Do Engineers Need Opportunists


I knew SteveJobs (it's been ten years or so) as a man of incredible personal charisma, with superb taste and a real and sincere (even if imperfect) commitment to excellence. He cares, and is the inverse of cynical. In the original trio of personal-computer wunderkind (MitchKapor, BillGates, and SteveJobs), he is in my opinion far and away the most heroic of the three. -- TomStambaugh

And the only person I know of who has made a billion dollars twice (AppleComputer and PixarCompany). --PaulHudson

Looks like it might be three times soon (he just got what should be $1B of Apple stock options). --PaulHudson

...he is in my opinion far and away the most heroic of the three...

Hmmm... And where does Wozniak fit in? I don't understand how SteveJobs is a personal-computer wunderkind instead of a marketing wunderkind. He's innovations in marketing was incredible and because of his good taste he decided to be the face-man for many great innovations. However, what do you think SteveJobs actually contributed to ComputerScience besides being a talented promoter? --???

It's just amazing to me that Wiki has a page for Jobs but not until this message did it have one for SteveWozniak. If any subculture could look beyond the hype, I would have thought this would be Wiki. Maybe its because Woz is so demure and uninterested in fame and fortune. He's JustAnEngineer. Sometimes he even refers to himself as was an engineer. However, not only did Woz not have a page, but Jobs is mentioned as a wunderkind of personal-computers. I cannot state this any better than Woz himself:

Mainly, I wanted to be an engineer and make neat things for my own fun, forever. I told Steve and Mike Markkula that I wouldn't expand Apple into a real company because I had to quit HP (I'd designed all the Apple stuff moonlighting for a year). I loved HP. Finally I realized that I could do [Apple] and not have to run it. From the start, Steve wanted to run a company and learn the ways to. Otherwise, what was his contribution? He didn't design any of it. [emphasis mine]

--RobertDiFalco

I finally made a page for SteveWozniak. Ain't much, but what's to say? Probably a lot, but Jobs takes all the limelight.

Robert, I don't think any of the three contributed much, if anything to "ComputerScience" -- but that isn't why they matter, in my opinion. KenOlsen? didn't do much computer science either -- but personal computing, as we know it, would not exist were it not for his vision. Xerox invested in Apple, and intentionally transferred their user interface technology to Apple (at least according to AdeleGoldberg) because of Steve. The world was, and is, full of engineers like Woz -- some worse, some better.

Today's PC world happened because of the Mac -- the Lisa was certainly at least an ok machine, from an engineering perspective. It was the vision of Steve, in my opinion, that differentiated the Mac from Lisa. Were the first two Apple SuperBowl? commercials (especially Lemmings) simply marketing ploys? Yes, in the same way that the Sgt. Peppers was just a good album. True, but it misses the point. Steve has always understood, in a deep and mostly unconscious way, that he was pursuing a radical, culture-shattering vision. His vision united the efforts of a whole team -- marketing, engineering, manufacturing, software, everything. He understood that it *mattered* that they each signed the mold of the 128K mac, so that each team member's signature was inside the shell.

As for a "subculture [that] would look beyond the hype", I've worked with all three and I speak from personal experience more than hype. I think a Wiki page for Woz would be great ... why don't you start one? I don't see this as a zero-sum game; in my view, saying that Steve is the most heroic of the three I mentioned (MitchellKapor, BillGates, and SteveJobs) in no way diminishes the contributions of Woz. I knew many talented people on the Mac team, and I think they all recognized the contributions that each person made, including Steve. -- TomStambaugh

PeterDeutsch told me back in the 80s that he warned AdeleGoldberg "don't let those guys [Jobs and BillAtkinson] near this place, as they'll rip off all the ideas and we'll come away with nothing". He kind of felt events had proved him right, from the time the person showing them around Smalltalk, Larry Tesler, went to join Apple shortly afterwards. That aside, I agree a lot with what you say about Jobs, Tom, albeit from less personal experience. -- RichardDrake

