The Original Macintosh:    83 of 138 
Saving Lives
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Date: August 1983
Characters: Steve Jobs, Larry Kenyon
Topics: Software Design, Inspiration
Summary: Steve wants us to make the Macintosh boot faster

We always thought of the Macintosh as a fast computer, since its 68000 microprocessor was effectively 10 times faster than an Apple II, but our Achilles heel was the floppy disk. We had limited RAM, so it was often necessary to load data from the floppy, but there we were no faster than an Apple II. Once we had real applications going, it was clear the floppy disk was going to be a significant bottleneck.

One of the things that bothered Steve Jobs the most was the time that it took to boot when the Mac was first powered on. It could take a couple of minutes, or even more, to test memory, initialize the operating system, and load the Finder. One afternoon, Steve came up with an original way to motivate us to make it faster.

Larry Kenyon was the engineer working on the disk driver and file system. Steve came into his cubicle and started to exhort him. "The Macintosh boots too slowly. You've got to make it faster!"

Larry started to explain about some of the places where he thought that he could improve things, but Steve wasn't interested. He continued, "You know, I've been thinking about it. How many people are going to be using the Macintosh? A million? No, more than that. In a few years, I bet five million people will be booting up their Macintoshes at least once a day."

"Well, let's say you can shave 10 seconds off of the boot time. Multiply that by five million users and thats 50 million seconds, every single day. Over a year, that's probably dozens of lifetimes. So if you make it boot ten seconds faster, you've saved a dozen lives. That's really worth it, don't you think?"

We were pretty motivated to make the software go as fast as we could anyway, so I'm not sure if this pitch had much effect, but we thought it was pretty humorous, and we did manage to shave more than ten seconds off the boot time over the next couple of months.

First Day in the Mac Group
Back to The Original Macintosh
Five Different Macintoshes

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