The Original Macintosh:    33 of 33 
The Father Of The Macintosh
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Date: undated
Characters: Bud Tribble, Steve Jobs, Joanna Hoffman, Jef Raskin, Rod Holt, Burrell Smith, Brian Howard, Steve Wozniak, Jerry Manock, Bill Atkinson, Mike Markkula
Topics: Credit, Personality
Summary: Who is the father of the Macintosh?

In the early days of the personal computer industry, breakthrough products could still be created single-handedly, or by very small teams. Steve Wozniak is indisputably the father of the Apple II, having designed the entire digital board himself as well as writing all of the system software, including a BASIC interpreter, most of it before Apple was even incorporated. But even Woz required help from Rod Holt for the analog electronics (the Apple II's switching power supply was almost as innovative as the digital board) and Steve Jobs and Jerry Manock for the industrial design (ditto for the plastic case).

By the 1980s, things had gotten more complicated. The Macintosh was more of a team effort, with at least a half dozen people making significant, invaluable contributions. For the launch publicity, Steve Jobs anointed seven of us (not counting himself) as the official "design team", but it could just as easily have been five or fifteen. Some people felt bad that they weren't included, and it was obvious that there was no good way to draw the line.

But if you look up the phrase "Father of the Macintosh" on Google, you get lots of links mentioning the initiator of the project, Jef Raskin. Jef was a former professor at UCSD (of both computer science and music) who started at Apple in January 1978 as Apple employee #31, after contracting to write Apple's manual for Basic with his friend Brian Howard, at their consulting firm named Bannister and Crun (a playful name appropriated from the Goon Show). Apple liked the Basic manual so much that they hired Jef and Brian to be founders of their internal publications group.

In early 1979, after successfully building an outstanding pubs department, Jef turned the reins over to Phyllis Cole and started thinking about what it would take for personal computers to expand beyond the current hobbyist market, writing up his ideas in a series of short papers. He presented his idea for an ultra low cost, easy to use appliance computer to Mike Markkula in March 1979, and got the go-ahead to hire a few people and form an official research project later in September 1979, naming it Macintosh, after his favorite kind of eating apple. Most of his ideas for the new machine were collected in a set of papers he called "The Book of Macintosh".

There's no doubt that Jef was the creator of the Macintosh project at Apple, and that his articulate vision of an exceptionally easy to use, low cost, high volume appliance computer got the ball rolling, and remained near the heart of the project long after Jef left the company. He also deserves ample credit for putting together the extraordinary initial team that created the computer, recruiting former student Bill Atkinson to Apple and then hiring amazing individuals like Burrell Smith, Bud Tribble, Joanna Hoffman and Brian Howard for the Macintosh team. But there is also no escaping the fact that the Macintosh that we know and love is very different than the computer that Jef wanted to build, so much so that he is much more like an eccentric great uncle than the Macintosh's father.

Jef did not want to incorporate what became the two most definitive aspects of Macintosh technology - the Motorola 68000 microprocessor and the mouse pointing device. Jef preferred the 6809, a cheaper but weaker processor which only had 16 bits of address space and would have been obsolete in just a year or two, since it couldn't address more than 64Kbytes. He was dead set against the mouse as well, preferring dedicated meta-keys to do the pointing. He became increasingly alienated from the team, eventually leaving entirely in the summer of 1981, when we were still just getting started, and the final product utilitized very few of the ideas in the Book of Macintosh. In fact, if the name of the project had changed after Steve took over in January 1981, and it almost did (see Bicycle), there wouldn't be much reason to correlate it with his ideas at all.

So, if not Jef, does anyone else qualify as a parent of the Macintosh? Bill Atkinson is a strong candidate, since he was almost singlehandedly responsible for the breakthrough user interface, graphics software and killer application that distinguished the Mac. A case could also be made for Burrell Smith, whose wildly creative digital board was the seed crystal of brilliance that everything else coalesced around. But ultimately, if any single individual deserves the honor, I would have to cast my vote for the obvious choice, Steve Jobs, because the Macintosh never would have happened without him, in anything like the form it did. Other individuals are responsible for the actual creative work, but Steve's vision, passion for excellence and sheer strength of will, not to mention his awesome powers of persuasion, drove the team to meet or exceed the impossible standards that we set for ourselves. Steve already gets a lot of credit for being the driving force behind the Macintosh, but in my opinion, it's very well deserved.

