Apple Macintosh (Jef Raskin)

I conceived of the Macintosh (and coined the name) in response to my belief that to reach a larger marketplace, future computers had to be designed from the user interface out. Up to that time, at Apple and most other manufacturers, the concept was to provide the latest and most powerful hardware, and let the users and third-party software vendors figure out how to make it usable.
Jef Raskin

Steve Jobs demonstrating Mac 128 (© AP, Paul Sakuma)
Steve Jobs demonstrating Mac 128 (© AP, Paul Sakuma)

The Macintosh, or Mac, is a series of several lines of personal computers, manufactured by Apple Inc. The first Macintosh was introduced on 24 January 1984, by Steve Jobs (see the nearby photo) and it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature two rather old known then, but still unpopular features—the mouse and the graphical user interface of Xerox Alto, rather than the command-line interface of its predecessors.

Production of the Mac is based on a vertical integration model in that Apple facilitates all aspects of its hardware and creates its own operating system (called System Software, later renamed to Mac OS, OS X, and macOS) that is pre-installed on all Mac computers. This was in contrast to most IBM PC compatibles, where multiple sellers create hardware intended to run another company’s operating software. Apple exclusively produces Mac hardware, choosing internal systems, designs, and prices. Apple also develops the operating system for the Mac, currently macOS 13 “Ventura”. The modern Mac, like other personal computers, is capable of running alternative operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, and Microsoft Windows. However, Apple does not license Mac OS for use on non-Apple computers.

The Macintosh project started in the late 1970s with Jef Raskin (1943–2005), an Apple employee and human–computer interface expert, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. Raskin wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh, but the name had to be changed for legal reasons. In September 1979, he was authorized by the management to start hiring for the project, and he began to look for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple’s Lisa team (which was developing a similar but higher-end computer), introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Over the years, Raskin assembled a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software; besides Raskin, Atkinson, and Smith, the team included Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, George Crow, Bruce Horn, Jerry Manock, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, and Daniel Kottke.

Apple Macintosh GUI
Apple Macintosh GUI

The first Macintosh board, designed by Burrell Smith, had 64 kilobytes (KB) of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and was capable of supporting a 256×256 pixel black-and-white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a Macintosh programmer, was interested in running Lisa’s graphical programs on the Macintosh and asked Smith whether he could incorporate the Lisa’s Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Mac while still keeping the production cost down. By December 1980, Smith had succeeded in designing a board that not only used the 68000 but bumped its speed from 5 to 8 megahertz (MHz); this board also had the capacity to support a 384×256 pixel display.

Smith’s design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa, which made the production of the board significantly more cost-efficient. The final Mac design was self-contained and had the complete QuickDraw picture language and interpreter in 64 Kb of ROM and 128 KB of RAM. Though there were no memory slots, its RAM was expandable to 512 KB by means of soldering sixteen chip sockets to accept 256 Kb RAM chips in place of the factory-installed chips. The final product’s screen was a 9-inch, 512×342 pixel monochrome display, exceeding the prototypes.

The design caught the attention of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began to focus his attention on the project. Raskin finally left Apple Inc. in early 1982 over a personality conflict with Jobs, and the final Macintosh design is said to be closer to Jobs’ ideas than Raskin’s. After hearing of the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC, Jobs had negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The Lisa and Macintosh user interfaces were partially influenced by technology seen at Xerox PARC and were combined with the Macintosh group’s own ideas.

The Macintosh 128k was announced to the press in October 1983 and was introduced in January 1984. It came bundled with two applications designed to show off its interface: MacWrite and MacPaint. Although the Mac garnered an immediate, enthusiastic following, some labeled it a mere “toy.” Because the machine was entirely designed around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven applications had to be redesigned and the programming code rewritten; this was a time-consuming task that many software developers chose not to undertake, and resulted in an initial lack of software for the new system. In April 1984 Microsoft’s MultiPlan migrated over from MS-DOS, followed by Microsoft Word in January 1985. In 1985, Lotus Software introduced Lotus Jazz after the success of Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC, although it was largely a flop. Apple introduced Macintosh Office the same year with the Lemmings ad.

Apple Macintosh
Apple Macintosh

For a special post-election edition of Newsweek in November 1984, Apple spent more than $2.5 million to buy all 39 of the advertising pages in the issue. Apple also ran a “Test Drive a Macintosh” promotion, in which potential buyers with a credit card could take home a Macintosh for 24 hours and return it to a dealer afterward. While 200000 people participated, dealers disliked the promotion, the supply of computers was insufficient for demand, and many were returned in such a bad shape that they could no longer be sold. This marketing campaign caused CEO John Sculley to raise the price from $1995 to $2495.

In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple’s LaserWriter printer, and Mac-specific software like Boston Software’s MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker enabled users to design, preview, and print page layouts complete with text and graphics, it was an activity to become known as desktop publishing. Initially, desktop publishing was unique to the Macintosh but eventually became available for IBM PC users as well. Later, applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator strengthened Mac’s position as a graphics computer and helped to expand the emerging desktop publishing market.

