Hearne: My Personal Take on Steve Jobs, Part One

My first encounter with iconic Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs went down at Pennylane Records in Westport…

It was in the mid-1980s and I was a promoter of mostly alternative rock musicians in an era when local radio had zero interest in those artists outside of hit makers like Duran Duran and Simple Minds. I needed a vehicle to reach the target audience for those acts. And while there wasn’t a whole lot to Pennylane’s in-house KC Pitch monthly  contentwise-  there were really no other viable options.

Or so I thought…

However, I couldn’t even get a return phone call to buy an ad for my first concert. So afterwards I tracked down record store owner Hal Brody and pitched him on my concept for expanding the Pitch. To transform it from a record store rag running mostly "house" ads for Pennylane and bar ads for a handful of Westport clubs like the Hurricane and Lone Star into something more closely ressembling what it is today.

In other markets, small, homegrown hippie rags had evolved and continued to evolve into broadbased alternative newsweeklies, I told Brody. They covered the fine arts, dining, a far wider swath of entertainment and edgy, often controversial news stories. And the Pitch could do the same in Kansas City where there was money to be made and fun to be had.

Brody took me up and I began working with his merry band of record store employees to grow the mag.

They were an enthusiastic lot and were further heartened by a Christmas gift Brody got that year he didn’t know what to do with.

It was the very first Macintosh computer. 

Brody brought it down to Pennylane and bestowed it upon messrs Scott O’Kelly and Donna Trussell, then the keepers of the Pitch flame.Needless to say, they were thrilled. And then and there, in that inglamorous basement beneath Pennylane, desktop publishing in Kansas City was born.

I’d attended a personal computing class touting IBM’s first PCs a couple years earlier, but had not been much interested. The little Mac kind of got me going though – I say, kind of. 

Because embarrassing as it is for me to admit, it took a wrestler by the name of King Kong Bundy to actually get me in the game.

But the King & I didn’t last long or go very far and it was quickly back to Job’s Macintosh forever more. I’ve never owned a PC since, nor will I. And in a dumbed down way, I’ve tried to follow in the footsteps of Guy Kawaski, the former Chief Evangelist at Apple. Converting friends and family to the Mac.

Can you believe it? I even got Craig Glazer to by a MacBook earlier this year and he only learned how to spellcheck a handful of months ago.

I digress…

I bought the first true Apple laptop, the Powerbook 170, the minute in came out in 1991.

For a then, not-low price of $4,599. I even thought it was cool that it had been assembled in Ireland. And I wrote the vast majority of my Kansas City Star columns on it for several years starting in 1992. It wasn’t easy though, because I then had to load my columns onto a floppy disk and transfer them to the ultra crappy computers Star reporters had to work on for way too many years.

Years later I bought the very first iBook, literally on my way out of town to cover the KC Wizards championship game and MLS Cup victory in Washinton, D.C. in 2000. Plugged that puppy into a phone jack in the press box at RFK Stadium and emailed story after story to the Star sports desk.

Via dial-up, of course. And while that sounds pretty arcane today, it was cutting edge at the time.

Year after year I waited and watched as Jobs unveiled the new Macs I came to know and love. He put on that little dog and pony show the public now knows so well for the tiny cadre of Mac fanatics. Long before the iPod, iPhone or iPad.

By dumb luck I purchased the very first iMac at Comp USA in Overland Park the day it came out in August of 1998. It had been sold out in advance but I just happened to be there when a manager learned someone had defaulted on their order.

Jobs had been kicked out of Apple for being a jerk in the mid-1980s and unlike his rep today had been rendered a falling star.

Back then nobody thought or knew he’d ever amount to anything much again. He was pretty much a loser. However by 2007, the suits had all but ruined Apple and the conventional wisdom at the time was if Sony didn’t buy it, Apple wouldn’t be around much longer.

That’s when Apple threw caution to the wind – having nothing to lose – and brought Jobs back. 

For a buck a year. 

Which seemed ultra cool and very cheap but only because – as we would later learn – Jobs had calculated a way to make tons more dough by playing a game that now allows billionaire Warren Buffet to pay taxes at a lower rate than his secretary.

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12 Responses to Hearne: My Personal Take on Steve Jobs, Part One

  1. Cliffy says:

    Interesting format, Hearne. Personally, I don’t think it will catch on.

