Ken Segall is used to being a behind-the-scenes idea man; a word guy. But since his book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success hit the stands debuting on the New York Times bestseller list he’s found himself in a spotlight role, where he sat down for a chat with TIME’s Harry McCracken and more than 200 attendees.
Segall spends much of the time talking about himself in a way, but it’s not so much Segall that people are interested in. They’re interested in the work he did with Apple and more specifically Steve Jobs.
“He had some good stories, some interesting anecdotes. It makes me want to know more,” said Sami Saarenketo, a visiting scholar at Stanford, who attended the event Tuesday and was standing in line to get his newly purchased Insanely Simple book autographed by the author.
, a name he came up with in an embarrassingly easy way, he says. He just thought about what the Mac stood for; things like individual, ideas, Internet—and that’s where the “i” came from. What wasn’t easy was getting Jobs’ buy in on the name. Jobs wanted to call the computer “MacMan,” Segall said. It took a couple of times of presenting the name to Jobs and hearing Jobs say he hated it, before Segall said Jobs finally said “Well, I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it.”
Segall didn’t realize at the time that the “i” in iMac would lead to such a strong brand identity, but the kind of creative thinking it took—the simplicity of the name and even how he arrived at it—that got him to the level of working with the likes of Jobs.
Though Segall is quick to point out that it was Steve Hayden who gave Segall his first opportunity to get ahead.
It was stories such as iMac vs. MacMan, and others that Segall tells in his book . Some in the crowd were caught off guard by Segall’s easy tone and friendly nature, they expected someone dull, serious.
“He was really insightful. I loved his stories. He’s got a quirky, lively personality,” said Laura Diaz of Redwood City.
In Redwood City, the examines the life and work of the Apple co-founder in .
Others came because they are huge Mac fans and were interested to learn another aspect of it.
“He was fascinating,” said De Anza College Spanish teacher Susan Lister of Los Gatos.
She has a friend who lives near the Jobs home in Palo Alto so wasn’t expecting to learn anything new about Jobs.
The story Segall told that had people cackling like Phyllis Diller was, well, a story about how Jobs wanted to try Diller for the voiceover part on the “Here’s to the crazy ones” ad that ultimately went to Richard Dreyfus.
“I especially enjoyed the story about Phyllis Diller and MacMan. It’s good to know that Steve Jobs had a lot of bad ideas, too,” said Tim Burks of Los Altos.