The limitations of the first Mac soon became clear: it had very little memory, even compared with other personal computers in 1984, and could not be expanded easily; and it lacked a hard disk drive or the means to attach one easily. In October 1985, Apple increased the Mac’s memory to 512 KB, but it was inconvenient and difficult to expand the memory of a 128 KB Mac. In an attempt to improve connectivity, Apple released the Macintosh Plus on 10 January 1986 for $2600. It offered one megabyte of RAM, expandable to four, and a then-revolutionary SCSI parallel interface, allowing up to seven peripherals—such as hard drives and scanners—to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to an 800 KB capacity. The Mac Plus was an immediate success and remained in production, unchanged, until 15 October 1990; on sale for just over four years and ten months, it was the longest-lived Macintosh in Apple’s history.

At its introduction, the Macintosh was targeted at two primary markets: knowledge workers and students. Referring to the telephone as the first desktop appliance, Steve Jobs hoped that the Macintosh would become the second desktop appliance. As Bill Gates stated, To create a new standard takes something that’s not just a little bit different. It takes something that’s really new and captures people’s imaginations. Macintosh meets that standard.

Through the second half of the 1980s, the company built market share only to see it dissipate in the 1990s as the personal computer market shifted towards IBM PC-compatible machines running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows.

Biography of Jef Raskin

Jef Raskin (1943-2005)
Jef Raskin (1943-2005)

Jeff (aka Jef) Raskin was born on 9 March 1943 in Brentwood, on Long Island, New York, to a secular Jewish family, whose surname is a matronymic from “Raske”, a Yiddish nickname for Rachel. He was the son of William Benjamin Raskin (1905-1991) (a son of Jacob Raskin and Ida Sarah Finkelstein Raskin, Russian Jews, who emigrated to the USA in the early 1890s), and Frieda Botfeld Raskin (1907-1986), who married in 1931. Jeff had two brothers: Jack (b. 1935), and David (b. 1941), who died in infancy.

After graduating from Brentwood High School in 1960, in 1964 Raskin received B.S. in Mathematics and in 1965 B.A. in Philosophy at State University of New York. In 1967 he got M.S. in Computer Science from Pennsylvania State University. The first original computer application he wrote was a music application as part of his master’s thesis. In 1967 Raskin enrolled in a graduate music program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), but quit to teach art, photography, and computer science there. He worked as an assistant professor in the Visual Arts department from 1968 until 1974. Raskin announced his resignation from the assistant professorship by flying over the Chancellor’s house in a hot air balloon. In the early 1970s, Raskin was a visiting scholar at Stanford in their Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. While at Standford he visited the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and worked with the team developing the Xerox GUI. Later he was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to establish a Computer and Humanities center.

Raskin started working with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976 when they were still in the garage. He was hired to write the manual for the Apple II personal computer. Raskin joined the fledgling Apple as employee No. 31 in January 1978. At Apple, he first worked as manager of publications and later became head of the team developing the Macintosh computer. Besides overseeing the development, Raskin is considered responsible for the machine’s drag-and-drop feature, a user-friendly innovation later adopted by other computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows. But Raskin felt Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was muscling in on the Macintosh project and resigned from the company in 1982, two years before the Macintosh was released.

Jef Raskin holding a model of the Canon Cat computer. [Photo: Aza Raskin/Wikimedia Commons]
Jef Raskin holding a model of the Canon Cat computer. [Photo: Aza Raskin/Wikimedia Commons]
After leaving Apple, Raskin formed his own company, Information Appliance (a classical music publisher), and developed a computer called the Canon Cat, with backing from Canon Inc., but it sold only 20000 copies before Canon ended its support. The “work processor” Cat dispensed with conventions popularized by the Mac, such as menus, overlapping windows, and rows of icons. You turned on the machine and simply started typing to create a new document. Within that document, you could create tables with formulas. It even allowed you to include computer code in the middle of a document that could be executed with a button press.

Raskin’s latest project was “Archy,” a computer interface designed to operate similarly on Windows, Apple, or other operating systems. Archy was a software system whose user interface introduced a different approach to interacting with computers with respect to traditional graphical user interfaces. It embodies his ideas and established results about human-centered design described in his book The Humane Interface. These ideas include content persistence, modelessness, a nucleus with commands instead of applications, navigation using incremental text search, and a zooming user interface. Alluding to Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics, one of Jef’s mantras was that “any system shall not harm your content or, through inaction, allow your content to come to harm.”

Raskin was said to be an archer, target shooter, model airplane designer, bicycle racer, and occasional model race car driver. He was known as an accomplished musician and artist. He performed on the recorder, rebuilt and installed an entire Swiss pipe organ in his home, and taught electronic music and other subjects at UC San Diego before joining Apple. Raskin also created works of sculpture that reflected his sense of humor, such as a piece of glass decorated with suction-cup darts, which he called “Objet Dart.” Some of his work was shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He also holds a number of patents and trademarks.

Jef Raskin married Linda S. Blum (born 1955) in 1982. They had three children together—a son: Aza Benjamin (born 1984), and two daughters: Aviva Frieda (b. 1987), and Aenea Hanna (b. 1992), with honorary/surrogate siblings Rebecca Fureigh, and Jenna Mandis.

Jef Raskin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2004 and died in Pacifica, California, on 26 February 2005, at age 61.