[Paleopsych] NYT: How the Mac was born, and other tales
checker at panix.com
Thu Jan 13 17:59:15 UTC 2005
How the Mac was born, and other tales
NYT January 11, 2005
Scott Ard, Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Steve Jobs will be the star attraction when the Macworld
Conference and Expo opens to the public Tuesday, but many
Mac fans might be just as interested in hearing from one of
the original Mac's creators.
Andy Hertzfeld will be signing copies of his book,
"Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How
the Mac was Made" on the conference floor. Actually, the
book's title is a bit misleading -- rather than a story,
it's a collection of dozens of short stories that provide a
unique behind-the-scenes look at the birth of the Mac.
Hertzfeld was a graduate student at the University of
California at Berkeley in 1978 when he spent $1,300 for an
Apple II. While digging under its hood, Hertzfeld became so
obsessed and appreciative of the work that went into
creating one of the first personal computers that he
dropped out of school and joined Apple Computer in the
summer of 1979. Another 18 months or so later and he was
among the handful of people creating the Mac.
>From 1981 until 1984, Hertzfeld worked alongside Mac
legends like Bill Atkinson (considered the Mac's software
genius) and Burrell Smith (the hardware guru). And, of
course, Steve Wozniak and Jobs, who continually reminded
the Mac team that they were going to change the world with
a powerful but affordable computer sporting a graphical
user interface ordinary people could use.
Soon after the Mac's release, much of the original team
dispersed, and Hertzfeld was no exception, taking his leave
two months after the airing of the famous Super Bowl "1984"
ad. He went on to co-found three companies -- Radius,
General Magic and Eazel -- but it was his tales of working
on the Mac that continued to enthrall friends and
colleagues. He first published many of the stories
privately on the Web and asked his former colleagues to vet
the stories for accuracy or to submit their own tales. He
later opened the site to the public and has now published
the stories, and many early photographs, in book form.
Hertzfeld recently spoke with CNET News.com about his work
on the Mac, his reasons for documenting it and the reaction
from his former co-workers. Displaying the same enthusiasm
that drove him to log long days at Apple more than 20 years
ago, Hertzfeld was not only quick to recount his
experiences but also to also give his thoughts on a range
of current topics, including the rise of open source,
Microsoft's "crushing" of innovation, the music industry's
vain fight against file-sharing and Apple's decision to
keep the iPod closed.
He also mentioned that he may start publishing more stories
about Apple before and after the Mac. Have you heard the
one about Jobs, Wozniak, handicapped parking spaces and the
Q: How did you get involved with Apple?
A: I bought an
Apple II and it fascinated me. It sucked up my life --
first my free time and then my not free time. I became
obsessed with the Apple II to the point where I had to go
work at Apple.
How did you get on the Mac project?
I became friends with Burrell Smith, the hardware designer
of the Mac. I started helping him out in various ways and
then on -- I can say the exact date, even though it
happened 24 years ago -- Feb. 25, 1981, (there was a)
management shake-up in the Apple II part of Apple, where I
was working, where they fired all the bosses on the same
day. I was pretty upset that they fired my partner on my
project and I told someone I was thinking of leaving. They
thought I was a good guy and didn't want me to leave so
they said, "Well, what can we do to get you to stay?" And I
said, "Well, how about working on the Mac?" And the next
day I was working on the Mac.
Was there a lot of buzz already within Apple about the
development of the Mac?
It was mixed. For the whole first year I was working on it
there was buzz, but it was not necessarily positive. The
Macintosh was the price of an Apple II but had the features
of a Lisa, so it managed to get at odds with all the big
teams at Apple. And it was considered a Skunk Works
It wasn't the future of the company; the future of the
company was the Lisa and the Apple III, and we were more
like a little scruffy research project. It was certainly
that way, almost insignificant, when Jef (Raskin) was
running it. When Steve (Jobs) took over, that got a lot of
attention. But even in those days Steve was thought of as a
loose cannon more than, you know, the admiral or anything.