AdeleGoldberg was always very emphatic when I discussed this with her: she always said "Xerox was an *investor* in Apple. We intentionally seeded the technology with Apple, because we knew that it would simply wither and die within Xerox". Having said that, almost everyone I knew was appalled at Apple's look-and-feel lawsuit. I feel that this lawsuit reflected Steve's tragic flaw -- his profound personal insecurity. -- TomStambaugh

Again, agreed. I've always felt that the other big difference between Jobs and Gates - one that turned out to crucial business wise - is that Gates' parents stayed together. Not only that, his father was a successful corporate lawyer whom he remained in good enough relationship with for his firm to guide Microsoft right through the IBM licensing and other wars to industry dominance. Till they met up with the DoJ anyway! I don't know much about Jobs' family except that a break up was involved, no doubt contributing to the personal insecurity you mention. This makes him an especially heroic figure for me. -- RichardDrake


Well Tom, I actually kind of regret what I wrote. I do believe each contributed, and I certainly think MitchellKapor is different than the other two. I reacted harshly but still stand by my intent. --rad [we're not so far apart, though -- tms]

The world was, and is, full of engineers like Woz -- some worse, some better.

However, this is where we really are on opposite sides of the fence. I think there will always be opportunists and business visionaries in every field. If Jobs didn't find his initial opportunities in computing, he would have ended up somewhere else. He would have found talent he could find there and would have made as big an impact on that field. People like Jobs are important for evangelizing content and creating momentum. I'd just prefer to see us working on recognize those who created the content rather than those who so successfully published it. I know it is in our nature to go with snappy and flashy over stolid, but as engineers, I really believe that we should work to recognize those people who created. The world at large will do a good enough job on its own of recognizing those who discovered or marketed those creations. --RobertDiFalco

I agree with you, and at the same time I wonder how we can talk about Woz without also mentioning a host of others. Apple is known primarily for its insanely great usability -- primarily a result of it's software. Thus, BillAtkinson created as much of the "content" as Woz. But how do we stop there? BudTribble? created an environment that allowed talented junior developers do great work. OwenDensmore? made the Mac's amazing (for its day) synergy with the printed page possible. LarryTesler? and DanIngalls kept the architecture clean. A whole team of nameless, hardworking, and completely dedicated kids in manufacturing knocked the hardware world on its kister by demonstrating that an advanced (again, for its time) computer system *could* be manufactured affordably in the US. Especially in comparison to BillGates and MitchellKapor, SteveJobs has always been much more intentional and conscious about crediting the teams that have helped him -- it is an important aspect of his charisma and is why so many people have been so loyal to him. Perhaps we might, in some corner of Wiki, want to collect stories about the entire Macintosh team. It was an amazing time, and at least some of them hang out here. -- TomStambaugh

Thanks for pointing out another Wiki lopsidedness and for making this point about Woz. Maybe this should be added to the things to be "put right" on Wiki in InformalHistoryOfProgrammingIdeas. Or maybe arguing about the relative merits of these two "non-software" people would just confuse the issue of what the proper scope of Wiki is even further!

PairingWithTheEnemy? isn't yet a WikiPage. As I mention somewhere in CthreeProjectTerminated it's all about how "pairing" works between concept/business and development/technical types. But since you came into Wiki, Robert (or started to write anyway) you've highlighted two really important such example pairs for me, where quite a lot of data is now known: Kay/Ingalls and Jobs/Wozniak. The archetypal pair on Wiki has been WardAndKent, then there's Kent and Ron and that was important too for the inception of XP. Among my thoughts is that very little worthwhile happens with projects and teams unless one or more very, very effective pairings are formed between people with quite different backgrounds and motivations.

Of course there are other levels of pairing for someone as multi-faceted as Jobs - thinking of Markkula/Jobs, Scully/Jobs and indeed Jobs/Hullot in the design of NextStep. On the events leading from Smalltalk-80 to the Mac there was the interesting "pair migration" of Kay/Tesler (who I believe were important together in the nuts and bolts of the HCI issues) meeting Jobs/Atkinson at the Smalltalk demo at Parc (strictly Kay wasn't there but anyway) becoming the Apple owned Tesler/Atkinson for Lisa and Mac (and later Kay/Ingalls back at Apple but mostly after it really mattered).

