Jef Raskin on the "Book of Macintosh"

Source: Interview with Jef Raskin, 13 April 2000.

The "Book of Macintosh"

Pang: This raises a question about the origins of the "Book of Macintosh." Why did you put that together the way you did?

Raskin: Because, if you're working on a project and you'd like to manage it well, you have to have things documented. You've got keep a paper trail, you've got to say "What ideas did we start with, what have we discarded," or "Oh, here's this problem; didn't we solve this problem before?" Or if you ask, "Why did we discard this idea?" you can go back and look at the reasons. In this company there's almost no documentation, so when I was redoing this design last week, there's no record of why we did this, or why we made this decision. I had to find the person who did it, and find out that "Oh, in a discussion two years ago that I had with so-and-so, we simply decided it, and there's no reason for it, it's purely arbitrary." Oh. Okay, so why have we been doing this for two years? Because nobody ever thought about it. If we'd had documentation, we could see the whole record.

So on Macintosh, until Jobs took over, things proceeded rather rapidly, and in a very structured way. You know the joke-- I think it was Burrell Smith-- we went into constant time to completion mode.

The Title

Pang: What about the title "Book of Macintosh?"

Raskin: It was a play on the "Book of Mormon."

Pang: So it had a bit of religious overtone. Or maybe evangelical--

Raskin: No, an anti-religious overtone! [Pang laughs] It wasn't meant for publication, or for the name to get outside the group. One didn't know it was going to be referred to in dozens of places. It was also a joke on the acronym BOM, "bill of materials" and "builder of model."

"Beyond Word Processing"

Pang: There were several pieces in the "Book of Macintosh" by other people. One of them was by David Casseres, called "Beyond Word Processing." Can you tell me something about how you encountered this idea of David's, and your reactions to it, and why it got into the "Book of Macintosh"?

Raskin: I never intended the "Book of Macintosh" to be a book by me. Just by being project leader, and being someone who seems to write a lot, I ended up writing a lot of it.

I always liked David, and there were a number of reasons for including his piece. For one, it supported my view of word processing / text editing. I had build a word processor for Poly 88 computers that we used in Apple's publications deptartment (that I managed). I had used them at Bannister & Crun prior to joining Apple. We couldn't use Apple IIs because they didn't have upper and lower case yet. The word processor had many of the features that Casseres mentioned (and which I had mostly created independently), and including his paper helped validate my ideas. Also, David is a good writer and a clear thinker, I have always valued his input on projects.

My word processor was partially based on work done at UCSD by me and Douglas Wyatt (of PARC, but on leave at the time to UCSD) and influenced and was influenced by the Pascal word processor. But the people at Apple were very stuck on the crude editor interfaces of the time, and Casseres's paper was helpful in their seeing a wider range of possibilities.

Pang: The piece also discussed the Online System that Engelbart's group developed at SRI, and was an argument for a much more structured kind of word processing system than was available to a general public at the time.

Raskin: Engelbart's system had many, many brilliant features that haven't been exploited to this day. But it also had a terrible user interface, because it's not something he was aware of at that time. Nobody was; I'm not criticizing him. But it was very, very modal, and it was much more difficult to use than necessary, in ways that at that time weren't even really known or understood.


Document created on 6 June 2000;