Oxford, where Jobs made an offer of $2,000 plus 74 cents for every computer sold in order to have the rights to Oxford’s edition of Shakespeare. “It will be all gravy to you,” he argued. “You will be ahead of the parade. It’s
never been done before.” They agreed in principle and then went out to play skittles over beer at a nearby pub where Lord Byron used to drink. By the time it launched, the NeXT would also include a dictionary, a thesaurus, and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, making it one of the pioneers of the concept of searchable electronic books.
that the NeXT machine “not use an operating system compatible with the Macintosh,” though it could be argued that Apple would have been better served by insisting on just the opposite.
After the settlement Jobs continued to court Esslinger until the designer decided to wind down his contract with Apple. That allowed frogdesign to work with NeXT at the end of 1986. Esslinger insisted on having free rein, just
as Paul Rand had. “Sometimes you have to use a big stick with Steve,” he said. Like Rand, Esslinger was an artist, so Jobs was willing to grant him indulgences he denied other mortals.
Jobs decreed that the computer should be an absolutely perfect cube, with each side exactly a foot long and every angle precisely 90 degrees. He liked cubes. They had gravitas but also the slight whiff of a toy. But the NeXT cube was a Jobsian example of design desires trumping engineering
considerations. The circuit boards, which fitted nicely into the traditional pizza-box shape, had to be reconfigured and stacked in order to nestle into a cube.
Even worse, the perfection of the cube made it hard to manufacture. Most parts that are cast in molds have angles that are slightly greater than pure 90 degrees, so that it’s easier to get them out of the mold (just as it is easier to get a cake out of a pan that has angles slightly greater than 90 degrees). But
Esslinger dictated, and Jobs enthusiastically agreed, that there would be no such “draft angles” that would ruin the purity and perfection of the cube. So the sides had to be produced separately, using molds that cost $650,000, at a
specialty machine shop in Chicago. Jobs’s passion for perfection was out of control. When he noticed a tiny line in the chassis caused by the molds, something that any other computer maker would accept as unavoidable, he
flew to Chicago and convinced the die caster to start over and do it perfectly. “Not a lot of die casters expect a celebrity to fly in,” noted one of the engineers. Jobs also had the company buy a $150,000 sanding machine to remove all lines where the mold faces met and insisted that the
magnesium case be a matte
black, which made
it more susceptible
to showing blemishes.