“Where do we find such men?”
That was the line uttered by Rear Admiral Tarrant at the end of the movie The Bridges at Toko-Ri, reacting to the news that three men from his unit were killed in action during the Korean War.
Sometimes, companies must utter the same line: “Where do we find such people?”
And, certainly, many employers would probably do anything to find the likes of Ron Avitzur, a contract programmer that reportedly refused to budge when Apple suddenly terminated his contract back in 1994. As Julia Dahl reports in Mental Floss, Avitzur refused to abandon the project he was in the middle of working on, a graphing calculator designed to run on the new PowerPC computer that Apple planned to ship in early 1994. PowerPC was a processor jointly developed with IBM and Motorola that powered Apple’s Mac computers until the switch to Intel a few years ago. IBM continues to build PowerPC as part of its “POWER” architecture.
Even though Apple still would pay for the full length of his contract, Avitzur wanted more than anything to finish his work. So, he opted to not submit his final invoice to keep his employee badge active. For months, he continued to sneak into the building. Even after his badge was finally cancelled, he still found ways to sneak into the building.
The graphing calculator program was finally completed, and has been a successful feature on Apple systems — and has been loaded on more than 20 million machines. (The latest commercial version, released in 2012, is Graphing Calculator 4.0.)
Just another example of an individual who is ready to swim against the rapids in pursuit of a new idea or product they believe in. Companies always want people to “go the extra mile.” But what does it take to go the extra 100 miles?
Even at the most innovative companies on the globe — such as Apple — projects get pulled and employees or contractors reassigned. How likely is a Ron Avitzur likely to be heard at a more typical company? Is there an avenue or resources for such individuals to keep pursuing their vision? And the big question is — do they even see it as worthwhile to fight the fight?