Writer Details History of Apple's Trials and Errors


photo: John Oppenheimer

In his new book, "Apple Confidential 2.0: The World's Most Colorful Company,"
author Owen Linzmayer meticulously details the company's history.

By George McConnell

Who was the mysterious third man who walked away from a multi-million dollar fortune and ended up selling stamps? Why was Lisa dumped unceremoniously in a landfill in Logan, Utah? Who was Stanley Zeber Zenskanitsky and what did he like to do? What made the chairman think giving his employees a free bag of pot every day would be a good idea? Did Steve kill Newton because he hated John?

Though this might sound like the script from a daytime television drama, it is actually part of the legendary history of Apple Computer of Cupertino.

In his new book "Apple Confidential 2.0: The World's Most Colorful Company," Sunset District writer Owen Linzmayer meticulously details the company's history in an engrossing book that includes revealing facts about the key personalities that played a major role in the company, as well as an industry analysis and product guide. He leaves little doubt why the company is so often in the news.

Linzmayer, 39, is no Johnny-come-lately. He began his writing career as a teenager in the early '80s covering Apple for a computer magazine in New Jersey and has been on the Apple beat ever since. His knowledge of the company and its products is nearly encyclopedic.

"I've written for every major Mac publication and I've been writing about the company longer than anyone who has worked there," he said.

In addition to being a freelance writer, he has been a technical writer, editor and product manager. "Apple Confidential 2.0" is his fifth book.

Linzmayer, who has never worked for Apple, said he gets his information from the personal contacts he has maintained with company employees and through the Internet.

"I know a lot of people at Apple and they respect me for my honesty and knowledge about the company," he said.

And what is it that has sustained his fascination?

"Apple is the prototypical Silicon Valley startup launched by two college drop-outs who went on to create an industry. There was a rocket ride up and then a fall to near disaster. Time and again they were on the verge of doing the right thing and then did the wrong thing. It is an interesting company to follow," he explained.

Linzmayer says almost from the beginning Apple captured the passion of a veritable army of dedicated devotees. A sub-culture emerged over the years populated by aficionados called MacHeads (named after the Macintosh product line), who assemble regularly at MacWorld Expo conventions, read industry magazines, such as MacWorld and MacAddict, and can even attain the position of "Mac Evangelist."

Linzmayer said he believes it is the quality of the products that inspire such enthusiasm. 

"Apple made the computer easy to use and they have an unmatched sense of style that people try to emulate. When something is good, you stick with it," he said.

"Apple Confidential 2.0" follows an earlier edition published in 1999. This latest edition, published by San Francisco's No Starch Press, adds 60 pages of new material, including what has happened at Apple over the last five years, an update on founder Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs' tenure at Pixar, a discussion of the Apple 2 line and updated technical information, photos and illustrations.

"Anybody who is interested in personal computers, people who want an interesting story or those who want to learn about Apple to find out what not to do, would like this book," he said.

Linzmayer is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in Business Management. He moved to California in 1988 and bought a home in West Portal, with his wife Alane, in 1992. His view overlooks the Sunset and Parkside districts.

For the record, he uses an iMac and Powerbook and puts in more than 60 hours a week working on assignments.

"Professional writing is a full-time job and I've got a mortgage to meet," he said.

Linzmayer said his gratification comes from reader feedback and hearing from company employees who read his books to learn about Apple.

For more information about Owen Linzmayer and "Apple Confidential 2.0," go to the website at www.owenink.com.