“Well,” he concluded, “I don’t think ‘mercurial’ is so bad after all.” After the applause, he used the quotations book to make a more subtle point, about his reality distortion field. The quote he chose was from Lewis Carroll’s Through
the Looking Glass. After Alice laments that no matter how hard she tries she can’t believe impossible things, the White Queen retorts, “Why, sometimes I’ve
believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Especially from the front rows, there was a roar of knowing laughter.
All of the good cheer served to sugarcoat, or distract attention from, the bad news. When it came time to announce the price of the new machine, Jobs did what he would often do in product demonstrations: reel off the features,
describe them as being “worth thousands and thousands of dollars,” and get the audience to imagine how expensive it really should be. Then he announced what he hoped would seem like a low price: “We’re going to be
charging higher education a single price of $6,500.” From the faithful, there was scattered applause. But his panel of academic advisors had long pushed to keep the price to between $2,000 and $3,000, and they thought that Jobs
had promised to do so. Some of them were appalled. This was especially true once they discovered that the optional printer would cost another $2,000,
and the slowness of the optical disk would make the purchase of a $2,500 external hard disk advisable.
There was another disappointment that he tried to downplay: “Early next year, we will have our 0.9 release, which is for software developers and aggressive end users.” There was a bit of nervous laughter. What he was
saying was that the real release of the machine and its software, known as the 1.0 release, would not actually be happening in early 1989. In fact he didn’t
set a hard date. He merely suggested it would be sometime in the second quarter of that year. At the first NeXT retreat back in late 1985, he had
refused to budge, despite Joanna Hoffman’s pushback, from his commitment to have the machine finished in early 1987.
Now it was
clear it would
be more than
two years later.