Steve was never the CEO of Apple until the late '90s. He
was a VP and he became the chairman of the board in 1981,
but he didn't really have that much organizational
They thought we were way overambitious, and we were also a
much smaller team than the big teams. To do a major project
really takes at least 50 people. We were like five people.
But then as we made progress, gradually Apple became aware
that this is going to be a bigger thing. By the time the
Mac shipped, the entire company was pretty excited about
Was there a lot of politics at that time?
A lot of politics. In the book, I have a number of stories
that address some of the tensions, especially with the Lisa
team. I have a story in there called "And Another Thing."
That's the name of the story where Larry Tesler, who was
the manager of the Lisa applications team, asked Burrell
and myself to give a demo to the Lisa team. One of the main
Lisa guys, Rich Page, kind of wasn't invited to the demo,
but he stormed in and started screaming at us during the
demo about how the Macintosh was going to destroy the Lisa
and destroy Apple.
He was like raving -- really, really emotional, almost
crying -- and then he kind of said his piece. Everyone was
shocked and stunned, and he stepped out of the room and he
slammed the door. I can still remember how the door
reverberated in the stunned silence after that. Larry
Tesler was very embarrassed that (Rich) did that, so he's
trying to figure out what to say. But as he's trying to
figure out what to say, Rich stormed into the room again
and started ranting a second time.
Isn't there some truth, though, to what he said -- that the
Mac was a threat to the Lisa? It was going to have similar
features and cost a lot less but was not slated to reach
the market for a couple more years, thus dampening Lisa
Yeah, definitely. Certainly there's a complex nest of
issues there with the relationship between the Lisa and the
Mac. But hindsight tells us that the Mac was on the right
path. If we hadn't developed the Mac, I don't think there'd
be an Apple.
Why write a book about Apple and the creation of the Mac?
There's been many books about Apple, and typically they're
extremely self-serving. They end up promoting the person
that wrote the book. (Former Apple CEO John) Scully's book
is a great example, but the quintessential example is Gil
Amelio's book, in terms of being self-serving. It was
almost like an apology.
Are there any other books on the birth of the Mac?
Nobody else who was on the team I think has written a book.
Did you take a lot of notes during the creation of the Mac,
recording the development?
Yeah, I had my notebooks. When we started doing publicity
for the Mac in the fall of 1983, I wrote a little history
of what had happened, just like three pages worth of notes
at that time, and I hung on to those.
I first had the idea to do the Folklore project in 1996,
right after General Magic. At that time, I did a prototype
Web site and I wrote down the titles of a hundred stories,
so it was a little fresher in my mind because that was
eight years ago. But I never pursued it until 2003.
What's been the reaction from people like Bill Atkinson and
Burrell Smith? Have you had a chance to talk with Burrell
since it came out?
I gave him a copy of the book, but I haven't been able to
talk to him. Burrell's really shy these days and is hard to
get ahold of. I left it on his doorstep, so I'm not sure
what Burrell thinks about it. I am a little worried because
Burrell is so private that, even though I'm very
complimentary to him and I don't think he'd disagree with
anything, he just doesn't want to have his face paraded in
front of the world.
Bill cooperated with me enormously during the book. I'm
good friends with Bill; I see him regularly...I couldn't
convince him to write a story because he just doesn't like
writing. He loves photographing -- he's more visually
oriented than verbally. But I talked with him for dozens of
hours about lots of the details and went over stuff with
How about Jef Raskin?
Jef Raskin is the single individual who disagrees with the
way I'm telling the story, and he was unhappy with the book
when he first found out about it, and I suspect he's still
Jef does claim he invented certain key concepts when no one
else thinks he did. Jef actually was not around for almost
the entire time the Mac was developed. He left the day
before I started (in 1981). Jef's a tremendous individual
and he deserves enormous credit for having the original
vision for the Macintosh, starting the project and putting
together a dynamite, small team. But then he got at odds
with the team and left.