  2. Markus Aurelius says:

    Hearne, You may be minding your Q’s but how about also
    minding your P’s.

  3. Merle Tagladucci says:

    I have friends that own iMacs, Mac books and even have a buddy who dropped $5000 on a 12-core Mac pro. Strangely enough, my custom-built PC kicks their asses up and down the block in speed and performance. But those Macs sure do look cool!

  4. Robertoe says:

    Jobs= 1 in a billion
    There’s never gonna be another Steve Jobs. Who comes close? Henry Ford? Richard Branson? Mark Zukerburg? I like Jobs quote about Bill Gates: “”I wish [Bill Gates] the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”

    Yeah it was fun for us old goats to watch the inception of the microcomputer and the internet. But if you were so tech cutting edge back then, what happened? Its kind of funny to see this screwed up formatting on your tech gloat piece.

    I did a little desktop publishing pioneering back then myself. In 1988, I was working for Koch Refining and researching communications technologies for an assigned project.. Koch actually sent Western Union Mailgrams (ha!) to communicate fuel pricing info back then. I recommended a new ‘voice messaging’ technology. Bailed out. Started an oil market info service at the KC Board of Trade. Had 4 phone lines coming into a microcomputer. You could pass code dial in or it would auto-dial out when something big happened. In 1989 had a 3 man company with 4 microcomputers. That was unheard of back then. Then we used PCs to layout a faxed newsletter. All our competition was mailing their newsletter out. We had the first faxed newsletter on oil markets in the world. The first Gulf War hit 6 months later and I sold out to a larger competitor for 7 figures. It was a 6 year payout with a check coming in every quarter so I ‘Steve Jobsed’ it and hippy traveled overseas. Unlike him, I think that was the start of my downfall. And I’m with you Hearne, the tech boat has since sailed without me!

  5. Hearne Christopher says:

    Well, it caught on with me for some reason

  6. Hearne Christopher says:

    And they are so seemlessly easier to use. Chip speed can save you a little time here and there but ease of use is far superior

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s sailed w/o me. Just never got into MP3 much.

  8. Hearne says:

    There you go, boys and girls…
    It was Steve Jobs ghost that got me. I was using my gf’s Mac to write it and she’s on Safari (instead of Firefox) which has an unsettling effect on our current system.

  9. Craig Glazer says:

    St. Louis Trip
    Hey we had some fun going up and back to St. Louis, I think they have a baseball team there as well, not sure, who knows, hope they can outdraw the T-Bones. Anyways, we both heard the news on Jobs on the way back, Hearne had CNN/Fox radio on for all three hours of coverage, very interesting….”and now we must leave and make way for the new, you guys, our time is nearly done here as yours will be in years to come…then you will step away and make room for the new” Jobs to Stanford….very true…sad but true, we all go…and for the most part are forgotten, even Jobs…not fair, just life….what a career he had.

  10. smartman says:

    Job Well Done
    Interesting guy. Hard core capitalist with left leaning sensibilities. Gates is still alive so I guess that means he WINS.

    If only he would have figured out a way to make everything in the US. Might have cost more but people would have paid up. There will be other creators and innovators like Jobs. He certainly ruled in his time and space continuum. He made lots of money and made a difference in the way the whole world views and uses digital technology.

    Keep some perspective though. Thomas Edison had almost 1200 patents, Jobs close to 300. Edison invented shit that didn’t exist. Jobs improved existing platforms.

    Edison made it possible for the audiophile to exist. Jobs compressed the dynamics and bandwidth so music sounded like shit, but it beats lugging a suitcase of cd’s around in your car.

  11. randyraley says:

    “Hey we had some fun going up and back to St. Louis, I think they have a baseball team there as well, not sure, who knows, hope they can outdraw the T-Bones.”


  12. Mike says:

    Nice article…
    I will always have fond memories of working with classic Macs for my high school paper. My first intro into the world of Apple. Those little machines did more than my parents’ Tandy computer at home, or the other computers predominant at my HS at the time, the Radio Shack TRS-80, or Trash-80. Those little Macs were just friggin’ cool. They made life so easy, and you didn’t have to lumber through DOS code to get it to work.
    I helped install the new iMacs in ’99 at my KU journalism lab, and just thought those were neat little things too.
    Definitely saving up for an iPad.

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