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Steve Jobs: (66)
Chris tries to make a Steve-approved calculator
Date: February 1982
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Software Design
Chris Espinosa was one of Apple's earliest and youngest employees, who started work for the company at the ripe age of 14. He left Apple in 1978 to go to college at UC Berkeley, but he continued to do freelance work during the school year, like writing the Apple II Reference Manual, the replacement for the legendary "Red Book".
In the summer of 1981, Steve Jobs convinced Chris to drop out of school to come work on the Mac team full time, arguing that he could go back to school anytime, but there'd only be one chance to help shape the Macintosh. Chris dropped out of school to become the manager of documentation for the Macintosh, starting in August 1981.
We needed technical documentation right away, since we planned to seed third party developer in only a few months. Since the most important part of the Macintosh software was the Quickdraw graphics package, Chris decided to start with documenting Quickdraw.
Chris wanted to write a demo program using Quickdraw, in order to better understand it. He got excited about the idea of what we called "desk ornaments", which at that point were not implemented yet. He decided to work on a Quickdraw program to draw the calculator.
After playing around for a while, he came up with a calculator that he thought looked pretty good. But the acid test was showing it to Steve Jobs, in his role as our esthetic compass, to see what he thought.
We all gathered around as Chris showed the calculator to Steve and then held his breath, waiting for Steve's reaction. "Well, it's a start", Steve said, "but basically, it stinks. The background color is too dark, some lines are the wrong thickness, and the buttons are too big." Chris told Steve he'll keep changing it, until Steve thought he got it right.
So, for a couple of days, Chris would incorporate Steve's suggestions from the previous day, but Steve would continue to find new faults each time he was shown it. Finally, Chris got a flash of inspiration.
The next afternoon, instead of a new iteration of the calculator, Chris unveiled his new approach, which he called "the Steve Jobs Roll Your Own Calculator Construction Set". Every decision regarding graphical attributes of the calculator were parameterized by pull-down menus. You could select line thicknesses, button sizes, background patterns, etc.
Steve took a look at the new program, and immediately started fiddling with the parameters. After trying out alternatives for ten minutes or so, he settled on something that he liked. When I implemented the calculator UI (Donn Denman did the math semantics) for real a few months later, I used Steve's design, and it remained the standard calculator on the Macintosh for many years, all the way up through OS 9.
Steve has a unique idea for the software
Date: February 1982
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Software Design,Personality
Steve Jobs often came by Texaco Towers after dinner, to see what was new, and we'd usually show him whatever recent progress we made. Sometimes he'd be pissed off about something, but other times he'd be really excited about a new idea.
I was the only one in the office one evening when he burst in, exclaiming that he had a flash of inspiration.
"Mr. Macintosh! We've got to have Mr. Macintosh!"
"Who is Mr. Macintosh?", I wondered.
"Mr. Macintosh is a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. He pops up every once in a while, when you least expect it, and then winks at you and disappears again. It will be so quick that you won't be sure if you saw him or not. We'll plant references in the manuals to the legend of Mr. Macintosh, and no one will know if he's real or not."
Engineers like myself always daydream about building surreptitious little hacks into the software, but here was the co-founder and chairman of the company suggesting something really wild. I enthusiastically pressed him for details. Where should Mr. Macintosh appear? How often? What should he do when he shows up?
"One out of every thousand or two times that you pull down a menu, instead of the normal commands, you'll get Mr. Macintosh, leaning against the wall of the menu. He'll wave at you, then quickly disappear. You'll try to get him to come back, but you won't be able to."
I loved the idea and promised that I would implement Mr. Macintosh, but not right away, since there were still so many more basic things to get done. Steve told the idea to the marketing team, and eventually recruited the French artist Folon to do some renditions of Mr. Macintosh. I also asked my high school friend Susan Kare, who hadn't started with Apple yet, to try to draw some Mr. Macintosh animations.
Most of the Macintosh system software had to be packed into a 64 KByte ROM, and ROM space got more scarce as development proceeded and the system grew. Eventually, it was clear that we'd never be able to fit bitmaps for Mr. Macintosh into the ROM, but I wasn't willing to give up on him yet.
I made the software that displayed the menus look at a special low memory location called the "MrMacHook", for an address of a routine. If the routine is present, it's called with parameters that let it draw in the menu box, and it returns a result that tells the menu manager if it did anything. Using this, an application or system module could implement Mr. Macintosh (or perhaps his evil twin) if they saw fit.