Jef had a lot of ideas about how the Macintosh should be,
but they're not in the Macintosh. If you're interested:
Jef, because he left early, by 1985 he had already designed
and licensed a computer that does embody all his ideas --
it's called the Canon Cat.
Then who would you consider the father of the Macintosh?
Steve Jobs is who I would call the father of the Mac. In
second place I'd put Burrell Smith and in third place I'd
put Bill Atkinson.
What's your response when people say the Mac engineers
stole everything from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center?
I just say, well, someone doesn't know what they're talking
about. Maybe in the very broadest sense we were inspired by
Xerox. But literally no code was taken, I mean not a single
line of code.
Didn't a lot of people join Apple from Xerox?
person on the Mac team, more on the Lisa team -- four or
five. Many of the ones who came from PARC came after the
Mac shipped. Alan Kay, who was the visionary and driving
force behind Xerox PARC, came to work at Apple just about
the time I was leaving, in March 1984. Once he came there,
about 10 PARC people came.
What was the attraction, that Apple could get the
technology into the market?
Yeah, sure. The people developing the stuff at Xerox PARC
were different types of people. Some were professorial and
academic, and they didn't really care if their stuff was
used by people. They just wanted to explore new ideas. They
were happy there. But the people who wanted to make an
impact on the world and improve the lives of their friends
and stuff like that, they were very frustrated -- nothing
ever came out. So they saw Apple come out with something
that embodied all of their ideals, but their kid brother
could afford it. They were very attracted to that. They
came to Apple to make a difference.
How strong was the feeling at the time that you were
changing the world?
We had Steve Jobs drumming that into us constantly. You can
say it, but a lot of times such a thing could be hype. In
fact, most of the time, to say, "You're going to change the
world; you're going to make a momentous difference," well,
you know... The Mac engineers were smart and a bit cynical
of being manipulated by Steve. Once you get manipulated
seven times, the eighth time you're a little wary. But we
believed it to a large degree.
There were moments when I thought we wouldn't pull it off.
But I used to work late at night and I remember, like in
1982, walking out late at night, say 11 p.m., looking up at
the sky and thinking, "Boy, I'm right in the middle of
doing something that's going to really matter." We loved
the romance of personal computers. Many of us were Apple II
fanatics, and we saw what was missing in the Apple II was
the usability for ordinary people. So we thought we could
combine the affordability of the Apple II with something
really, really usable for ordinary people, and then (to)
make it joyous and fun to boot, we'd really have something
that was special.
Was it hard to shoehorn all the software ambitions into the
You bet. Rod Holt, who was the original engineering
manager, has a sort of pungent phrase: fitting 10 pounds of
s -- t in a 9-pound bag. We were always on the verge of
running out of memory. We didn't have enough memory to do
what we wanted to and so we had to be ingenious, but even
so we were right on the edge.
What's an example of something you had to sacrifice?
Various features in the Toolbox had to be pared back. We
had to move some code from ROM to disk. The disks weren't
that capacious, so it ate up another 10 percent of
everyone's disk if you wanted a bootable disk. In fact, the
Macintosh that was used to demo at the Mac intro was a 512k
Mac. We knew we had to just hang on there and get the
platform established and we had the 512k (coming out
later), which had plenty of memory.
What made the Mac successful over the Lisa?
What I like
to think is (that) the Macintosh was tapped back into the
original spirit and vision of Apple, where both the Lisa
and the Apple III were more like Apple trying to be a
Apple had a fantastic, amazing set of people, but they
weren't necessarily the type of people who would work at
large corporations. It was a lot of rebel spirit, and Apple
maturing was hiring all those more mature, seasoned
managers (and) developing big projects -- the Lisa had
hundreds of people working on it. By the time the Lisa
shipped, there were over 300 people in the Lisa division.