Some pairs sure work better than others commercially. A team is always more than the sum of its pairs but as I've gained from WardAndKent's insights in pair programming on Wiki some wider issues have been raised for me, which seem now to reflect light on almost every example of success I've seen with software projects, albeit on a much smaller scale than Jobs and Woz. -- RichardDrake

PS I don't even mind you calling one of two of these people "architect" if you can help me understand how the relationships really worked!


I was a little harsh on Jobs, only to accentuate the other side. I do think he has vision and ambition, but it is more aesthetic than technical. However, aesthetic vision is great, I would hate living without it. However, I think Woz/Jobs is a very different sort of relationship (or pairing) than Kay/Ingalls but, as always, I could be woefully incorrect in my assumptions. Me thinks that this was more the pairing of a humble engineer who happened onto something great and had no ambitions whatsoever to change the world or create a successful commercial company. He often states how happy he was at HP and would have stayed there if not for Jobs. He was very disappointed he could not get traction for his PC at HP. Now Jobs, and thank goodness for us, is an opportunist with delusions of grandeur and a very excellent aesthetic for technology and visuals. In Woz he saw an opportunity and (my armchair psychological assessment) a purpose, something to excel at.

To my current thinking (which as always could change at any moment), there are really two architects, or rather two architectures, in this pairing --- the hardware architecture of the Apple I, Apple ][, and Lisa hardware as well as the marketing architecture or maybe more correctly, the cultural architecture of Apple. Just as Madame Mao may have been the architect of the CulturalRevolution in China, Jobs was the architect of a much better and more enabling CulturalRevolution in technology. Both of these, the hardware and the culture, are great accomplishments. Apple owes its success as much to its culture as it does to its technology.

You may scoff at the thought of a cultural architecture, but I honestly think Jobs designed the culture of Apple as an architecture and always worked hard to maintain its ConceptualIntegrity. However, he is no SoftwareArchitect. Technologically speaking, at least for the early PC offerings, Woz was the software architect in this pair. Woz might even consent to this label for these early hardwares. However, I don't think Woz is an architect. It is not something he is driven to and I'm sure if there was someone else around as technically skilled as he but more interested in architectural concepts, he would have happily collaborated.

With Kay/Ingalls, Kay was not only the architect of Smalltalk, he actually is an architect (IMHO), or maybe he is a natural architect. I imagine Kay would continue in this role wherever he went and in subsequent pairings (or triple-ings, or whatever). I don't know if this subtle detail is important or not, but I do think there is a difference between designing something as an architect and actually having a desire to be an architect. I may be way off base, but I think Woz is a great example of someone who would honestly prefer to be an engineer. I think he would see being an architect as boring... I think Woz likes to get mired in the details and micro-structures and he is effin good at it. His choice should again show that there is no vertical assention from engineer to architect. One doesn't evolve into the other. Each role requires different strengths and each has different blind spots. The Engineer and Architect are peers and any movement between the two roles would only be a horizontal transition.

Finally, I think Kay was also different from Woz in that Kay had more ambition, vision, and had the ability to ignite the imaginations of many. So, maybe in this way he was both Evangelist and Architect (or both Jobs and parts of Woz). However, I have heard -- I have no direct knowledge -- that Kay was also not the best communicator in the world. Something about never being able to have a conversation with him that had an actual (or maybe a single) subject. For some reason, this almost seems to be a prerequisite for many of the Software Architect I know and have met! Well, at least those that aren't really authors or lecturers. When this flaw is patched, those selling the concept often get the recognition for creating the concept or even implementing the concept. You can see this happen all the time. I think designers are better off when someone else sells their concepts, at least for verbal communication outside of the immediate team. While their passion is great, they are often not pragmatic or focused enough in verbal communication.

