Those few yards that went to the board passed Smith’s point of no return. No one wrote Steve Jobs ’holy blackboard. When Smith picked up the sign and scratched it — he didn’t even remember it — he was doing Steve-icide. “I wanted to get out of there,” he says. “I didn’t want that boy’s poison in my life anymore.”
Smith spent the next year in his office. He realized that as personal computer users could benefit from his graphical advances, he began writing an application that was different from what he called a “moving image,” which allowed users to move objects easily. “You couldn’t believe you were watching that,” says Eric Lyons, an executive at Autodesk, who saw the model early. “It wasn’t something Photoshop could do at the time.”
In the meantime, there was good news for Disney. At a meeting with Disney animation noise, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jobs, Smith, Catmull and Lasseter worked on a collaboration. Toy Story it has got a temporary green light. When Smith felt confident that the film would be made, he left Pixar. (A few years later, Lasseter resigned from the company on charges of sexual harassment).
Like Moses with computer graphics, Smith helped see Pixar’s promised territory. But he never got into it. From the movie after the movie A Bug’s Life ra Ratatouille ra Arima—The studio transcended the boundaries of technology and art, filling Smith’s full-body acting career with acid travel, Long Island mansions, and Lucasfilm’s backlogs. His former colleagues at Pixar have unanimously accepted the contributions. After he left, Smith’s name was removed from the website because he thought it was a bit of a betrayal. Catmull says he does not see the website as a historical document.
Smith did not escape cleanly. With Lyons and a third co-founder, he founded the company to sell his new image editing software. The company was called Altamira after paintings of caves in Spain for approximately 20,000 years. But there was a commotion. “Alvy didn’t have a written code that could carry her code” – the code she wrote while she was a Pixar employee, Catmull says. Jobs was asked to pay a huge ransom for each copy sold to Altamira, scaring away potential investors. After lengthy negotiations, Jobs signed him in exchange for a stake in Smith’s company.
One day, Smith was at home with his wife and two sons when he felt a “severe scream of pain” in his chest. A colony of bacteria invaded one of his lungs, forming the equivalent of a skin that needed to be surgically peeled. A month later, on the ferry to Vancouver, he felt pain again. The same thing happened to the second lung. To date, it has only a third of its lung capacity. “I asked, why did I get it?” he says. “My answer is stress.” Catmull agrees: “It was basically a life-threatening experience that arose from the pressure of Steve’s delay.”
The lost months were the beginning. At the time, Photoshop launched a competing feature called “layers”. Altamira’s sales were low, and the company needed a rescue. Smith was introduced to Nathan Myhrvold, head of Microsoft Research. “I wanted Microsoft’s marketing support,” Smith says. Instead, Myhrvold bought the company, but Smith wanted more than his product. Smith spent four years there and retired in 1999. “Along the way I decided that I didn’t really care about my ideas,” he says.
Smith’s next move confused his friends: he became a genealogist. He began methodically studying his heritage, and in 2010 was named a member of the American Genealogical Association. Honor is limited to 50 living people, and requires a large majority vote.