The Pirates Abandon Ship
Upon his return from Europe in August 1985, while he was casting about for what to do next,
Jobs called the Stanford biochemist Paul Berg to discuss the advances that were being made in gene splicing and recombinant DNA.
Berg described how difficult it was to do experiments in a biology lab,
where it could take weeks to nurture an experiment and get a result.
"Why don't you simulate them on a computer?" Jobs asked.
Berg replied that computers with such capacities were too expensive for university labs.
"Suddenly, he was excited about the possibilities," Berg recalled.
"He had it in his mind to start a new company.
He was young and rich, and had to find something to do with the rest of his life."
Jobs had already been canvassing academics to ask what their workstation needs were.
It was something he had been interested in since 1983,
when he had visited the computer science department at Brown to show off the Macintosh,
only to be told that it would take a far more powerful machine to do anything useful in a university lab.
The dream of academic researchers was to have a workstation that was both powerful and personal.
As head of the Macintosh division, Jobs had launched a project to build such a machine, which was dubbed the Big Mac.
It would have a UNIX operating system but with the friendly Macintosh interface.
But after Jobs was ousted from the Macintosh division, his replacement, Jean-Louis Gassee, canceled the Big Mac.