The Original Macintosh:    5 of 12 
Signing Party
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Date: February 1982
Characters: Steve Jobs, Bob Belleville, Jerry Manock, Mac Team, Bud Tribble, Jef Raskin, Mike Boich, Rod Holt, Steve Wozniak, Mike Murray
Topics: Management, Apple Spirit, Industrial Design
Summary: The artists sign their work
the back side of the Macintosh case

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.

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It's interesting to see how Steve's attitudes towards crediting designers and authors has changed over the years. When the Mac first came out, the original designers were stars, prominently featured. "About..." boxes always credited the program author(s). These days, there's no human face associated with the Mac and its software (except, of course, Steve, and perhaps Jonathan Ive). Who worked on iTunes? Beats me. The OS X Finder? The Dock (OK, maybe nobody would want to take credit for the Dock). I guess Steve thinks artists don't want to sign their work any more.
Which other Macs are signed? I noticed the original portable is.
I've also noticed the names of engineers, designers, and other team members no longer grace "About Boxes." This is a shame. I enjoyed being in these boxes, and I enjoyed seeing the names of other folks who delivered various products listed there. Without this little bit of recognition it seems like executives, managers, and marketing types get a disproportionate amount of credit for cool products.
Well this is because Steve fears someone can hire the people away..
I know that the backside of the Macintosh SE FDHD that I once had a good number of the names on the back. Unfortuantely, that was before I had a digital camera otherwise I would have photographed it.
I just recently took a cover off a MAC PLUS system and came across the signatures as stated in this section. I think of it now as a real collecters item to have one of these classics in my posession. Quite an interesting idea to put all the signatures inside the case like that. kind of like a time capsule. }:>)
I used to fix Macs at Computer Plaza in Santa Barbara; I worked in their service department when I was in high school. Whenever we had to crack one open to replace something inside, we would often grab a Sharpie and add our signature to the inside of the case. :-)
Re: Who worked on iTunes? Beats me. AFAIK, Apple hired the SoundJam team to code iTunes. And according to this story... ... the folks behind Audion _almost_ got the chance to code iTunes before.
I just opened my old Mac Plus and found a good number of those signatures still intact. However Burrell's signature is cut off, leaving only the top loops showing (barely). It's so strange to see the names in there, but it's unbelievably cool. I showed it to my daughter (it still boots!) and she was very impressed, but became quickly bored and got back on the Dual G5 on my desk. I need to fix the 'N' key though. It's no longer working. I took the Keyboard apart, but there does not seem to be any way to get to the key switch and clean it or repair it that I can see. I'll need to take some time some night and see what I can do.
This is such a wonderful site! I’ve used Macs since 1985 and can remember the first time I opened one and saw the signatures. Working in a college of all PCs, these signatures made me feel like I had something really special. I still get kind of misty-eyed when I see the names. With every successive computer, I look to see if they have returned. My thanks to all who were a part of making the Mac!
I had a Mac Classic in 1992 and it definitely had the signatures inside it --it was probably about a year old then. It was near 'its birthplace' as I was living in SF at the time. My friend also showed me, that by placing a paperclip in one of the side vents, a version of Monty Python Flying Circus automatically appeared on the screen starring the creators of that Mac. Anyone else seen that?
I just made that signature jpg my desktop background. Figured it would be easier to enjoy it there for a while (and confuse my wife) than to pry open my old Mac Plus. Thanks for a great site!
Great story! Great gesture by Mr. Jobs! Greater gift by Mr. Jobs to give each of the first 100 on the Mac Team their own Mac with their individual name molded into the case! Definitely an incredible thing, but what’s more incredible than that computer case is that the Mac Team lead by Jobs cast the molding for everything that Apple is today!