Apple is more associated with splashy onstage events than any other tech company, and some of its keynotes have been—by product-marketing standards—historic. But the Apple event I’m obsessed with at the moment didn’t involve anyone unveiling a landmark gizmo, and was never meant to be seen by the general public. It’s Apple’s 1992 national sales meeting, which was held at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville.
A company called Zink Communications (tagline: “dedicated to exceeding our customers’ expectations”) helped Apple stage the whole affair and produced a video about it to promote its event-planning services to other prospective customers. A couple of years ago, some generous person uploaded it to YouTube, where it’s racked up a total of 43 views.
It deserves to be way more popular than that, and here it is.
If you can spare six minutes to watch the video, you will experience:
- The meeting’s rockin’ theme song, “We Own the Zone” (sample lyrics: “People just want to be the best they can be/And you’ve got all the power/that’s so easy to see”) and the very 1992 computer graphics that accompanied it.
- Apple CEO John Sculley presenting Apple’s three-part business strategy and announcing, to rapturous applause, that Apple has the #1 market share in the world (presumably for computers).
- Lots of salesperson-motivating imagery such as jet airplanes taking off.
- A laser show and fireworks going off inside the Grand Old Opry.
- “The Fusion Zone,” an “all-day interactive learning environment” where Apple salespeople got to “test their knowledge and skills in a lively, competitive atmosphere.”
- Presentations from Taligent and Kaleida, two much-hyped software joint ventures between Apple and IBM that ended up going nowhere.
- A rousing speech (“you have the power to deliver this dream to the world!”) by Apple COO Michael Spindler, who (briefly) became CEO after Sculley was ousted in 1993.
- Plenty of attempted comedy, including “Apple’s Most Bodacious Home Videos” and sketches inspired by Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island.
- Glimpses of ’90s Apple products—mostly Macs, but also the Newton.
- Olympic medalist/motivational speaker Peter Vidmar inspiring the troops by performing a gymnastics routine onstage.
- Apple salespeople accepting giant trophies, chest-bumping each other, and generally doing the things that salespeople did in private at an event such as this—and still do to this day, I imagine.
I lived through 1992–and was even a tech-journalism greenhorn at the time—but had forgotten how goofy the era’s vibe was until I watched this video. I won’t make fun of anything anybody is wearing in it, since I must have dressed similarly back then. Maybe worse.
Thinking back to the 1990s from here in 2019, it’s easy to fixate on the business troubles that eventually brought Apple perilously close to insolvency, which prompted cofounder Steve Jobs to return, which … well, you know the rest of the story. But in 1992, the company was celebrating record revenue and profits; its swoon was still years away. So those salesfolk in Nashville must have had every reason to be proud of themselves and optimistic about the future.
I’m glad they enjoyed themselves—and grateful that this video survived to capture the moment in time.