“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” -- Pablo Picasso
Eulogy for Brian Howard, Macintosh hero, 1944-2010
Date: February 2010
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Apple Spirit, Eulogy
Brian Howard was the second person to join the Mac team, and played a crucial role at Apple co-designing many generations of Macs for over thirty years. When he passed away from cancer on February 1, 2010, his wife Lynne asked me to speak about his contributions to Apple at his memorial service; I'm including my notes for the talk below.
Brian was not only one of the nicest people I've ever known, he was also one of the most modest, so I hope that he wouldn't be too upset with me for bragging about the enormous contributions that he made to Apple and the Macintosh team, and through them, to the computer industry and many millions of users.
Brian joined Apple in January 1978, along with his best friend and collaborator, Jef Raskin, as employee number 32, when it was still a tiny startup . Brian and Jef had formed a two-person technical consulting company called Bannister and Crun, where they got a contract in 1977 to write Apple's very first manual for Integer Basic. They did such a great job on it that they were offered full-time jobs to co-found Apple's publications department, where they assembled a remarkable team of terrific writers with a playful, rebellious spirit that helped forge and exemplify the unique personality of Apple.
In early 1979, Jef starting writing a series of papers describing his vision for the personal computer as an information appliance - computers that were extremely inexpensive and easy to use, that could potentially sell by the millions. Brian was his main sounding board, helping Jef to refine his ideas and often working out various technical details to support them. When Jef got permission to form a small team to pursue developing his ideas, Brian was the first one to join it. For a while, the Mac team was just Jef and Brian.
The project really took off when Jef hired Burrell Smith, who came up with an amazing hardware design that breathed life into Jef's vision, eventually attracting Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to the project. But Jef and Steve had an epic personality clash, even though their sensibilities were quite similar in many ways, but it soon became clear that they couldn't work together. When Jef left the project, there was enormous pressure on Brian to leave with him - if he did, it could have swayed Burrell to leave as well, which would have been the end of the project as we know it.
Brian was very close to Jef, and I'm sure it was painful to explain that he thought it was the right thing to stay at Apple, since that would give their shared goal a much better chance of happening. It wasn't easy, but Brian's pragmatic level-headedness held the team together during this critical transition - there probably wouldn't be a Macintosh or Apple today if it wasn't for Brian doing the right thing at a considerable personal cost.
Burrell was another eccentric genius, probably even more difficult than Jef, with little patience and tolerance for the demands of the organization. Brian's even-tempered, sweet nature, along with his superb intellect and technical writing skills made him the perfect foil for Burrell. Brian became the conduit through which Burrell's brilliant design connected with the rest of Apple, through Brian's meticulous documentation and infinite patience at explaining Burrell's crazy techniques to the rest of the company.
Brian often stayed late at Apple helping Burrell to overcome whatever obstacle was in front of them, from double and triple checking the PC board traces before sending it out to layout to isolating and fixing various problems with the timings. Burrell could get hot-headed when stressed, but Brian's cool, calm nature made him the perfect partner for Burrell. Burrell called him "Uncle Dougie", which was a term of respect, I think, acknowledging his maturity and dependable steadfastness.
It was also Brian's idea to defy management and route extra memory address lines on the final PC boards, enabling a simple modification to quadruple the memory to 512K, allowing our early customers to extend the useful life of their machines without having to buy a whole new one.
And Brian remained at Apple after most of the original team left, teaming up with Bob Bailey to design many of the very best Macintoshes over the years - in fact, whenever there was a particularly good one, you could bet it was designed by Bob and Brian. I think he was Apple's longest continuous employee, working there for over 30 years.
Brian was always kind and helpful to everyone he encountered, no matter how stressful the circumstance. His personality made him the perfect partner for creative geniuses like Jef, Burrell and Steve. He worked with grace, humor, formidable intelligence and pragmatic wisdom. He was one of the finest people I've ever known and I will miss him terribly.
An essay discussing where the Mac user interface came from
Author: Bruce Horn
Topics: Credit,Software Design,Origins
This essay was written by Bruce in 1996, and is reprinted here with his permission. Bruce was one of the main designers of the Macintosh software, and he worked at Xerox for years before that, so he's uniquely qualified to discuss their relationship.
