The Original Macintosh:    4 of 4 
Evolution Of A Classic
Author: David Ramsey
Date: March 1986
Characters: Bill Atkinson, Gene Pope, David Ramsey, Rich Page
Topics: Maintenance, MacPaint
Summary: MacPaint 2.0
MacPaint 2.0's

I was hired at Apple in early 1986. Oddly, I was given nothing to do when I started, so after setting up my cube and getting my Lisa (all Mac programming was done on the Lisa back then) running, I wandered over to my manager's cube and asked if he had the source to MacPaint. He had-- he handed me a single Lisa diskette with all of MacPaint on it.

MacPaint was the first Mac program I'd ever seen; Bill Atkinson was demonstrating it at Computers Plus, a local Apple store run by Mark Wozniak and Dick Applebaum. I was completely awestruck at how fast the computer could "sling bits" on the screen. But there were still things I wanted to change: I wanted to be able to move and resize the image window, for example.

After a week or so of playing around I showed my manager (Gene Pope) what I'd done. I had just been killing time, since nobody had told me to do anything, but Gene asked me to add more features with an eye towards a "MacPaint 2.0".

And so it begins

At first I was nervous: Bill Atkinson is a hard act to follow, and I was also worried what he might think about some newbie hire taking over his baby. But he was tremendously supportive (and it probably also helped that he was deeply involved with his new project, Hypercard) and even took hours of time to go over his hand-optimized 68000 assembly language routines to explain how they worked. I still remember him peering intently at me, making sure I understood the importance of what he was saying: "Unroll the loops", "keep the registers full"...

The day I finally figured out how "regions" in QuickDraw worked was an epiphany, really.

Specs? We don't need no steenking specs!

It seems strange by modern standards, but MacPaint 2.0 never had a product spec. There was no marketing requirements document. There were no design meetings. There wasn't even a product manager until the last few months of work. Many people had opinions and suggestions (and the then-new tear-off menus came directly from HyperCard, courtesy of Bill) but ultimately the product was what I wanted it to be.

Of course, I had more leeway than Bill did with the original MacPaint since I didn't have to worry about running on a 128K Mac-- a 512K computer was the minimum. Thus MacPaint gained a sizeable, movable painting window; multiple document support; large clipboards, the "snapshot" capability with the "magic eraser", and so forth.

Some features were pretty subtle: for example, in response to a request from Radius, MacPaint 2.0 would automatically move its window down if the user took advantage of a Radius monitor's capability to enlarge the standard menu bar!

Fun hardware note

Most of MacPaint was developed on a "Big Mac" prototype-- a computer that was a design study for the next Macintosh. Basically it was a 16mHz 68020 version of a Mac Plus. Cases were never made, so it was simply a 1 foot square circuit board mounted on a piece of wood, connected to a 10 megabyte SCSI hard drive.

I used the Big Mac prototype since it was faster and more reliable than the Macintosh II prototypes available. It was never produced, and designer Rich Page left Apple to work at NeXT shortly after his design "lost" to the slotted Mac II.

I still have the Big Mac I used at Apple. I wonder if it still works.

The Zebra Lady

Test versions of MacPaint had different images, generally from comic books, in the "About" box. The last beta version showed the nude upper torso of a zebra-striped woman taken from the Olivia de Berardinis painting "Zebra Lady". With the covert approval of all involved, this version made it into the release: you could show the Zebra Lady image by holding down the tab and space keys while selecting "About MacPaint".

When the artist found out, she took it well. I have a signed copy of the original print framed to this day.

Shelf Life

MacPaint 2.0 was introduced in late 1987 (did it really take me that long to write?) and remained on the market until fall 1998. I think this is a record of some sort for personal computer software.