The Mac was more like a back-to-the-roots thing. Really the
reason the Mac succeeded was the people were passionate and
brilliant and motivated and devoted their lives to it.
Whereas, the Lisa maybe had a little bit of that, but it
was much more corporate, and a job, as opposed to a
When you look at the last 20 years of PC development, are
you surprised at how much has changed, or how little?
Both. On the hardware side, how much. Moore's Law predicted
it, but then to actually see it play out in such a stunning
fashion. I mean now the computer I'm using every day has
literally 8,000 times the memory that the original Mac had.
The hardware is so capable compared to that, it's almost
like a dream. Whereas the software is where it's
disappointing. The basic software since the Macintosh has
evolved at a snail's pace and in some ways it's even gone
backwards in usability.
The metaphor of the interface has hardly changed at all.
That's right. That's not because of a lack of
possibilities. It has to do with the business dynamics of
the industry -- essentially Microsoft getting the monopoly
and being anti-innovation and establishing an environment
where innovation was crushed rather than rewarded. That's
the PC industry the last 10 years.
Was it a mistake to not license the Mac OS?
but on the other hand it's just one of those things that
you'll never know. It's so much in the genetics of Apple to
control, to not be an open thing. And if the Mac was open
like that, it would have just been so different that you
can't ever say what really would have happened.
But I err to the side of openness. People say the Mac was
closed... at some levels it was closed, like you couldn't
stick a new circuit board in it. But it was conceived to be
very open from the very beginning in the software sense. It
encouraged open APIs. It wasn't open source, but we
considered it to be an open system. But it wasn't open in
the sense that we could license it and build a software
business... at the time Apple just didn't see the value
equation. Even at any given point along, once they did
really see that it was the right thing to do, the
transition was treacherous. It would have been really,
really hard for Apple. I would say a bigger mistake...would
be charging the premium price for so long. That really
hampered the platform and contributed to the troubles they
eventually got in.
In 1984, $2,500 was a pretty steep price for the Mac.
Yeah. I have a story in (the book) called "Price Fight"
about how the engineers the whole time we were developing
the Mac thought it would cost $1,500, and we felt rather
How do you feel about the iPod being closed now?
way. I think Apple is making a blunder not licensing
FairPlay. Ultimately, when you boil it down, it comes to
respect for your customer. I think Apple is showing
disrespect to the customers by locking them in.
Do you think they'll change?
Hard to say. I've had
discussions with Steve Jobs about that exact topic. He
doesn't see it. What it will take is a really strong
No, it's not Microsoft. Microsoft's business model is
licensing the software, and that's what they've done in the
Media Player range to a variety of different companies.
It's maybe the combination of Microsoft and someone making
exquisite hardware with them -- but it just can't be
exquisite because of that divide, it's not the same thing.
Apple's great strength is doing the hardware and the
software at the same time.
Mac fans are often described as fanatic. What is the "cult
The cult of Mac, I think what it is...is essentially
passion. It starts with the designers and the people in the
company being passionate about what they're doing. It
starts with the designers making something that they want
for themselves more than anything else in the world, that's
the single secret. As soon as you're making something you
want more than anything else, you don't have to do research
about the customers. You just look inside yourself. You run
the risk of being wrong about it, but at least you make
something that has integrity.
Maybe even a better word is love. You fill the product with
love and then people will love it.
Do you still see that passion today?
Jobs -- he only has one gear.
What about in the industry in general?
look at open source. Those people mostly aren't doing it
for money. Eric Raymond has the phrase "scratching an
itch," which is a similar type thing. You show me a great
program and I'll show you a passionate individual somewhere
What do you think the challenges are for the PC industry?
