt to breathe life into a corporate shell that was barely breathing. Perhaps Jobs might conjure up his renowned “reality-distortion field” and generate enough interest to allow a larger company to acquire Apple at a nominal cost. However, odd statements are suddenly coming out of One Infinite Loop, the Cupertino headquarters with its glass atrium. terms such as profit. steadiness. And even growth, if you listen closely. The face icon that appears on the Mac boot-up screen has a reason to smile for the first time in years.

“Most of what schools teach today will be accessible in a matter of seconds with AI,” inquires Ana. How should we raise our kids to become extraordinary humans in a world where AI is a thing?

Excellent query, Ana. You also say that you consider yourself fortunate to have lived your entire life away from the level of artificial intelligence (AI) that we have witnessed recently and that will undoubtedly grow in strength in the years to come.

For the duration of this response, at least, let us be positive. We can speculate that one day you and I will regret not having grown up in a world where artificial intelligence permeated every aspect of daily life. that teachers are liberated from assigning their students tedious assignments when humans and AI work together. that young people’s exchanges with image producers, who present the products of their imaginations, foster a new degree of creativity. big language models’ replies inspire students to delve further into social scientific topics. that candidates for STEM fields go beyond math exercises and use AI-driven bots’ computations—which are presumably enhanced so that they yield correct answers—to take on the most challenging challenges in their fields.

I realize that is a very Panglossian attitude, but please be aware that I have the right to declare doom at any time and to retract whatever optimism I may have expressed in subsequent letters. Regardless of the outcome, educators need to continue doing what they have always done, which is to ignite students’ curiosity about learning and motivate them to apply reasoning to the things we assign them to study. Administrators in our educational system who view AI as a way to save expenses are completely misguided. Because of the widespread use of those tools, additional resources are needed to enable instructors to collaborate more closely with students and AI tools to achieve outcomes that are only attainable via human curiosity and exploration.


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