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Special: The Mac at 25: Stories

by on January 25, 2009

The Mac at 25

Today’s installment of our series “The Mac at 25” involves a Web site that we enjoy visiting from time to time. The site, includes numerous old stories about Apple shared by the people involved. Many are rather minor in the grand scheme of things, but are a great way to spend some time. Here’s a few excerpts of our favorites related to the original Mac:

The Mac Team’s First Office

In 1979 and 1980, Jef Raskin’s Macintosh project was a four person research effort with a tenuous existence. It wasn’t considered to be very important within Apple, and was almost cancelled a couple of times. When Apple had another major reorganization in the fall of 1980, it was terminated again, but Jef pleaded with Mike Scott and Mike Markkula for more time, and was granted three more months to show that he was really onto something. As part of the re-org, the four person Macintosh team (Jef Raskin, Brian Howard, Burrell Smith, Bud Tribble, soon to be joined by Joanna Hoffman) relocated to a small office building a few blocks from the main Apple campus.

The new office, located at 20863 Stevens Creek Boulevard, was called the “Good Earth” building, because it was adjacent to a Good Earth restaurant. In fact, the office used to be Apple’s very first office in Cupertino, after they moved out of Steve Jobs’ parents’ house, and was later used as the first office of the Lisa project, when the Lisa team had fewer than ten employees. The Mac team moved in, outfitting it with lots of bean bag chairs and all kinds of interesting toys — Continue Reading…

The Mac’s Case Design

…Steve and Jerry decided that the Macintosh should defy convention and have a vertical orientation, with the display above the disk drive instead of next to it, in order to minimize desktop footprint, which also dictated a detachable keyboard. That was enough of a direction for Terry to draft a preliminary design and fabricate a painted, plaster model.

We all gathered around for the unveiling of the first model. Steve asked each one of us, in turn, to say what we thought about it. I though it was cute and attractive, looking a lot like an Apple II, but with a distinctive personality all its own. But, after everyone else had their say, Steve cut loose with a torrent of merciless criticism.

“It’s way too boxy, it’s got to be more curvaceous. The radius of the first chamfer needs to be bigger, and I don’t like the size of the bezel. But it’s a start.”

I didn’t even know what a chamfer was, but Steve was evidently fluent in the language of industrial design, and extremely demanding about it. Over the next few months, Jerry and Terry iterated on the design. Every month or so, there was a new plaster model. Before a new one was unveiled to the team, Jerry lined up all of the previous ones, so we could compare the new one with past efforts. One notable improvement was the addition of a handle at the top of the case, to make it easier to carry. By the fourth model, I could barely distinguish it from the third one, but Steve was always critical and decisive, saying he loved or hated a detail that I could barely perceive.

At one point, when we were almost finished, Steve called up Jerry over the weekend and told him that we had to change everything. He had seen an elegant new Cuisinart at Macys’ on Saturday, and he decided that the Mac should look more like that. So Terry did a whole new design, based around the Cuisinart concept, but it didn’t pan out, and soon we were back on the old track, after a one-week diversion. — Continue Reading

What’s In a Name?

Jef Raskin chose the name “Macintosh”, after his favorite kind of apple, so when Jef was forced to go on an extended leave of absence in February 1981, Steve Jobs and Rod Holt decided to change the name of the project, partially to distance it from Jef. They considered “Macintosh” to be a code name anyway, and didn’t want us to get too attached to it.

Apple had recently taken out a two page ad in Scientific American, featuring quotes from Steve Jobs about the wonders of personal computers. The ad explained how humans were not as fast runners as many other species, but a human on a bicycle beat them all. Personal computers were “bicycles for the mind.”

A month or so after Jef’s departure, Rod Holt announced to the small design team that the new code name for the project was “Bicycle”, and that we should change all references to “Macintosh” to “Bicycle”. When we objected, thinking “Bicycle” was a silly name, Rod thought that it shouldn’t matter, “since it was only a code name”.

Rod’s edict was never obeyed. Somehow, Macintosh just seemed right. It was already ingrained with the team, and the “Bicycle” name seemed forced and inappropriate, so no one but Rod ever called it “Bicycle”. For a few weeks, Rod would reprimand anyone who called it “Macintosh” in his presence, but the new name never acquired any momentum. Finally, around a month after his original order, after someone called it “Macintosh” again, he threw up his hands in exasperation and told us, “I give up! You can call it Macintosh if you want. It’s only a code name, anyway.”

But it was a code name that proved to be sturdy and resilient. In the Fall of 1982, Apple paid tens of thousands of dollars to a marketing consulting firm to come up with a themed set of names for Lisa and Macintosh. They came up with lots of ideas, including calling the Mac the “Apple 40” or the “Apple Allegro”. After hearing all the suggestions, Steve and the marketing team decided to go with Lisa and Macintosh as the official names. They did manage to reverse engineer an acronym for Lisa, “Local Integrated Systems Architecture”, but internally we preferred the recursive “Lisa: Invented Stupid Acronym”, or something like that. Macintosh seemed to be acroynm proof.

But there was still a final hurdle to clear – the name was too close to a trademark from the McIntosh stereo company. I’m not sure how the situation was resolved (I suspect that Apple paid them a modest amount), but toward the end of the retreat in January 1983, Steve announced to the team that we had gotten rights to use the name. He dashed a champagne bottle against one of the prototypes, and declared, “I christen thee Macintosh!”

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