Apple Security In 1979: If Steve Wozniak Can’t Break It, We’re Good

Company memos recently found at a Goodwill in Seattle contain plenty of fun nuggets of info

Photo Illustration: Diana Quach
Feb 25, 2017 at 10:00 AM ET

You never know what you’ll find at your local Goodwill outlet. In the case of a Seattle-based Redditor, it was a piece of unrecognized technology history: a collection of interoffice memos from Apple that date back to 1979.

The files — which also included meeting memos and progress reports — all pertained to software manager Jack McDonald, who was responsible for the systems software of the Apple II and III computers.

“I noticed the Apple logo on letterhead sticking out from a bin of books, so I started digging,” Reddit user Vadermeer wrote on the subReddit Vintage Apple. “What I found were the 1979-1980 files of Jack McDonald.”

The files mostly reference the project “SSAFE,” also known as Software Security from Apple’s Friends and Enemies, which was the codename for the company’s early anti-piracy measures. Vandermeer found the files all jumbled, but he scanned them and uploaded to the web in chronological order.

“This was a proposal to bring disk copy protection in-house to sell as a service to outside developers. Inter-office memos, meeting notes and progress reports all give a good idea of what a project lifecycle was like,” Vandermeer explained.

The entire collection of memos vandermeer found is 116 pages long. In them, there are several mentions of well-known people like co-founder Steve Wozniak and SSAFE project manager (also Apple’s sixth employee) Randy Wigginton. One nugget of information that is charming involves Wiggington making a joke about Apple’s security being Wozniak-proof.

“Randy feels that if he has a version [of software protection] that Woz can’t copy then it is as protected as possible,” one memo said.

Other memos contain very technical information, including references to other schemes and levels of protections for the Apple II+, SARA (emulator) and Lisa computers.