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The Original Macintosh:    13 of 13 
The Apple Spirit
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Date: undated
Characters: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Apple Spirit, Inspiration
Summary: An essay I wrote about Apple's values that was published in MacWeek


Toward the end of 1988, I wrote an essay that was published in MacWeek entitled "The Apple Spirit". It was about the creative magic that I found in the Apple II, and how we were able to transplant it into the Macintosh. The essay articulates the values behind lots of the stories collected here, so I thought it was worth including.

The Apple Spirit
November 29, 1988

The best purchase of my life occurred in January 1978 when I spent $1295 plus tax (most of my life savings at the time) on an Apple II microcomputer (serial number 1703) with 16K bytes of RAM. I was instantly delighted with it, and the deeper I dug into it, the more excited I became. Not only could I finally afford to have my own computer, but the one I got turned out to be magic; it was better than I ever thought it possibly could be!

I started spending most of my free time with my Apple, and then most of my not-so-free time, exploring the various technical aspects of the system. As I taught myself 6502 assembly language from the monitor listing that came with the machine, it became clear to me that this was no ordinary product; the coding style was crazy, whimsical and outrageous, like every other part of the design, especially the hi-res graphic screen; it was clearly the work of a passionate artist. Eventually, I became so obsessed with the Apple II that I had to go to work at the place that created it. I abandoned graduate school and started work as a systems programmer at Apple in August 1979.

Even though the Apple II was overflowing with both technical and marketing genius, the best thing about it was the spirit of its creation. It was not conceived or designed as a product in the usual sense; it was just Steve Wozniak trying to impress himself and his friends. Most of the early Apple employees were their own ideal customers. The Apple II was simultaneously a work of art and the fulfillment of a dream, shared by Apple's employees and customers. Its unique spirit was picked up and echoed back by third party developers, who sprung out of nowhere with innovative applications.

The personal computer industry began to grow and evolve very rapidly when larger companies realized the extraordinary potential of personal computers. Apple's sales took off like a skyrocket as the Apple II became accepted as an established industry standard. By the time the early 1980s rolled around, many opportunists had come to both Apple and the personal computer industry, people whose only concern was to make as much money as possible. I started to become disillusioned when Apple hired many professional managers who didn't appreciate the magic of the Apple II; many of them would have been just as happy selling refrigerators. I probably would have left Apple sometime in 1981 if I hadn't run across a tiny, sloppily wire-wrapped digital board created by Burrell Smith, a young technician who worked in the service department.

Burrell worshipped Woz's Apple II design and had forged an idiosyncratic design style that was even crazier than Woz's, using many clever tricks to coax enormous functionality out of the minimum number of chips. Somehow, Burrell's embryonic Macintosh board reeked of the same creative spirit so prevalent in the Apple II; as soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to work on the project.

Steve Jobs also became enamored with Burrell's circuit board and quickly took over the tiny design group, moving it to a remote part of the company and inspiring us with a grand vision. The Apple II had broken through an important price barrier, making a useful personal computer affordable to ordinary individuals, but it was still much to hard for most non-technical people to master. The Macintosh would harness the potential of Motorola's 68000 microprocessor to become the first personal computer that was both easy to use and affordable. We thought that we had a chance to create a product that could make computers useful to ordinary people and thereby truly change the world.

The Macintosh design team was inspired by Woz's original design and tried to recapitulate its innovative spirit. Again, we were our own ideal customers, designing something that we wanted for ourselves more than anything else. Although Apple was already a large company by then, Steve's unique position in the organization enabled him to maintain the Macintosh group as a little island where Apple's original values could flourish and grow. The Macintosh was released in January 1984 and eventually became a very successful product.

The personal computer industry has continued to grow and change since the introduction of the original Macintosh. Apple has become [in 1988] a four billion dollar enterprise, and I often fear that they have lost touch with their original values. Yet I remember having similar worries right before starting work on the Mac. I'm sure that there are little groups at Apple right now, inspired by the Macintosh in exactly the same way that we were inspired by the Apple II. The great challenge facing Apple's management is to allow those groups to follow their hearts and imaginations, uncompromised by the inevitable politics of large organizations. I hope that I will be able to buy a new Apple computer in 1991 that is not a Macintosh or an Apple II, but rather an entirely new system that once again shares the maverick spirit of its illustrious ancestors.