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It's worth it to be precise about the timeline of Jef's leaving Apple, since I've seen the wrong story published so many times. It's true that Jef didn't quit Apple entirely until February 1982, four years after he started, when his stock fully vested. But he didn't make any contributions to the Macintosh project after February 1981 when Steve Jobs took over. Steve made him take a three month leave of absence starting at the end of February '81 after he wrote a letter that was extremely critical of Steve's management style. Jef briefly returned to the project as the documentation manager in June 1981, but he was so critical about the hardware and software direction, that he didn't last very long. He was gone again, this time for good, by the end of July 1981; we hired Chris Espinosa in August 1981 to replace him.
One day in 1983, while I was woking on a piece about Steve Jobs for The New Yorker, I was over at Jef's house interviewing him about the evolution of the Macintosh. I don't know how Steve Jobs managed to find out I was there, but lo and behold the phone rings at Jef's house: it's Jane Anderson, who at the time was a PR person working either at Regis McKenna or at Apple, telling me that I was "not authorized" to speak with Jef. Needless to say, neither Jef nor I paid any attention to this admonition,
Unfortunately, there are a number of factual errors in Andy's account (and in some of his other anecdotes). For example, it was my opinion that a pointing device was essential. I did not think the mouse the best choice. Another: I only peferred the 6809 until the 68000 came down in price to the point where it fit into the parts budget. I did not invent "Leap" or even the term until after I left Apple, when I was working on the Mac I had a different way of moving a cursor *in text* with a method called "Lex" and "Rex". For graphics I always planned on using a graphic pointing device. The most fundamental ideas behind the Mac -- a computer bit-mapped from the getgo instead of a hardware character generator, the hardware and software built to support an interface instead of having an interface tacked on, and so forth, have persisted not only in the Mac but in almost all subsequent personal computers. The same is true of click-and-drag methods, which I invented. I won't bother to correct all the many errors (those interested can read the actual documents online), but readers should take Andy's account with a few grams of salt; he was not around when the Mac concept was being worked out, and his information is often hearsay. And some of that hearsay came from the famous "reality distortion field" himself.
It would appear that both sides (Jef's and Andy's) could be correct. Andy maintains that the complete Macintosh is not really Jef's invention while Jef claims it as his invention. I would say the concept of a commodity machine with graphical manipulation and other foundation features appear to be Jef's. That, however, is a long way from what the Macintosh platform is. It wasn't a Macintosh without the Toolbox (including Quickdraw), the finder, MacPaint, desk accessories, and other key components of the entire platform that Jef can make no claim to. Those are my takes as an outsider.
To Mr. Powell, I do not claim to have invented the Macintosh. As I have written many times, it was the work of many people. All sources agree that I created the project, and it is only in the sense that Edison is the inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph, though he built neither but set others who worked with him on the right path, that I am the inventor of the Mac. Can I make no claims to the components you cite? With regard to Atkinson's wonderful QuickDraw, remember that he had spent a lot of time with me studying my earlier Quick Draw Graphics system (which I programmed and which was published in 1967. It was used by dozens of universities and companies in the early 70s). At very least, you cannot deny that I coined the name! The concept of providing a toolbox grew from conversations between Tribble and myself about how to get programmers to do things the Macintosh Way, and to enforce the new paradigms.
Re: Jef Raskin, Thank you for clarifying my misconceptions. It seems that many times, the public wants a single entity to praise (or scorn) for a particular achievement. As is typically the case, maybe we shouldn't be looking for the single person, but, praising the revolutionary ideas and work of a number of people (and Jef has a rightful place in that praise).
Great story and comments about the macintohs origins. I was not part of this effort in any way but have come across several documents over the years from around 1980 relating to the Mac's origins (pre-Jobs' Mac era) that are fascinating reading. After reading these materials I came away with the impression that the original Mac was ment to be a simple to use yet powerful computer. This original 1980 Mac's design seemed simpler than the 1984 Mac. The documents are: The Genesis and History of the Macintosh Project Jef Raskin 16 February 1981 5 pages The Macintosh Project: Selected Papers Jef Raskin 14 February 1980 172 pages The Etymology of QuickDraw Doug McKenna 09 March 1992 3 pages Macintosh's Other Designers BYTE magazine, August 1984 7 pages The Selected Papers are a collection of fascinating internal Mac development memos mostly written by Raskin, but contributions by others too. Referred to also as "The Book of Macintosh". Even includes a schematic for the 6809 CPU-based Mac. The BYTE article contains a very interesting interview with the original 4 Macintosh team members (Jef Raskin, Bud Tribble, Burrell Smith, Brian Howard). I have these in PDF format if anyone wants a copy. Also of interest to at least me was Raskin's post-Apple computer, the Cat. This machine, from what I can tell, embodied more of the 1980 Mac's original goals than the later 1984 Mac. Raskin's current project, THE (the human editor), is also worth looking into since it seems to be a Cat for the 21th century. All of these systems (the 1980 Mac, the 1984 Mac, the Cat, THE) had extensive thought and effort put into them by many people. Hence, it seems difficult to me to assign a single person as the "father" or "inventor" of any one of these systems. It is pleasing to see their origins and designs documented such as Andy's Mac folklore project. -David T Craig <>
Jef, I think it is important to recognize that you did not in fact invent the click-and-drag paradigm; it was well-established long before the Macintosh project existed: see Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad (1962). Similarly with software built to provide an integrated interface (e.g. Smalltalk); the bitmap display (the Alto), and so on. It's only right to give credit where it is due, and many of the seminal ideas incorporated in the Mac were first created elsewhere and brought to the Mac by, in large part, people who came to Apple from PARC.
So long, Jef, and thanks for seeing things a little bit different. The world will never be the same.
Hommage d'un passionne Francais de la premiere heure a celui qui fut pour beaucoupdans l'idee de simplification de l'outil informatique, que DIEU accueille son ame en paix. Michel
Adieu a toi , un club de France, d'ou l'on pensera a toi , souvent , que Dieu te protege.
Sounds to me that Jef was the father, Burrell raised it, and the rest of the Mac team were tutors.
I don't think anyone can deny who invented Burrell... it was Jef! A cocktail of actions that started with 1 responding to another one's slurs, which attracted a third one with his own slur. The 3 slurred together that brought about the dabble of a fourth one. The initiator blurred out and by that time a unisson slurring of a half dozen took place ... Anyway, concepts are well thought of even centuries before at different times and places as fantasy and philosophies until instruments and tools make them feasble. What to say the likes of Michael Angelo would have thought about but would not have and discussed with ...
I believe Jef was the "father of the idea of Mac". But, I hardly find it fair to say that Jef (or anyone else) were the sole inventors of the idea. I'm sure that kid in the early 60's who fell in love with computers imagined one day owning an easy to use computer in his bedroom. Or that mom working in a giant mainframe room wishing they could afford having a computer at home that was easy to use. So the idea is worthless. Sure, Jef had the idea (even an 8-bit prototype). But the "Macintosh" was the Macintosh because of Burrell, Steve Jobs, Hertzfeld and many more.