I'm not sure if anybody ever actually implemented Mr. Macintosh or used the "MrMacHook" for something worthwhile.
The artists sign their work
Date: February 1982
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Management,Apple Spirit,Industrial Design
The component of the Macintosh hardware that had the longest lead time was the hard tool that molded its distinctive plastic case. After tweaking the case design for more than six months and building a small production run of 50 units with a soft-tooled case, the final design was ready to go out for hard tooling toward the end of February 1982, so we could meet the ship date that we were aiming for at the time, which was January 1983.
The Mac team had a complicated set of motivations, but the most unique ingredient was a strong dose of artistic values. First and foremost, Steve Jobs thought of himself as an artist, and he encouraged the design team to think of ourselves that way, too. The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money; it was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater. Steve often reinforced the artistic theme; for example, he took the entire team on a field trip in the spring of 1982 to the Louis Comfort Tiffany museum, because Tiffany was an artist who learned how to mass produce his work.
Since the Macintosh team were artists, it was only appropriate that we sign our work. Steve came up with the awesome idea of having each team member's signature engraved on the hard tool that molded the plastic case, so our signatures would appear inside the case of every Mac that rolled off the production line. Most customers would never see them, since you needed a special tool to look inside, but we would take pride in knowing that our names were in there, even if no one else knew.
We held a special signing party after one of our weekly meetings on February 10, 1982. Jerry Mannock, the manager of the industrial design team, spread out a large piece of drafting paper on the table to capture our signatures. Steve gave a little speech about artists signing their work, and then cake and champagne were served as he called each team member to step forward and sign their name for posterity. Burrell had the symbolic honor of going first, followed by members of the software team. It took forty minutes or so for around thirty-five team members to sign. Steve waited until last, when he picked a spot near the upper center and signed his name with a flourish.
We were aware that the team was still growing rapidly, and in a few months there would be a new crop of key contributors that also deserved to sign the case. We decided to draw the line at the date of the signing party, and not to let new signatures come in later, but we knew it would be tough to stick to that. We also wanted to add the signatures of a few major contributors who had left the project: Steve Wozniak, Jef Raskin and Bud Tribble. But that was supposed to be it.
Over the next few months, a few more signatures of people who weren't on the team at the time of the signing party managed to make it into the case. For a while Rod Holt held the line, but eventually Bob Belleville, who hired on in April 1982 as the software manager but soon became the overall engineering manager when Rod Holt retired, decided to add his own name. He also snuck in a few other key people, like marketing manager Mike Murray and original evangelist Mike Boich, who started before he did and who otherwise would have just missed the cut-off.
And then, over time, names gradually began to disappear for practical reasons, as Apple changed the case to make it easier to manufacture. Some details were changed even before first ship, partially obscuring some of the signatures. Each time the case was revised, more names were left off, as dictated by the nature of the revision, until a substantial number of them were gone. I'm not sure which model was the last to have any names at all, but I'm pretty sure that the Macintosh Classic, from the early nineties, didn't have any left.
The Lisa Filer was radically redesigned with no time to spare
Date: March 1982
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Software Design,Lisa,User Interface,Management
By the spring of 1982, the Lisa User Interface was finally settling down, and the software team was working feverishly to get everything ready to ship by their deadline in the fall. Most of the applications were shaping up, although myriad problems remained, and the team could finally sense a glimmer of light at the end of the long tunnel.
Dan Smith and Frank Ludolph were working on the Lisa Filer, the key application that managed files and launched other applications. It was beginning to come together, but Dan was still unsatisfied with the current design.
The Filer was based on a dialog window that prompted the user to select a document from a list, and then select an action like "Open", "Copy" or "Discard", and then answer more questions, depending on the selected action. There was so much prompting that it became known as the "Twenty Questions Filer". Dan thought that it wasn't easy or enjoyable to use, but there just wasn't enough time left in the schedule for further experimentation, so they were pretty much stuck with it.
One afternoon, Dan mentioned his dissatisfaction to Bill Atkinson, the main designer of the Lisa User Interface. Bill suggested that they meet that evening at his home in Los Gatos for a brain-storming session to see if they could come up with a better design, even though it was probably too late to use it for the initial release.