On this last point, I may be way too subjective because I, for one, know for a certainty that I am a horrible communicator -- so maybe I'm attempting to cover for a failing in myself. ;-> In conversation, I tend to (a) be all over the place, (b) speak tangentially, (c) communicate symbolically or abstractly, and (d) often seem to subconsciously assume that those I am conversing with are privy to my internal dialogue and hence, tend to omit important details that would allow one to follow what the hell I am saying. I've heard this isn't all that unusual. After all, just look at this message I wrote. It was supposed to be a simple, short, and terse reply about the pairing of Woz and Jobs!!! Argh.

Well, far beit for me to break precedent, so while it has nothing to do with this page, I'd like to introduce one final concept that should be at least relevant to all of the above. The following is one of my all time favorite recipes. I really think it creates the most potent collection of talent with the greatest chances for success:

Manager + Evangelist + Architect + Engineer

Now, those unfamiliar with my point of view should note that these need not be four humans. The Architect could be more than one person, same with Engineer, Evangelist, or Manager. Additionally, these need not be less than or equal to four humans. One human could be both Evangelist and Engineer. In fact, there is no reason why all four ingredients couldn't be performed by a single human. Of course, I think it is more fun and creates more interesting solutions when there are more toes in the water.

Wow, this is embarrassingly long. --RobertDiFalco

If you have to scroll for EditText, a page is too long, yes. :) -- JuergenHermann

Check out this verse from Scripture for comparison: Ephesians Ch. 4 v11. -- MartinNoutch

For those who don't have a Bible handy -- And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers -- or something close to that. Eerie, huh? --RobertDiFalco

A number of business school types from a Christian background have suggested that those who shape businesses could learn a lot from this comment by the apostle Paul. I'm not sure if it isn't just as much the other way round. We find out what works now and that sheds light on what worked then. But that probably illustrates why I'm considered a heretic by so many different people. Is there really a correspondence with your four suggested roles do you think Robert? Or are you being just slightly, eeriely ironic? -- RichardDrake

Yes, no, yes, no, yes. SFSF. First, there is a simularity towards my recurring point of view on unique individuals that work together as pieces of a puzzle as opposed to the Xp view of Communal Development (i.e. no specialists, everyone is the architect, etc). However, one could also view apostles as engineers, pastors as managers, evangelists as evangelists, but I don't know that I could every compare my role as architect to prophet. Doesn't seem right to view oneself as such. So, yes, eerie but also, as you so well pointed out, not wholly unexpected. -- RobertDiFalco
I don't understand how SteveJobs is a personal-computer wunderkind instead of a marketing wunderkind. What do you think SteveJobs actually contributed to ComputerScience besides being a talented promoter?

What do you think EnzoFerrari? actually contributed to mechanical engineering besides being a talented promoter? Well, having a vision of something compelling and useful that other people actually want, having enough organisational and leadership skill to make people work towards it, keeping things on track and adjusting things as the team learns from experience - and if you get all that right you still need to make a consistent profit to survive. ComputerScience is just a part of what goes into software. A sure fire way to fail would be to get the ComputerScience right and neglect any one of a dozen other critical things... Why does everybody have to obsess on ComputerScience? I don't think many software people even care very much about Computer Science - if they did, things would be different today. -- PissedOffOfTunbridgeWells?

Marketing isn't valuable and important? See EngineeringVsMarketing.
I see companies as needing three legs to stand on: management, marketing and engineering. Being short in any one area jeopardizes a company immensely. All engineers no marketing is a classic deathtrap. No marketing means no sales means no money. No management means the company can't grow internally. No engineering means no implemented ideas. Need all three. In the case of Apple Woz provided the engineering and Jobs the management and marketing. Apple outgrew Jobs' management skills, so they handed it to whatshisname who blew it because he didn't understand the engineering world. Apple was able to hire other engineering skill. But neither Pixar nor Apple outgrew Jobs' marketing ability, nor his vision. --AlistairCockburn

See: SteveJobs, SteveWozniak

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