Where It All Began
For more than a decade now, I've listened to the debate about where the Macintosh user interface came from. Most people assume it came directly from Xerox, after Steve Jobs went to visit Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). This "fact" is reported over and over, by people who don't know better (and also by people who should!). Unfortunately, it just isn't true - there are some similarities between the Apple interface and the various interfaces on Xerox systems, but the differences are substantial.
Steve did see Smalltalk when he visited PARC. He saw the Smalltalk integrated programming environment, with the mouse selecting text, pop-up menus, windows, and so on. The Lisa group at Apple built a system based on their own ideas combined with what they could remember from the Smalltalk demo, and the Mac folks built yet another system. There is a significant difference between using the Mac and Smalltalk.
Smalltalk has no Finder, and no need for one, really. Drag-and- drop file manipulation came from the Mac group, along with many other unique concepts: resources and dual-fork files for storing layout and international information apart from code; definition procedures; drag-and-drop system extension and configuration; types and creators for files; direct manipulation editing of document, disk, and application names; redundant typed data for the clipboard; multiple views of the file system; desk accessories; and control panels, among others. The Lisa group invented some fundamental concepts as well: pull down menus, the imaging and windowing models based on QuickDraw, the clipboard, and cleanly internationalizable software.
Smalltalk had a three-button mouse and pop-up menus, in contrast to the Mac's menu bar and one-button mouse. Smalltalk didn't even have self-repairing windows - you had to click in them to get them to repaint, and programs couldn't draw into partially obscured windows. Bill Atkinson did not know this, so he invented regions as the basis of QuickDraw and the Window Manager so that he could quickly draw in covered windows and repaint portions of windows brought to the front. One Macintosh feature identical to a Smalltalk feature is selection-based modeless text editing with cut and paste, which was created by Larry Tesler for his Gypsy editor at PARC.
As you may be gathering, the difference between the Xerox system architectures and Macintosh architecture is huge; much bigger than the difference between the Mac and Windows. It's not surprising, since Microsoft saw quite a bit of the Macintosh design (API's,sample code, etc.) during the Mac's development from 1981 to 1984; the intention was to help them write applications for the Mac, and it also gave their system designers a template from which to design Windows. In contrast, the Mac and Lisa designers had to invent their own architectures. Of course, there were some ex- Xerox people in the Lisa and Mac groups, but the design point for these machines was so different that we didn't leverage our knowledge of the Xerox systems as much as some people think.
The hardware itself was an amazing step forward as well. It offered an all-in-one design, four-voice sound, small footprint, clock, auto-eject floppies, serial ports, and so on. The small, portable, appealing case was a serious departure from the ugly- box-on-an-ugly-box PC world, thanks to Jerry Manock and his crew. Even the packaging showed amazing creativity and passion - do any of you remember unpacking an original 128K Mac? The Mac, the unpacking instructions, the profusely-illustrated and beautifully- written manuals, and the animated practice program with audio cassette were tastefully packaged in a cardboard box with Picasso- style graphics on the side.
In my opinion, the software architectures developed at Xerox for Smalltalk and the Xerox Star were significantly more advanced than either the Mac or Windows. The Star was a tremendous accomplishment, with features that current systems haven't even started to implement, though I see OpenDoc as a strong advance past the Xerox systems. I have great respect for the amazing computer scientists at Xerox PARC, who led the way with innovations we all take for granted now, and from whom I learned a tremendous amount about software design.
Apple could have developed a more complex, sophisticated system rivaling the Xerox architectures. But the Mac had to ship, and it had to be relatively inexpensive - we couldn't afford the time or expense of the "best possible" design. As a "little brother" to the Lisa, the Macintosh didn't have multitasking or protection - we didn't have space for the extra code or stack required. The original Macintosh had extremely tight memory and disk constraints; for example, the Resource Manager took up less than 3,000 bytes of code in the ROM, and the Finder was only 46K on disk. We made _many_ design decisions that we regretted to some extent - even at the time some of us felt disappointed at the compromises we had to make - but if we had done it differently, would we have shipped at all?