Bill favored a more graphical approach, and wanted to use small graphical images to represent files, which could be manipulated by dragging them with a mouse. He remembered an interesting prototype that he saw at M.I.T. called Dataland, where data objects could be spatially positioned over a large area. He adapted the idea for Lisa, allowing icons representing files and directories to be positioned on a scrolling, semi-infinite plane.
After a couple of nights of fiddling around, Dan and Bill had an interesting mock-up going, with icons representing documents and folders, complete with a trash can with flies buzzing around it. The icons used a mask bitmap to define their borders, so irregular shapes could be rendered seamlessly on the gray desktop. The new design seemed to have the simplicity and elegance that they were striving for, so they began to get excited.
They were both eager and afraid to show the mock-up to the rest of the team, since the design of the Filer was supposed to be frozen, and embarking on such a major revision would surely slip the schedule, which was already precariously close to unrealizable. They gathered up their courage and approached Wayne Rosing, the Lisa Engineering Manager, and explained their dilemma.
Wayne appreciated the potential of the new approach, but wasn't ready to slip the schedule to accommodate it. He thought it was perhaps barely possible to go with both the new design and the current schedule, if they could turn the mock-up into a solid working prototype in record time. He proposed a deal: he gave them permission to work on the new design in secret for the next two weeks. If they had a robust, stable prototype by then, he promised to support it. If they didn't, Bill and Dan promised to forget it and work to finish the earlier design.
Wayne extracted one additional promise from Bill: under no circumstances was he to show the mock-up to Steve Jobs. Wayne knew that Steve would have a strong reaction and would probably wreak havoc with the schedule accordingly. He didn't want Steve to see it until they knew if they could pull it off.
Bill was used to showing off his latest advances to the Mac team, and this new, icon-based approach to file management was a particularly important one. Bruce Horn had started working on the Mac team the previous month, and he was already starting to develop our file manager, which Bud had christened "The Finder". Bruce had similar ideas about spacial filing, and he and I had created a prototype called the "micro-finder" which represented files as tabs that were spacially organized on a picture of a diskette. Bill thought it was important for us to see the new direction as soon as possible, so he left us a copy of his prototype, under strict instructions not to show it to Steve.
We had a few close calls over the next couple of weeks as we played with the prototype, frantically quitting it when we heard Steve approaching. Finally, on the last day before the deadline expired, we must have cut it too close, because Steve knew that we were hiding something from him. We explained our promise to Bill, but Steve still demanded to see it, so we had to show it to him. He immediately fell in love with it, and ran off to talk to Bill and Wayne about it, just as we feared.
Luckily, the development had gone well the last two weeks, and Wayne was ready to commit to the new approach and unveil it to the entire team. He called an all-hands meeting, to which Bill, Dan, Frank and Wayne wore newly minted T-Shirts labeled "Rosing's Rascals". Wayne explained the surreptitious nature of the two week effort to the team while Bill set up the demo. Rosing's rascals had pulled it off, endowing the Lisa with a much more intuitive file manager that quickly became a hallmark of Apple's new user interface.
The Mac group gets business cards
Date: March 1982
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Topics: Personality,Apple Spirit
By the spring of 1982, the Macintosh project was considered more legitimate within Apple. It was beginning to transition from a research effort into a mainstream project. We had to get more organized as the team grew.
Initially, we didn't have formal titles in the Mac group, but we needed to figure out what they were in order to get business cards made. My title with the Apple II group was "Senior Member of Technical Staff", which sounded dull to me. I told Peggy Alexio, Rod Holt's secretary, who was ordering the business cards, that I didn't want any, because I didn't like my title.
The next day Steve came by and told me that he heard that I didn't want business cards, but he wanted me to have them, and he didn't care what title I used; I could pick any title that I liked. After a little bit of thought, I decided on "Software Wizard", because you couldn't tell where that fit in the corporate hierarchy, and it seemed a suitable metaphor to reflect the practical magic of software innovation.
When I told Burrell about my new title, he immediately claimed "Hardware Wizard" for himself, even though I discouraged him, since it diminished the uniqueness of my title. And, as soon as word got around, lots of other folks on the Mac team started to change their titles to something more creative. The trend persisted at Apple for many years, and even spread to other companies, but as far as I know, that's how it got started.