[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca – AC]
In the summer of 2001, a Hollywood screenwriter friend of mine got a call from his agent: “Get up to San Francisco now. There’s an interesting project available and you need to be there for the pitch”
“San Francisco? Can you narrow it down?”
There was a pause. “Report to One Infinite Loop in Cupertino. Apple headquarters.”
My friend and his writing partner were soon sitting in the lobby with confused looks on their faces — What are we doing here? — when a thin guy in jeans and a black turtleneck came by. “Come with me,” he said. It was Steve Jobs.
For the next 45 minutes, Jobs went into full presentation mode for this audience of two before dramatically reaching into his pocket and pulling out a white slab about the size of a deck of cards.
“Imagine,” he said, “one thousand songs in the palm of your hand.” He held out a prototype for the first generation iPod.
The gig involved writing a promotional video that would be sent to members of the press and the industry ahead of the product launch that fall. Naturally, my friend and his partner took the job with Steve micromanaging everything along the way. It wasn’t uncommon for the phone to ring at 11 p.m. to hear “It’s Steve. I’ve got some notes on the last draft. Ready?”
Unfortunately, the video was never made. The musicians originally contracted to appear had to bow out, timelines grew increasingly tight, and budgets had to go elsewhere. As a consolation, Apple paid the two writers with a pile of Mac PowerBooks. Literally a pile of laptops that took up a corner of the house for months.
My friend was under an NDA so he couldn’t talk about anything until after the iPod was released on Oct. 23, 2001, in the foggy, confusing months following the September 11 attacks. And even then, relatively few people were paying attention.