MacPaint Evolution
Back to The Original Macintosh

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It's worthy of note that in the year between "Are You Gonna Do It?" (Feb 1985) and this story (Mar 1986), Burrell Smith and Mike Boich (original Mac evangelist) started Radius, Inc. which was the source of the menubar request for MacPaint 2. Mike's took a director position with Alta Partners, a San Francisco venture capital firm, in January 2003. I've no idea where Burrell's gone or whether he stayed with Radius all the way to its merger with Media100 in 2000. Maybe he's somewhere in Oregon, playing his guitar and enjoying his life. I hope so.
By early late 1986, the Color Quickdraw effort was ramping up. I was just a short distance from the team working on this (the only name I can remember is Dave Fung) and while I thought about making MacPaint a color paint program, that would have required essentially a complete rewrite. My product manager kep trying to convince me to roll color support into MacPaint-- I couldn't seem to make her understand that color was more than just another pattern (an analogy she kept using). Fortunately, the slack was picked up by a third party product called PixelPaint. The authors of this product came to work for Apple a few years later.
I saw MacPaint on the very first Macintosh, and went completely wild. I thought "I can do that. I can write that program." Problem was not that it had been written already, but that at Clarkson University, we had standardized on the Zenith Z-100. The Z-100 was well ahead of the IBM PC of the time. The graphic resolution was 640x225x8. The serial ports were faster and easier to drive. It had 128K RAM and was eventually improved to accept 768K RAM. But enough of the machine. It wasn't a Mac and that was a problem. The display was always in a graphical mode, which made custom fonts trivial to use. Unfortunately, they needed character attributes to read the screen back, so they designed the display with 9 out of 16 scanlines visible. The other 7 were not displayed. Initially, my "MockPaint" program used a scanline map table. This was quite clumsy because I had to waste a register pointing into the scanline table. In time, I figured out how to put the display into a different mode, with no hidden scanlines, and a resolution of 640x240. Every scanline helped! This linear mode made the graphics routines substantially simpler. Remember, I was coding this entirely in assembly language on a machine with no QuickDraw. I wasn't smart enough, at the time, to make my code into a library, so all my mouse support, font handling, fast drawing and scrolling, and printer support, was not usable by any other program. I was doing this back before we had serial-port mice. In order to get a mouse on the Zenith Z-100, I had to reverse-engineer the Microsoft mouse board, unsolder the custom chip, and put it on an S-100 board. I also had to sourcify the Microsoft Mouse driver to make it work on the Z-100 ("Chris Peters: Microsoft rules!" appeared in that driver as a "dead" string.) Later, serial port mice were created so other people could use MockPaint. After I got the program into a decent technology demo state, I got a contract from Zenith Data Systems to turn it into a production program. This was over the summer, so Patrick Naughton (of Sun's Green Project and Java fame) and I coded like mad bunnies. I wrote a compiling bitblit routine for general-purpose bitmap copying (it compiled the optimal code and jumped to it). Patrick wrote the load and save routines, and turned on-screen drawing into full-page drawing. Between us we devised a mini-language for sending graphics to printers. Naturally, we had to lose the code name of "MockPaint", and the production program became "Painter's Apprentice". The code is now OSI Certified open source and is available at . Over a weekend, I ported the code to the IBM EGA, so it still works on any DOS machine.
To Jim: I have no idea where Burrell is at this very moment or what he does, but during the 13 years I lived in Palo Alto (until I moved to Sausalito last year), I often saw him walking around town, especially in the vicinity of his Waverley Street home. I guess he's still in Palo Alto (apparently not engaged in any venture) but those who know him personally could tell us more exactly.
Here is a link to an application (in various revisions) that pre-dates MacPaint by many years, and is still sold today on many platforms: I first played "Oregon Trail" on a TRS 80 Model 1, and it used character graphics for the hunting portion. The next system I played it on was an apple 2, and it used the high-res graphics to display the hunting parts. I believe I first played it on the TRS 80 about 1980 or 81, as I was still in elementary, and can't remember exactly which grade I was introduced to it.
David, if you still have the Big Mac as you mention in the article above, why not post a pic of it? Even if it is just a bare circuit board, it would be fun to see.
There have been many apps and games that have stayed on retail shelves for many years so 1 year is not a record, even back in the '80s.
FWIW, I scanned this Zebra lady on my Thunderscanner. I traded a lot of scans and digitized sounds at A32 meetings in Sunnyvale those days. When I first saw this in MacPaint I took a screenshot and compared it to my scan to be sure that it really was the same scan, and it was. Do you recall where you got the image? Pretty amusing how things get around, even in those pre-inter-floppy-net days.
John- Looks like this pgm survived over two decades! "MacPaint 2.0 was introduced in late 1987 (did it really take me that long to write?) and remained on the market until fall 1998. I think this is a record of some sort for personal computer software."
Dave, I bow to you sir. Thank you for the best feature ever: selectable drawing mirrors. That feature singlehandedly made this teenager into a Leonardo and accounted for many hours of pure fun.