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Early Apple Employee Bill Fernandez Shares Details on Steve Jobs, Creation of the Apple II, and More

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are widely recognized as the major driving forces behind the creation of Apple computer, but there were also several other key employees in the early years who helped establish what is now one of the most valuable companies in the world.

TechRepublic has published an in-depth profile and interview with Bill Fernandez, who was Apple's first employee when the company was incorporated in 1977. Fernandez, who helped build the first Apple I and Apple II computers and is credited with introducing Jobs and Wozniak, shares some details on working with a young Steve Jobs, the early days of Apple, and more in the piece.

Image courtesy of Bill Fernandez, via TechRepublic

Fernandez, who grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley, went to middle school with Steve Jobs, who he described as "nerdy, socially inept, and intellectual," qualities that led to a quick friendship.
We both also were not at all interested in the superficial bases upon which the other kids were basing their relationships, and we had no particular interest in living shallow lives to be accepted. So we didn't have many friends."
Jobs reportedly spent quite a bit of time over at Fernandez's house, which his mother had decorated in a "meticulous Japanese style" that Fernandez credits as an early influence on Jobs' interest in minimalist design.

Fernandez was also a close friend of Steve Wozniak and introduced him to Steve Jobs, which led to the famous partnership between the two. After Jobs and Wozniak formed Apple, they hired Fernandez as an electronic technician and he became the first official full-time employee.

According to Fernandez, he drew the first completed schematic of the working Apple II after reverse engineering Wozniak's design to standardize it for production. The schematic went on to be used to build the Apple II, making history.
"When Woz designed something, most of the design was in his head," said Fernandez. "The only documentation he needed was a few pages of notes and sketches to remind him of the overall architecture and any tricky parts. What the company needed was a complete schematic showing all the components and exactly how they were wired together."
As the first Apple computers grew in popularity, the company began hiring more employees and started inching its way towards an IPO. Despite his position as one of the early employees, Fernandez, as a technician, was not able to advance in the company and wasn't offered stock options. "There was no growth path for me," he said, stating that he became bored and dissatisfied with the work.

With no prospects for advancement, Fernandez left Apple just 18 months after he started working for the company. Fernandez later returned as a member of the technical staff after spending some time in Japan, going on to work on the first Macintosh. Though he was never officially awarded stock, Wozniak gave out shares of his own stock to many early employees, including Fernandez, Chris Espinosa, and Daniel Kottke.

Bill Fernandez's full interview, which goes into far more detail about the early days of Apple and his life after leaving the company, can be read over at TechRepublic.

Top Rated Comments

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64 months ago
That was kind of Woz to give some of his shares to other people involved in the early days of Apple.
Rating: 29 Votes
64 months ago
lol man jobs was likely a douchebag. Didn't offer growth or stock to your middle school friend and first employee?
Rating: 21 Votes
64 months ago
for all the people bagging on Woz in the comments in the last article:

"Though he was never officially awarded stock, Wozniak gave out shares of his own stock to many early employees, including Fernandez, Chris Espinosa, and Daniel Kottke. "
Rating: 15 Votes
64 months ago
ENOUGH with Jobs!!! The man was such a tool. Why do we still talk about him years after his demise. STEVE IS DEAD. D.E.A.D. Gone forever!!!
Rating: 11 Votes
64 months ago

Startup I'm part of only gave stock to the initial four members. Apple gave stock to three people. I don't think it's weird to not give this guy any stock. You either pay someone in stock or cash (or a mix). The stock is worthless initially, but has the potential to become very valuable (or never become valuable at all), whereas the cash has relatively constant value. I figure Apple gave him a lot of cash. If he wasn't content with the money, he should have asked for more or left.


Steve's spirit/memory lives on forever in the hearts and minds of many (my own included). Physical death doesn't have to be the end... although I guess you must be terrified of your own mortality, if you think it is.