The Past and Future
In many ways, the computing world has made remarkably small advances since 1976, and we continually reinvent the wheel. Smalltalk had a nice bytecoded multi-platform virtual machine long before Java. Object oriented programming is the hot thing now, and it's almost 30 years old (see the Simula-67 language). Environments have not progressed much either: I feel the Smalltalk environments from the late 1970's are the most pleasant, cleanest, fastest, and smoothest programming environments I have ever used. Although CodeWarrior is reasonably good for C++ development, I haven't seen anything that compares favorably to the Smalltalk systems I used almost 20 years ago. The Smalltalk systems of today aren't as clean, easy to use, or well- designed as the originals, in my opinion.
We are not even _close_ to the ultimate computing-information- communication device. We have much more work to do on system architectures and user interfaces. In particular, user interface design must be driven by deep architectural issues and not just new graphical appearances; interfaces are structure, not image. Neither Copland nor Windows 95 (nor NT, for that matter) represent the last word on operating systems. Unfortunately, market forces are slowing the development of the next revolution. Still, I think you can count on Apple being the company bringing these improvements to next generation systems.
I'm sure some things I remember as having originated at Apple were independently developed elsewhere. But the Mac brought them to the world.
A visual history of the development of the Lisa/Macintosh user interface
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Origins,User Interface,Early Programs,Lisa,QuickDraw,Software Design
The Macintosh User Interface wasn't designed all at once; it was actually the result of almost five years of experimentation and development at Apple, starting with graphics routines that Bill Atkinson began writing for Lisa in late 1978. Like any evolutionary process, there were lots of false starts and blind alleys along the way. It's a shame that these tend to be lost to history, since there is a lot that we can learn from them.
Fortunately, the main developer of the user interface, Bill Atkinson, was an avid, lifelong photographer, and he had the foresight to document the incremental development of the Lisa User Interface (which more or less became the Mac UI after a few tweaks) with a series of photographs. He kept a Polaroid camera by his computer, and took a snapshot each time the user interface reached a new milestone, which he collected in a loose-leaf notebook. I'm excited to be able to reproduce and annotate them here, since they offer a fascinating, behind the scenes glimpse of how the Mac's breakthrough user interface was crafted.
The images are scaled so they easily fit onto a typical screen, but you can click on them for larger versions that show more detail.
The first picture in Bill's notebook is from Bill's previous project, just before starting work on the Lisa: Apple II Pascal. The high performance graphics routines that Bill wrote for Apple II Pascal in the fall of 1978 led right into his initial work on the Lisa.
The center and right photos, from the spring of 1979, were rendered on the actual Lisa Display system, featuring the 720 by 360 resolution that remained constant all the way through to the shipping product. No Lisa existed yet; these were done on a wired wrapped prototype card for the Apple II. The middle picture shows the very first characters ever displayed on a Lisa screen; note the variable-width characters. The rightmost picture has more proportional text, about the Lisa display system, rendered in a font that Bill designed by hand.
The leftmost picture illustrates the first graphics primitives that Bill wrote for LisaGraf (which was eventually renamed to QuickDraw in 1982) in the spring of 1979, rendering lines and rectangles filled with 8x8 one-bit patterns. The power and flexibility of the patterns are illustrated in the rightmost shot, which were our poor man's substitute for color, which was too expensive (at the required resolution) in the early eighties.
The middle picture depicts the initial user interface of the Lisa, based on a row of "soft-keys", drawn at the bottom of the screen, that would change as a user performed a task. These were inspired from work done at HP, where some of the early Lisa designers hailed from.
Here are some more demos of the initial graphics routines. Bill made line-drawing blindingly fast with an algorithm that plotted "slabs" of multiple pixels in a single memory access. The rightmost picture shows how non-rectangular areas could be filled with patterns, too.
Here are some scanned images, showing off Lisa's impressive resolution for the time, which Bill scanned using a modified fax machine. He was always tweaking the half-toning algorithm, which mapped gray scales into patterns of monochrome dots. Bill had made versions of these for the Apple II that Apple distributed on demo disks, but these higher resolution Lisa versions were much more impressive.