The biggest, most important challenge is renormalizing
after the nightmare of Windows. You can see the handwriting
on the wall -- the Wintel thing hasn't run its course yet,
but it's run enough of its course that we're on the
downhill side and you can kind of see the end of it. So I'm
hoping a much fairer, freer, more robust software industry
emerges. The big challenge is where will the lock-ins and
the values be? You consistently see the value move up and
up the chain, from the hardware -- and Microsoft
commoditized the hardware -- and now the operating system
has been commoditized. That's happened, it's just a
question of how it plays out. How Microsoft reacts, that's
going to be fascinating to see.
Already you can feel the hold slipping, but they can really
influence it a lot. Will they embrace the new paradigm or
fight it? I have no idea. But that's going to be the story
of the next, say, two years. There's every indication that
they're going to try to use digital rights management and
security to establish lock-in at a different level. Will
people fall into the trap? I don't know. Getting the free
software to be the basis of the shared infrastructure,
that's the big change that will be happening. The challenge
for everyone is doing it in a way that is great for the
customers, developers and the companies.
Another challenge is furthering the network revolution. The
ubiquitous connectivity profoundly influences how we use
our computers. We're 10 years down the road -- we're just
in the middle of the transition. Essentially the hegemony
of the PC is over. Now the center of every user's world
will be in a network repository projected into many
different devices. How those ecologies interact and work
out, that's the story of the next five, 10 years.
Apple chose a unique position regarding open source -- they
took FreeBSD and layered their proprietary OS on top of it
to get some of the benefits of open source. Do you think
they should have chosen Linux? And what would that have
I think they still could choose Linux. The key decision was
NeXT choosing Unix back in 1986. They're already Unix based
-- that's good. Taking the commodity part where they're not
really adding value and open-sourcing it, that's a great
strategy -- Darwin and all that.
(But) it's not enough. Apple is a closed platform -- they
just opened the part they don't care about. I'd like to see
them contribute a lot more, and I think there could be
tremendous business gains. I've talked with Steve Jobs
about this too, and he doesn't really see it. I had a talk
with him about a year ago where I was telling him, "Hey,
there's this huge opportunity, things are shifting." And he
kind of said, "No, they're not. Windows is going to be
dominant for at least the next 10 years." I said something
like, "Is it going to be the rest of our lives?" He said,
"Depends on how long you live."
How would things be different for Apple if they switched to
Linux from FreeBSD?
Technically that doesn't make much of a difference at all.
Commercially...The more free software on the system, the
more alliances it would allow them to make with companies
like IBM, and some of the other open-source systems. IBM
survived the nightmare of this Microsoft hegemony, the last
thing they want to do is put Steve Jobs on Bill Gates'
throne. By having the system be fundamentally open at
various levels -- you know you have the right to fork, so
you don't have that control and you can have competitors
cooperate. We saw that in the Eazel days. We had a big
announcement with Sun and HP, both supporting the same open
thing -- arch enemies, but they're able to work together on
the same piece of software because neither of them has
Doesn't that create a world in which the oligarchy would
benefit? Sun and HP can say, "Let's use common open
platforms and none of you small guys can rise up because
we've got the money and the people."
No, because they're open to innovation. Let's say I have a
brilliant idea, that if I can make it happen users will
love it and it'll make a difference. In a closed
platform...I'm shut out just because I don't have the
source code; I can't modify it. Whereas when it's open, any
kid can come in there, do their thing. Making money is a
different story -- it's complicated and very dependent on
the details. But I believe you can have a much healthier
What do you see for the future of intellectual property on
That's one of the great questions, I think, for the next 10
to 20 years. Not just code but the entertainment bits,
music and video. I think eventually it will work itself out
like all technological changes in the past. Essentially the
record companies will be happy (that) people are file
sharing 10 years from now because it means people are
listening to their music. Of course, what a record company
is, is going to undergo a redefinition.
My values are simple, the greatest value for the greatest
number. Free music flowing -- it's like a boon for mankind;
it makes everyone's lives better. I don't think it
necessarily has to undermine people's businesses. It's
certainly better for the artists -- I think you maybe get
better music on a system where the artists rather than the
executives are getting the lion's share of compensation.
