the codist - programmerthink

Actually Going To WWDC This Year But the First One Was Special

Published: 05/21/2013

We tried during the famous two minute sellout to grab a ticket but failed. Somehow weeks later we were given access to a couple of tickets (likely people who couldn't go). I have no idea how this happened but I'm happy to be able to go again.

This will be my first WWDC since 1993. I am sure it will be different. After all, now Apple is a freaking big company and back then it was pretty much written off by a lot of people. I did get to work at Apple during 1995-1996 which was a great experience but left feeling it might be the end. Since then I have worked mostly outside the Apple world or at least for people not inclined to pay for something like this.

I was at the "first" WWDC in 1986 and I imagine there might not be many people at the 2013 WWDC who were in that one. I remember it as the first but that was a long time ago. Organic memory drops bits sometimes.

That WWDC was held at the Fairmont in San Francisco, which seems too small yet virtually every Mac developer in the world was represented there! The biggest topic was the the 512K Mac or maybe it was the Mac Plus with its whopping 1MB of ram. I remember many of the sessions were with everyone present which of course wasn't an issue since we were so few.

One night Apple took all of us out on a boat for a casino night on the Bay. We got to gamble for free Apple products. During the cruise many of us joked that all IBM had to do was sink the boat and the Mac was doomed. I hung out with the Silicon Beach Software guys and I spent an hour hearing how they had recorded a live cricket for their first game Airborne. Today that seems so primitive.

I also remember that Ashton-Tate sent six people to WWDC despite the 2 per company limitations, all wearing identical leather jackets. Now it seems hilarious since AT vanished a few short years later but at the time they were a big developer.

It was a pretty exciting time to be a Mac developer since the market was so small and the future seemed limitless. If you had told me what would happen over the next 27 years back then I would have been shocked. In 1986 Steve was already gone from Apple but at the time it didn't seem that big of a deal to any of us. IBM was a big worry, Microsoft wasn't quite the enemy it would become, and most of us were optimistic about the future of Mac.

I went every year after that until 1993 when our deal with Deltapoint (the publisher of Deltagraph which we did most of the work on for 5 years) ended. During my last month at Apple the folks in my group (DTS) were preparing for the upcoming WWDC in 1996, which could charitably be called the worst one ever. It would cover Copland, Apple's dreadful attempt to replace the MacOS with something brand new yet 100% compatible. Basically everything covered was killed by Steve Jobs when he returned two years later. One of my coworkers joked that WWDC was "Apple's annual attempt to lie to developers." That year it was pretty true.

It will be odd to be there again, having only read about WWDC in the years since I was last there. I've been an Apple product owner since 1979 when I bought an Apple ][+ and this will be something like coming home again. An added plus is that this time around someone else is paying!

If I have time I will try to blog each day with a synopsis of what I hear and learn.

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