The Mac had a birthday last Friday, and what's a birthday without a celebration? Apple employees at One Infinite Loop celebrated with a private concert by OneRepublic. But what about everyday Mac users? Many of them gathered at Cupertino's Flint Center last Saturday night to attend the Mac 30th Celebration, organized by All Planet Studios, the Computer History Museum, and Macworld/iWorld. [Editor's disclaimer: Macworld/iWorld is an event run by IDG World Expo, a sister company to IDG Consumer & SMB, Macworld's parent company.]
In a panel moderated by New York Times senior writer John Markoff, Daniel Kottke, Rod Holt, Marc LeBrun, Jerry Manock, and Larry Tesler talked about the very early days of the Mac development.
Holt, who designed the Apple II power supply and was a Mac engineer, talked about what made the Mac different from other computers. "The thing that drove the group was not just Steve Jobs with a whip outside the office, it was the fact that the Macintosh was becoming a computer that we wanted." Holt went on to talk about how the Apple II was also a computer that its makers wanted. "This process of invention is very unusual," he said. "I think the world could use a lot more of it."
Holt also made a point to recognize Burrell Smith, an engineer on the Mac team who designed the motherboard. "He was the closest we ever came to having another Steve Wozniak," Holt said. "He was indomitable. Steve [Jobs] would say, Let's not do it this way, let's do it that way,' and Burrell would scratch his head and say okay, and two days later it would be that way."
The second panel moderated by Wired's Steven Levy. It was filled with tales of the Mac from some of the people who made it: Bill Atkinson, Steve Capps, George Crow, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn, Caroline Rose, and Randy Wigginton.
Many of the stories told by the members of the second panel are familiar to die-hard Mac fans. Capps told the story of the pirate flag, Crow told the story behind the Mac's floppy disk drive, Hertzfeld talked about how Jobs didn't want cursor keys on the keyboard in order to force people to use the mouse.
When Levy asked the group how they knew if anything would actually work, Atkinson talked about how software designers have a "blind spot," where they don't see things that others do. "You may have a cool idea, but if you try it on people and they get confused and they feel stupid, find a different way," said Atkinson. "The Lisa and Mac user interfaces got debugged into existence, thousands and thousands of individual mistakes at a time."
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