Jef Raskin on the Mac Project

Source: Interview with Jef Raskin, 13 April 2000.


Pang: Can you say a little about the genesis of the Macintosh project? In particular, there are a couple of different accounts involving you an Mike Markkula, and different stories about which of you proposes this new project.

Raskin: Apple was not a very formal, hierarchical place. I spoke to Mike pretty regularly, I liked him. I don't recall if it was on one of the occasions where I wanted to speak to him, or he wanted to speak to me, but in his office he asked me to design something he called Annie. What I'm trying to remember, and can't, is why he finally realized I could design things. [Pang laughs]

It was supposed to be a $500 game machine. I told him I had no interest in working on a game machine, which is an indication of my general orientation to the industry: just because it will sell and make money doesn't mean I'm interested in working on it. I think there are higher goals. But I counter-proposed, and said, "Well, I've been thinking about something I call Macintosh." It would give all the power of the computer, but with greater ease of use. With a game machine, you'd be going up against various other companies, like Atari and whoever else was making games in those days. I thought it was a losing strategy for Apple to even to be in that market.

You can tell how open Apple was because I could go to the Chairman of the Board, and say "Your product strategy for the company is wrong, and I propose this instead," and he listened. So he proposed Annie, and I forget if I said it right then, or if I said "I'll get back to you in a couple days," but eventually I told him about my idea for Macintosh, and he liked it; he said, "Let's go."

It took some months, and I had to write a variety of planning documents, which eventually became the foundation of the Book of Macintosh, but eventually the project got approved. And that's how Macintosh got started.

Development Team

Pang: How did you choose the people who worked with you on the Mac?

I started out with people I knew from publications and QA departments I'd started. I hired Mark Lebrun from outside; that didn't work out too well, he left after a while, but we're still friends.

I hired Brian Howard, my musical friend. Brian and I had shared apartments, and played gigs-- weddings and birthday parties and every other kind of gig-- and we had been poor living in a rented apartment in Palo Alto, and cooking up rabbits from the Biology Department--

Pang: Really?

Raskin: Well, yes. In an experiment you have the experimental animals and the controls, and you sacrifice both; then you take out whatever organs you need, and put the rest in a freezer. After a while Brian recognized this, and he said, "Oh! Here's a source of meat!" So we got some control bunnies, they were already skinned, and we had rabbit stew now and then. There has to be some advantage to working for a university.

Pang: What was his background?

Raskin: He was a double-E [electrical engineering] at Stanford, knowledgeable about computers, and a general smart guy.

Pang: Electrical engineering isn't the sort of field that normally brings you into professional contact with rabbits....

Raskin: Well, Brian's an interesting guy, and he also worked in labs, and the machine shop. He's as handy around a lathe as he is around a computer keyboard-- or a musical instrument.

So there was him, and Burrell Smith, whom Bill Atkinson had pointed out to me as being talented far beyond what he was doing in Service. I spoke to him, and put him on the team to head up the hardware. Then Mark, and that was our initial nucleus.


Document created on 6 June 2000;