Chris Espinosa on Rewriting the Apple II Manual

Source: Interview with Chris Espinosa, 13 June 2000.

Espinosa: I got involved with Apple, I started working with Steve and Steve in 1976, and when the company formed in 1977 I was one of the first employees. I worked there after school through high school. I wrote some of the early technical documentation for some products-- ApplePlot, the graphics tablet. I wrote some software, but not much.

I was working for Jef Raskin, who with Brian Howard wrote the original Integer BASIC manual, when I went off to Berkeley in 1978. When I left, Jef gave me a task. He wanted to keep me on staff, but knew that I wasn't going to be able to work the hours that I had been previously. So he gave me a long-term task: he gave me what Mike Scott had assembled as the mini-manual for the Apple II, which was basically the product of a series of nightly forays into people's desk drawers for anything typed-- or handwritten, in a few cases-- that smacked of technical material, that he periodically sent with Sherry Livingston down to the Quick Print place to print, collate and assemble, and put into binder covers with clear plastic and wraparound spine and three-hole punch.

That was what was dropped in with every Apple II. That was the mini-manual. That was Apple's documentation. None of it was written consciously for an audience, and Jef said, "We need a technical manual for the Apple II." Actually, there was the mini-manual, and there was the "red book," which was essentially the same material in a red binding. Jef gave me a copy of the red book and said, "I want you to write a real manual out of this."

Jef Raskin talks in his interview about documenting the Apple II.

So I went to Berkeley with this charge, and worked 20-30 hours a week in my freshman year in college, and I came back at the end of the term with a 220 pages of camera-ready output from the Berkeley UNIX system. I had taught myself TROC, I had taught myself typesetting, I had written a 200+ page manual, and that was Apple's first published technical manual for the Apple II. I still don't know how I did it, and I managed to pass my classes, too. [Pang laughs] That year.

Pang: There's a story that appears in Malone's Infinite Loop, among other places, about you sleeping in the computer labs, and then in the park, while you were working on the manual. Your family was in the area. Why didn't you just go home?

Espinosa: Home was 60 miles away. I had been living in the dorms, and the dorms shut down. Why I didn't just get a hotel I don't know [Pang laughs], because Apple was paying me well enough I could have gotten a hotel room. But I was in total crunch mode. Anybody who's ever published a book knows that dealing with the last couple sets of final proofs is hard. And, because I was working in TROC, basically what I was doing was writing a great big computer program. So it was the juncture of doing final proof on a book, and finishing a computer program. I was literally working in the computer lab for 20 of the 24 hours of the day that they were open; when they shut the machines down for backup and maintenance between 2 and 6 in the morning, that's when I slept.

It just didn't make sense to go home: I was way too exhausted to get on my motorcycle and go home-- that would have been suicidal, doing 60 miles down Highway 17. Sometime I sneaked into and slept on couches in the dorm because I knew he wouldn't really kick me out, though he encouraged me not to do that on several occasions. Sometimes I just slept on benches in Strawberry Canyon, because it was only for a few hours: I'd go out in 2 in the morning, and as soon as the sun was up, the machines would be back up, and I'd go back to work. It was only for a week, but it was one of the most strenuous week's work of my life. I didn't really repeat that until shipping Macintosh.


Document created on 6 July 2000;