Tim Cook’s Apple II

And other fun facts from William Gallagher’s “How Tim Cook reshaped Apple in his first decade as CEO” posted Monday on AppleInsider:

Tim Cook has said repeatedly that he believes programming should be taught in schools because of the benefits it gives in critical thinking. He isn’t just saying it, either, as it was coding and technology that he studied at Auburn, working on an Apple II.

Presumably he doesn’t get to compile iOS much these days, but back then he did create more efficient software for a traffic light system. And the local police adopted his software.

Cook has said that he doesn’t think he was a star at anything in his studies, but he was unusually strong across multiple disciplines that have since proven essential. Alongside technology studies, for instance, he also became business manager of his school yearbook…

He would spend a dozen years working for IBM, and throughout the time was steadily progressing up the corporate ladder. Quite early on, he was ranked first in an internal list of High Potential, or HiPo, people who were expected to go far within the corporation.

Cook’s roles and duties would change over those 12 years, but they started with him learning about the manufacturing process called Just in Time…

Cook learned this at IBM, and at the same time he also earned an MBA at Duke University on IBM’s dime. Ultimately, he was so effective on what IBM called pipeline management — getting products from components to customers — that he was made director of fulfillment for North America.

In 1994, Cook got an offer he didn’t resist. A Denver company called Intelligent Electronics made him Chief Operating Officer, with a base salary of $250,000 plus a signing bonus, and shares.

He earned it. During his time at IE, Cook suffered a serious health scare. For a time, it was misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, but it turned out to be exhaustion.

On the happier side, in 1997 Cook recommended that IE sell itself to General Electric, and it did. Shortly afterwards, Cook left and joined Compaq.

Doubtlessly he brought the IBM Just in Time ideas with him everywhere he went, but reportedly it was at Compaq that he introduced Build to Order. Now familiar to Apple buyers, it was a new departure for Compaq and leveraged the flexibility that its JIT production line gave it.

Tim Cook only stayed at Compaq for six months. It’s likely that he would have stayed much longer, quite possibly for the rest of his career, if it hadn’t been for an invitation to meet Steve Jobs.

Best Cook quote:

I was never going to find my purpose working some place without a clear sense of purpose of its own. I tried meditation. I sought guidance and religion. I read great philosophers and authors. In a moment of youthful indiscretion, I might even have experimented with a Windows PC. And obviously, that didn’t work.


  1. Fred Stein said:
    “But I didn’t inhale”…

    w.r.t. IBM PC

    August 24, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Wonder what he used while at Compaq 🙂

      August 24, 2021
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    It has been questioned why Tim left a promising rising star position with IBM for a smaller, less recognized company as IE. It’s assumed being a COO for a smaller, less visible company with a significant pay raise likely contributed. In his first year, 1995, he was given a base salary of $250,000, a $67,000 bonus and 100,000 shares of company stock, a small fortune at that time according to filings with the SEC. Tim succeeded at the company increasing its revenues and performance. Yet, in 1997 he recommended selling the company to GE for $136 million. Not many successful executives are willing to sell out their jobs.

    August 24, 2021

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