The left and middle pictures show off the first sketch program, an early ancestor of MacPaint, that allowed mouse-based drawing with patterns and a variety of brush shapes. I think these are perhaps a bit out of sequence, done in early 1980. The rightmost picture shows the final soft-key based UI, which is about to change radically...
...into a mouse/windows based user interface. This is obviously the biggest single jump in the entire set of photographs, and the place where I most wish that Bill had dated them. It's tempting to say that the change was caused by the famous Xerox PARC visit, which took place in mid-December 1979, but Bill thinks that the windows predated that, although he can't say for sure.
The leftmost picture shows different fonts in overlapping windows, but we didn't have a window manager yet, so they couldn't be dragged around. The middle window shows the first pop-up menu, which looks just like SmallTalk, as does the simple, black title bar. The rightmost picture shows that we hadn't given up on the soft-keys yet.
By now, it's the spring of 1980 and things are starting to happen fast. The leftmost picture shows the earliest text selection, using a different highlighting technique than we ended up with. It also shows a "command bar" at the bottom of the screen, and that we had started to use non-modal commands (make a selection, then perform an action, instead of the other way around).
The middle picture shows the very first scroll bar, on the left instead of the right, before the arrow scroll buttons were added. It also has a folder-tab style title bar, which would persist for a while before being dropped (Bill says that at that point, he was confusing documents and folders). The right most photo shows that we adopted the inverse selection method of text highlighting.
By the summer of 1980, we had dropped the soft-keys. The leftmost photo shows that we had mouse-based text editing going, complete with the first appearance of the clipboard, which at that point was called "the wastebasket". Later, it was called the "scrap" before we finally settled on "clipboard." There was also a Smalltalk style scrollbar, with the scroll box proportional to the size of the document. Note there are also two set of arrows, since a single scrollbar weirdly controlled both horizontal and vertical scrolling.
The next picture shows that we dropped the proportional scroll box for a simpler, fixed-size one, since we were afraid users wouldn't understand the proportionality. It also shows the I-Beam text cursor for the first time. At this point, we were finally committed to the one-button mouse, after a long, protracted internal debate.
The right most picture shows Bill playing around with splines, which are curves defined by a few draggable control points. QuickDraw didn't end up using splines, but the picture is still notable for the first appearance of the "knobbie" (a small, draggable, rectangular affordance for a point).
By now, it's the fall of 1980. The middle picture shows us experimenting with opened and closed windows, which was eventually dropped (but it made a comeback in the 1990s and is in most systems today one way or another). The right most picture shows the first window resizing, by dragging a gray outline, although it's not clear how resizing was initiated.
The middle picture shows that windows can be repositioned by dragging a gray outline. We wanted to drag the whole window, like modern user interfaces do today, but the processors weren't fast enough in those days. As far as I know, the NeXTStep was the first system to do it the modern way.
The right most picture shows the first appearance of pull-down menus, with a menu bar at the top of the window instead of the top of the screen, which is the way Windows still does things. By this point, we also gave up on using a single scroll bar for both horizontal and vertical scrolling; it's looking very much like what the Mac shipped with in 1984 now.
This set of pictures illustrates the Lisa desktop, circa the end of 1980, with a tab-shaped title, followed by a menu bar attached to the window. Windows could be reduced to tabs on the desktop. We've also changed the name of the clipboard to "the scrap", an old typesetting term.
The leftmost picture mentions the first use of double-click, to open and close windows. The middle picture represents a real breakthrough, by putting the menu bar at the top of the screen instead of the top of each window. The menu bar contains the menus of the "active folder", which is the topmost window. By this point, the grow icon found its way to the bottom right, at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical scrollbars, which stuck. This is the first picture which is really recognizable as the shipping Macintosh.
By now, it's early 1981, and things are beginning to shape up. The leftmost picture shows a window with scrollbars that look a lot like the ones that shipped. The middle folder illustrates split views, which were used by Lisa's spreadsheet application. The rightmost picture contains the first appearance of a dialog box, which at the time ran the entire length of the screen, just below the menu bar.