The Macintosh Spirit
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8 Comments     
The spirit Andy and the others who brought us the Macintosh possess and were able to impart into their designs is the very thing that makes the Macintosh (from it's original 1984 incarnation to the present-day G5 Power Macs) so incredibly addictive and a joy to use. PCs may rule in terms of sales, and while Windows has "incorporated" many of the Mac OS' features over the years, the true spirit remains with the Macintosh. Corporate America always pilfers brilliance and downgrades it and cheapens it for profit maximization. The designers of the original Macintosh had such vision and so clearly loved what they were creating, that those kinds of considerations weren't even secondary. Which is not to imply that they didn't want the Macintosh to be a success, rather I believe they measured it's success by making personal computing an accessible and enjoyable reality for all. By that measure, their success in that regard far eclipses the solid niche market the Macintosh occupies today. On an innovation scale, the Macintosh, from 1984 to the present remains the clear winner as the ultimate personal computer. It's great to see that the spirit of the original Macintosh and it's design team continues thriving, 20 years on!
Yeah.
An affordable personal computer? HA! I was in High School when they released the Mac, my family could not afford one and most families that I knew could not afford one!!! The old joke where I work is the Mac is "...the computer for the rest of us that none of us could afford."
My first Mac was Mac Plus which I bought for myself in 1996. I was in 6th grade. Prior to that, I had a Laser 128 (Apple IIc clone) that had been given to me, and had a great deal of experience with the Apple II through school. My parents couldn't afford a new computer, and didn't see much value in them beyond the typewriter aspect -which my Laser 128 did unfortunately well. Getting my Plus was an incredibly exciting experience. It was like being sent to another planet; there was so much to explore and experiment with, I probably stayed awake for 7 days straight, playing with my 4 meg, System 6.0.8 Mac Plus. Within a year I had a IIci. Within 2 years I had a Power Mac 7100. A 7500. 3 PowerBooks. Finally, when I graduated high school, I had the money to buy a new G4 tower which continues to serve me to this day. I got that Mac Plus just as Apple was being thrust in to major confusion and doubt. But I entered the Mac community just as it was pulling together and the core members were becoming the strongest. Apple for me, has always represented the spirit that Andy is describing here. Irreverent, unique, and knowing something that PC users just don't quite know. That feeling comes from somewhere. It doesn't come from machines, it doesn't come from the design of a 1-bit desktop background, or the use of round rects, it comes from the people who are designing and constructing those things. When I used Mac Paint for the first time (probably when I was 7 or 8), the person who wrote that program bled through as if they were sitting in the room with me. All of the subtle nuances and unique backgrounds of the people who bring Apple products to life are what truly make them great, and what makes me come back to Apple again and again, even if it's not always perfect. Since I first laid hands on a Mac, or cracked open a System file in ResEdit, Andy and the Mac team have been rockstars to me. Plain and simple, the fathers of the modern user experience.
Andy, You are a genious. I wouldn't be who I am today without your efforts. I had a Lisa, an Apple IIe and a 128k Mac before...now Apple have perfected all of your tools into an excellent investment in my portfolio. I would love to send the following message to Steve Jobs. Steve, please create a version of OSX that I can buy at Walmart beside Windows Vista and install on my Dell and please start selling Dells with OSX presintalled. Thanks...A real shareholder...ready to sell if you don't do this soon. Internet is networking and Apple doesn't sell that...Hardware perfection yaaaa...but Dell etc. have the market and to the majority of consumers of computers good, is good enough. People want the Mac experience and they already have a computer. So give it to them for $199. Best regards and please respond, Robert Coleman Heritage Education Funds Inc. Toronto, Ontario robert.coleman@heritagefunds.ca
Back when the net began, I remember seeing websites which would post the e-mails of CEOs. Wow, a normal person like me - could get to be heard by a 'celebrity'. It was empowering. Then as more people went online, these websites allowing direct contact, well - they started disappearing. The CEOs weren't too happy hearing the petty requests of annoying customers. Everybody in this world wants to be heard, to make their dent. To get around this, the celebrities installed bigger filters. But anyways, "Robert Coleman" - your request is sickening. OS X is an artwork. The machine itself, the circuitry is an artwork. OS X without the machine, that's like asking a king to sell you sex with his daughter, and throwing out the elegant beauty encompassing it all. You also fail to realize that if Apple had to worry about OS X running on third-party hardware, it would heavily drain resources towards progressing forward. Instead of writing three video drivers to support all the Mac models, they would have to waste much more to support the 1000 third-party video cards out there. Sell your stocks because obviously you are the type that rapes the living daylights out of something beautiful I remember back in the days where "things" were made with a passion, and the Macintosh was certainly one of them. Where those that worked did it not for the money, but because of pure love, because it was not just for the customer, but for the people making it. That is the passion lacking in today's world. A lot of the people joining the work force are just like Bryan Stearns (MacBasic). He came to work on MacBasic, saw it was going nowhere, and said, "eff it - not my problem," and quit What makes Andy so great is that he could have quit. He could have said, "I don't have to take this" Yet he continued on, because of determination, because he wanted to make a dent, a mark in history, and this he did.
I never have apple computer. I play with one many years back for maybe 2 hours. But I read all 118 stories, and liked it. Verry much. I remember this times, when computers was new, and people around them was special. Thank you for this web.
Reading these stories over the past few days makes me wish the computer industry was this young again. I just signed up for the account at the end, but I feel i should give a lot of the stories justice by going through and commenting where I wanted to, but was hampered by the sign up process. You guys really put your heart and soul into the Macintosh. The people I'd most like to meet from the Mac team are Burrell Smith, Bill Atkinson, you (Andy), but you're all legends. I realize that this artistry, needing perfection in design along with a combination of dedication, curiosity, challenge and pure joy is really what's missing of today's companies. Real Artists Ship