Ok. He was employee #1. He introduced woz to jobs. They were childhood friends. It's a d**k move to not offer him a slice of the company. If he left after 18 months there's a reason. No growth, no options. It's messed up. If it wasn't then woz wouldn't have to give him his own shares.
Rating: 9 Votes
64 months ago
Woz seems like a solid guy.
Rating: 8 Votes
64 months ago

I will have to disagree with some of the scathing comments above, from people who have never met Steve or ever even talked to him!

I have met Steve, and talked with him. I met him at Macworld Expo 2000 after he gave the keynote address...I broke through the crowds of media reporters, made my way to the front of the stage because I wanted to get a chance to meet him. When he was done talking to a reporter, he turned right around, and was right in front of me -- so...I introduced myself to him...

He was actually very friendly. He welcomed me to San Francisco, and said "I'm glad you could make it out here. This is a wonderful city." I told him that I was the Vice President of my local MUG and he told me "It's great to have young people like you who are interested in technology, We need more young people like you..." I told him about how we got my Dad his first computer, a Bondi Blue iMac and that he absolutely loves it. I told him about my computers, PowerMac G4 and that I was very impressed by the new designs since he became CEO.

Overall, he was more than kind, very friendly, and cordial. He even was smiling and joking around. Not a rude, arrogant man at all.

The thing is...Steve took business and his company seriously. He demanded excellence. He demanded things be done right, the right way. If it wasn't right, it wasn't right, and it wasn't good enough. He was brutal to employees, but only if they were not meeting expectations or performing up to exactly 100% -- because he demanded 100% at all times, and for the products that Apple developed to be on a level of sheer greatness...

And, that is why Apple is where it is today. If you accept mediocre and make mediocre products, you will be remembered as a mediocre company. And Steve wanted Apple to be remembered as the best there is...the best of the best.

So, not go saying profane things about Steve. The truth is he was two different people entirely...the Steve at work at Apple and the man you meet on the street or at a coffee shop....Steve was not a bad person. I know this firsthand...he wasn't. So stop with all this.

This isn't a slight on your experience. I'm glad you had a positive interaction with him. But you only knew him on a superficial level -- the employees at Apple who had to see him every day might have a very different experience.

IMO it was crappy to refuse to give stock options to Employee #4. It was nice of Woz to donate some stock options but the fact that he had to do that is just sort of messed up.
Rating: 6 Votes
64 months ago

lol man jobs was likely a douchebag. Didn't offer growth or stock to your middle school friend and first employee?

Not likely, he WAS a douchebag.
Rating: 6 Votes
64 months ago
I'm sorry, but, the first few lines of this article are typical Apple myth and revisionism. The Apple II was not the only serious game in town. The RadioShack TRS-80 family outsold it by a wide margin for quite some time, and the Commodore PET/CBM series did better globally. Each machine had its drawbacks and features that trumped the others', and none was perfect. The PET had no bitmap, but it had lowercase letters. Apple II had bitmap color (just barely), but the PET and TRS-80 came with their own monitors. The PET came with a reliable tape drive, but the Apple II had more robust internal expansion. There were trade-offs on each system.)

I'm sick and tired of people attributing the creation of the personal computer as we know it to Apple and Woz. Yes, Apple's very top-of-mind now. Yes, Woz's designs were brilliant (no more than, say, the work of Chuck Peddle, Bill Seiler, Steve Leininer, Lee Felsenstein, etc...).Yes, we get where this attention is coming from.

It’s one thing to base who was first on press release dates and the like. It’s even understandable to emotionally favor your own first computer over those of the competition’s. In the end, “firsts” are immaterial. But to say that the Apple II was the Wright Flyer I, comparing everything else to a “shoddy little plane” is the hight of arrogance, ignorance, and bald deception.
Rating: 6 Votes
64 months ago

In everyones' collective memory the Apple II was the first really successful PC.

It wasn't even close.

The TRS-80, and later the Commodores and Ataris, are what brought home computing to the masses. They were far more affordable and available.

By the end of 1978, Apple had sold just over 8,000 Apple II computers, whereas over 250,000 TRS-80s had been sold.

By the time the Apple II finally started selling pretty well, the IBM PC came in and took over nearly the entire market.
Rating: 5 Votes

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