Now that the basic window structure was stabilizing, Bill turned his attention back to the graphics routines. He worked more on the Sketch program (the forerunner of MacPaint); the snowman drawing on the left is a clue that it's now Winter 1981. He added algorithmic text styles to the graphics, adding styles of bold (pictured on the right), as well as italic, outline and shadow (Bill took pictures of the other styles which I'm omitting to save space).
Bud Tribble was living at Bill's house now, and tended to sleep during the day and work all night, so Bill drew the phase diagram diagram on the left with the sketch program. The middle picture shows fast ovals, which were added to LisaGraf as a basic type in Spring 1981, using a clever algorithm that didn't require multiplication. They were quickly followed by rectangles with rounded corners, or "roundrects", illustrated on the right, which were suggested by Steve Jobs (see Round Rects Are Everywhere!)
By May 1981, the Lisa user interface is beginning to solidify. The leftmost photo shows scrollable documents of different types in overlapping windows, still sporting folder tabs for titles. The middle picture shows how roundrects began to creep into various UI elements, like menus, providing a more sophisticated look, especially when combined with drop shadows. The right most photo shows how menus could be also be graphical, as well as text based.
The Lisa team was worried about the closed window tabs being obscured by other windows on the desktop, so Bill added a standard menu on the extreme left called "the tray", that could show and hide opened windows. The middle and right pictures portray a prototype that Bill created for the Lisa Graphics Editor (which eventually evolved into MacDraw), to demonstrate that modes could sometimes be useful; it was the first program to select modes with a graphical palette, which eventually became the main user interface of MacPaint.
The last major change in the Lisa User Interface was moving to an icon-based file manager in March 1982. The leftmost picture was an early mock-up done in the graphics editor, using a two-level hierarchy; selecting an icon in the top pane displays its contents in the bottom one. By the middle photo, Bill arrived at something very similar to the shipping design, complete with a trash can at the lower right. (see Rosing's Rascals)
. Note that the folder tab on windows has disappeared now, replaced by a rectangular title bar that's partially inverted when highlited.
Finally, Bill renamed "LisaGraf" to "QuickDraw" in the spring of 1982, because he wanted a name that was suitable for the Macintosh, too. He added two related features to meet the burgeoning needs of the Lisa applications: pictures and scaling. Pictures were a way of recording graphics operations into a data structure for later playback; this became the basis of both our printing architecture and also cutting and pasting graphics. Since pictures could be drawn into an arbitrary sized rectangle, it also caused Bill to add bitmap scaling features as well.
Most users and developers only experienced the user interface as a completed whole, so they tend to think of it as static and never changing, when in fact these pictures show that it was always evolving as we gained more experience and tackled more application areas. A user interface is never good enough, and, while consistency between applications is an important virtue, the best developers will continue to innovate when faced with new problems or perhaps just when they see a much better way to accomplish something. As usual, Bob Dylan said it best when he wrote in 1965, "He not busy being born, is busy dying."
Burrell actually designed 5 different Macintoshes
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Hardware Design,Technical,Prototypes
The awesomely creative design of the Macintosh digital board was always the seed crystal of brilliance at the core of the project, but there wasn't just one design; Burrell redesigned the digital board four different times as development proceeded, finally arriving at the shipping design in the fall of 1982.
The first Macintosh digital board, designed in late 1979, was based on Jef Raskin's specifications: it had a Motorola 6809E microprocessor, 64K of memory, and a 256x256 black and white, bit-mapped graphics display. Even in this first design, Burrell was using his trademark 'PAL' chips, which were small, programmable logic arrays, to provide all of the system glue, so the system had a very low chip count.
The first Macintosh was a cute little computer, but it was fundamentally limited by the 6809 microprocessor, which only had 16 bits of address space. Bill Atkinson was doing incredible work on the Lisa project using Motorola's 68000 microprocessor, with its capacious 32 bit registers and 24 bit address space. Bud Tribble, the Mac's only software person, was living at Bill's house, and watching the extraordinary progress on Lisa's graphics package. He began to wonder if it was possible for the Macintosh to use the 68000, so it could run Bill's graphics routines.
