The Early Macintosh, 1979-1981


The Macintosh has a complex lineage. While press coverage at the time of the Macintosh's introduction described Steve Jobs as the project's guiding figure, the Macintosh was the brainchild of Jef Raskin. The former head of publications and quality assurance at Apple, Raskin had proposed the project to Mike Markkula in 1979. Until 1981, when Steve Jobs took over hardware and software development, Raskin led a small group of developers-- Burrell Smith, Brian Howard, and Bud Tribble-- in an effort to create a low-cost, easy-to-use computer.

The design of the computer was guided in part by Raskin's interests and experience as a professor at UCSD, researcher at Xerox PARC, and technical documentations manager; it was also designed to avoid problems in the Apple II created by that machine's open architecture. As they worked, the specifications and other essays documenting the group's work were gathered by Raskin into a volume he later dubbed The Book of Macintosh.

Reading it twenty years later, the most surprising thing about it is the amount of attention it gives to networking, and the degree to which the first Macintosh was intended to be a kind of network computer. In "The Apple Computer Network," Raskin argues that "telecommunications will become a key part of every computer market segment," and that "the creation of Apple communications, in some form, is part of the definition of the Macintosh computer project." As he put it elsewhere, "Macintosh is a communications device." The implications of this vision were great. "We don't think of the telephone company primarily as a manufacturer of the little $40 things with dials or pushbuttons that we have in our homes and on our desks. The implications of this proposal, at one extreme, is that Apple will be seen, in the future, not so much as a builder of hardware, but as the purveyor of a service that interpenetrates the telephone network, and provides information."

Suggested Paths Through the Documents

A complete list of the documents related to the early Macintosh is on a separate page. Readers should begin with the Interview with Jef Raskin. It covers Raskin's work before coming to Apple, his experience with technical writing and development, the influence of Xerox PARC on the Lisa and Apple projects, and various aspects of the Macintosh project.

The other major source is The Book of Macintosh, a collection of essays that details the underlying thinking behind the Macintosh. Selected essays from the book are reproduced here; more will be put online in later releases of the site.

The Genesis and History of the Macintosh Project was "written in reaction to Steve Jobs having taken over managing hardware development on the Macintosh project." Originally written on 16 February 1981, this version includes annotations by Raskin dated 5 November 1993.

Raskin's 1979 essay Computers by the Millions outlines the logistical problems involved in mass-producing personal computers. Eventually published, the piece was first considered too sensitive to show to outsiders. A cover memo written when the piece was circulated within Apple Computer in 1980 gives a sense of Raskin's intellectual circle within the company. A later e-mail provides annotations and additional information about the essay.

Document created on 14 July 2000;