I was in college in the San Francisco Bay Area at about the same time Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were building their first Apple computers -- the Apple I -- in Jobs's parents' garage in Los Altos, California. While they only made 200 or so copies of their first computer, it was the seed from which the wildly successful company grew.
However, not everyone believed in Jobs and Wozniak at the time -- in fact, some thought they and their garage-built computers weren't going to amount to much of anything.
So it was in 1976, when Los Altos ad agency executive Mike Rose received a referral from Regis McKenna, who ran an area PR firm. The referral? Steve Jobs, who was looking for a company to print the instruction manual for the Apple I computer.
Rose talked with Jobs on the phone, but he wasn't exactly impressed by what he heard. He scribbled a handwritten note to his business partner, notifying him that he would be hearing from Jobs, but to watch out for "this joker."
Here's the text of the note:
"Bob -- This joker (attached) is going to be calling you. Somebody at Regis McKenna recommended us (you). They are 2 guys -- they build kits -- operate out of a garage -- want our catalog sheets. Wants it for nothing. Wouldn't trust me. Told him we'd like to see what they've got -- we'd estimate -- then decide.
Sounds flakey. Watch it!
Reportedly, Jobs decided that the quote he received from Rose's company was too high, so he ended up selecting a local printing company to produce it.
While the job certainly wouldn't have made Mike Rose rich, it's intriguing to think what might have happened if he had taken Jobs and Wozniak a bit more seriously and developed a long-term relationship with them and their nascent company. Says Leslie Berlin, project historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University (where Mike Rose's note now resides),
"The note is wonderful in part because it reveals how much Silicon Valley has changed in 35 years. In 1976, two guys trying to launch a tech company from a garage in the heart of Silicon Valley were flakes. Today, someone in Rose's position might well ask for a piece of the action -- payment in the form of a small bit of stock, perhaps?"