Bud began asking Burrell if it was feasible to include the 68000 in a low cost design. The 68000 was expensive enough on its own, but its 16 bit memory bus required twice as many RAM chips as the 6809, so the overall cost was significantly more expensive. But Burrell thought about the problem and came up with a characteristically brilliant idea for his second Macintosh design.
The idea was what Burrell called a "bus transformer" circuit, built out of PAL chips, which adapted the 68000 to an 8 bit memory bus by exploiting the fast "page mode" access mode of the RAMs. The new Macintosh, designed over the Christmas break at the end of 1980, featured an 8 megahertz 68000, 64K of RAM, and a 384 by 256 bit mapped display. It was 60% faster than the Lisa (which used a 5 megahertz 68000) but a lot less expensive.
When Steve Jobs caught wind of what Burrell had come up with - an Apple II priced machine that blew away the Lisa, he became really excited, and saw that Burrell's machine could become the future of Apple. Steve's attention was the beginning of the end for Jef, though, who despised parts of Steve's personality and couldn't put up with Steve's courting of Burrell and Bud. Steve took over the project in January 1981, and the Macintosh entered the post-Jef era, on track to becoming a real product.
Burrell's third Macintosh design was done in June 1981. The main reason was that he fell in love with a communications chip called the SCC. The SCC could support a built-in local area network, making AppleTalk possible with no additional hardware, as well as providing nice buffered serial ports with interrupts and other hardware features. At this point it also was becoming obvious that we needed at least 128K of memory to support the user interface, so he also added a second row of RAM chips.
Around the end of 1981, Burrell met some engineers who were doing custom LSI chips, which were very flexible and powerful but very time consuming to design, since the software tools were still in their infancy. Burrell decided that he wanted to take a shot at building the Macintosh around a single custom chip, and convinced Steve that he could pull it off. Instead of sitting around doing nothing while the software team finished the product, he would work with a couple of experienced LSI designers and redesign the Mac around what he called the "Integrated Burrell Machine".
Earlier in the year, Wendell Sander, the designer of the Apple III and one of Apple's best engineers, did a small custom chip that crammed all the functionality of Woz's disk controller into a single chip. It was called the "IWM" chip, which stood for the "Integrated Woz Machine", since Woz's disk controller is really an elaborate state machine, but it also stood for the "Integrated Wendell Machine". So when Burrell envisioned a single custom chip for the Macintosh, he called it the "IBM" chip, for "Integrated Burrell Machine", relishing the potential confusion the name might cause.
In the beginning of 1982, the original 68000 design was more than a year old, and the software was nowhere near finished, so Burrell was afraid some of the trade-offs of the original design were no longer current. He used the expansive canvas of a custom chip, where additional logic was almost free, to update the architecture. The most important decision was admitting that the software would never fit into 64K of memory and going with a full 16-bit memory bus, requiring 16 RAM chips instead of 8. The extra memory bandwidth allowed him to double the display resolution, going to dimensions of 512 by 342 instead of 384 by 256. He also added bells and whistles like a fancy, DMA-fed sound generator with four independent voices. This was the fourth version of the Macintosh design.
But Burrell had never done a custom chip before. He was counting on experts working with our partner VLSI Design, mainly Doug Fairbairn and Martin Haeberli, who successfully made a custom chip for an optical mouse, but they had never really worked against commercial deadlines, and a lot of tension began to build as the schedule started to slip.
Some more of the details of the Integrated Burrell Machine project are told elsewhere, but eventually, after the first silicon from an early version didn't work as expected, Burrell became frustrated and decided that it was too risky to continue. He realized that he could do a design with PALs that achieved most of the gains from the Integrated Burrell Machine, without needing the custom chip. So, in August 1982, he quickly designed the fifth iteration of the Macintosh, the one that actually shipped in January 1984, by adapting his earlier PAL-based design to one that had a 16-bit memory bus with a 512 by 342 display and some other features invented for the custom chip.
The attitudes and values of the team forged the spirit of the Macintosh
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Apple Spirit,,Inspiration,Management,Personality,Origins,Reality Distortion
The original Macintosh was designed by a small team that worked long hours with a passionate, almost messianic fervor, inculcated by our leader, Steve Jobs, and the excitement that we felt during its creation shines through in the finished product. The attitudes, values and personalities of the designers are reflected in the thousands of subtle choices that they make in the course of their design, coalescing into a spirit or feeling imparted to its users.