I'm a big BitTorrent user and chagrined that they shut down
SuprNova two days ago -- where the SuprNova guys decided to
punt because of various legal pressures. Clearly a mistake
on behalf of the music companies, because here you have
this site that could help them get a handle on it. By
putting it out of business all it will do is make the
stealth systems stealthier. There's obvious things you
could do to BitTorrent where you wouldn't need the central
site -- that's just going to happen sooner. Suing your
customers is not a winning strategy. The contradictions are
amazing. For the last 40-some years they've been paying
radio stations to broadcast their music for free. It's
really hard for me to see the big difference between that
and file sharing.
What's the next business or process to be disrupted by
technology the way the music and movie industries have
Politics, and we've seen the stirrings of that in the last
election cycle. Eventually the fact that everyone can be
connected to each other through this open system with all
the information at their fingertips should have a profound
effect on our political system, hopefully repairing it. I
look at the last election result and I think, "Something's
broken." The Net is going to impact every single business
you can think of -- it already has to some degree. It's
sort of at a midpoint, maybe. It's ready for its bar
mitzvah, not for its marriage.
Blogging is changing the way people communicate. Are you a
No. I think people overrate blogging. I think the overall
phenomenon to me is Web pages. Blogs are just Web pages, a
certain stylized form of Web page. Much of the blogging is
driven by egotism.
I'm down on podcasts. I think that's ridiculous. Suddenly
you're taking the information and making it completely
inaccessible. You can't read it, and besides a podcast is
nothing. It's streaming MP3s that's good, but no one can
take credit for inventing a new term because streaming MP3s
is simple and has been around for a while. Doing it through
RSS enclosures is basically bad -- to automatically
download big files before hearing them. The whole thing
about audio is that it has small enough bandwidth that you
can stream. You just can't stream from an iPod because it
doesn't have a network connection, yet. I'm excited about
getting an iPod with 802.11 so I can stream to my AirPort
Express without carrying my Mac around.
Back to the Mac. What's the coolest piece of memorabilia
you have from your days of working on it?
I'd say my wire-wrap prototype. I have the third wire-wrap
board. If you've ever seen a wire-wrap you know why I'd say
it's fascinating. It's got thousands of wires wrapped
around pins in the back. It was the third Mac prototype
ever made. I had two of them and one of them I donated to
the Computer Museum. Burrell has one; there's two others.
I have this great letter from Bill Gates that's on my
Folklore site but they wouldn't let me put it in the
book...about my Switcher program. The story in the book is
how I had a negotiation with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at
separate times for selling them the same program. I tried
to write it in such a way that really contrasted their
world views. Bill Gates -- to try to get me to sell him
Switcher at a low price -- used an extremely logical and
analytical approach. Steve Jobs used an extremely intuitive
approach -- no reasoning behind his number at all. But
just, "I'm right!"
What's next for you?
If the book does really well, I'd like to do a
sequel-prequel type thing of all the early Apple stories,
mainly starring Steve Wozniak. I have a great set of
stories that have never been written up in that time frame.
Give us an example of a Steve Wozniak story.
Here's a really quick one that follows off a story that is
in the book, about Steve Jobs parking in the handicapped
spaces -- he always parked in the handicapped spaces. One
day in October 1983 I got a phone call at my desk at Apple
from the Cupertino police saying something like, "You
reported that car parked in the handicapped space. Well, we
can't really tow it away because the handicapped space is
not properly marked." I said, "What?"
Well, it turned out that Woz called up the Cupertino police
reporting Steve Jobs' car illegally parked in a handicapped
space and told them the person reporting it was Andy
Hertzfeld and gave them my phone number. So that was a
prank on both me and Steve Jobs; it just didn't quite come
off, thank God. I could have just imagined Steve having to
go check out his car and finding out that Andy Hertzfeld
had reported it.
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