We were excited because we thought we had a chance to do something extraordinary. Most technology development is incremental, but every once in a while there's an opportunity to make a quantum leap to a whole new level. A few years earlier, the Apple II and other pioneering systems made computing affordable to individuals, but they were still much too hard for most people to use. We felt that the Mac's graphical user interface had the potential to make computing enjoyable to non-technical users for the very first time, potentially improving the lives of millions of users.
As soon as he seized the reins from Jef Raskin in January 1981, Steve Jobs galvanized the Macintosh team with an extreme sense of urgency. One of his first acts as head of the project was to bet John Couch, the executive in charge of the Lisa Division, $5000 that the Macintosh would beat the Lisa to market, despite the fact that Lisa had more than a two year head start, and we had barely begun. The Mac team always had incredibly optimistic schedules, because Steve would never be satisfied with more realistic estimates (see Reality Distortion Field)
, as if he could make it happen faster through sheer force of will.
But the desire to ship quickly was counterbalanced by a demanding, comprehensive perfectionism. Most commercial projects are driven by commercial values, where the goal is to maximize profits by outperforming your competition. In contrast, the Macintosh was driven more by artistic values, oblivious to competition, where the goal was to be transcendently brilliant and insanely great. We wanted the Macintosh to be a technical and artistic tour-de-force that pushed the state of the art in every conceivable dimension. No detail was too small to matter (see PC Board Esthetics)
, and good enough wasn't good enough - if Steve could perceive it, it had to be great.
Steve encouraged the Mac designers to think of ourselves as artists. In the spring of 1982, he took the entire Mac team on a field trip to a Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibition in San Francisco, because Tiffany was an artist who was able to mass produce his work, as we aspired to do. Steve even had us individually sign the interior of the Macintosh case, like artists signing their work (see Signing Party)
, encouraging each one of us to feel personally responsible for the quality of the product.
Other groups at Apple had an elaborate formal product development process, mandating lengthy product requirement documents and engineering specifications before implementation commenced. In contrast, the Mac team favored a more creative, flexible, incremental approach of successively refining prototypes. Burrell Smith developed a unique hardware design style based on programmable array logic chips (PAL chips), which enabled him to make changes much faster than traditional techniques allowed, almost with the fluidity of software. Instead of arguing about new software ideas, we actually tried them out by writing quick prototypes, keeping the ideas that worked best and discarding the others (see Busy Being Born)
. We always had something running that represented our best thinking at the time.
You might think that impossible schedules and uncompromising perfectionism would lead to an oppressive work environment, but most of the time, the ambiance of the Mac team was spontaneous, enthusiastic and irreverent. Jef Raskin had a playful management style, encouraging a workplace teeming with toys and semi-organized games (see Good Earth)
, which carried over to the Jobs era. Most of the early team members were around the same age, in our mid-twenties, and we enjoyed each other's company. We increasingly hung out together as the project demanded ever greater chunks of our time, abandoning the distinction between work and play. Despite the incessant pressure, we loved what we were doing.
Given Steve's autocratic tendencies, the Mac team was surprisingly egalitarian. Unlike other parts of Apple, which were becoming more conservative and bureaucratic as the company grew, the early Mac team was organized more like a start-up company. We eschewed formal structure and hierarchy, in favor of a flat meritocracy with minimal managerial oversight, like the band of revolutionaries we aspired to be. Steve Jobs would sometimes issue an unreasonable edict or veto something that everyone else wanted, but at least he would relent when he saw he was wrong (see Quick, Hide In This Closet!)
. At our third retreat in January 1983, Steve reinforced our rebel spirit, which was waning as the team grew larger, by telling us "it's better to be a pirate than join the navy" (see Pirate Flag)
Enthusiasm is contagious, and a product that is fun to create is much more likely to be fun to use. The urgency, ambition, passion for excellence, artistic pride and irreverent humor of the original Macintosh team infused the product and energized a generation of developers and customers with the Macintosh spirit, which continues to inspire more than twenty years later.