Saturday, December 17, 2011

Steve Jobs #7


by Walter Isaacson

The Mac Is Born

When jobs was looking for someone to write a manual for the Apple
II in 1976, he called Raskin, who had his own little consulting
firm. Raskin went to the garage, saw Wozniak beavering away at a
workbench, and was convinced by Jobs to write the manual for $50.
Eventually he became the manager of Apple's publications
department. One of Raskin's dreams was to build an inexpensive
computer for the masses, and in 1979 he convinced Mike Markkula
to put him in charge of a small development project code-named
"Annie" to do just that. Since Raskin thought it was sexist to
name computers after women, he redubbed the project in honor of
his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh. But he changed the
spelling in order not to conflict with the name of the audio
equipment maker McIntosh Laboratory. The proposed computer became
known as the Macintosh.

Raskin envisioned a machine that would sell for $1,000 and be a
simple appliance, with screen and keyboard and computer all in
one unit. To keep the cost down, he proposed a tiny five-inch
screen and a very cheap (and underpowered) microprocessor, the
Motorola 6809. Raskin fancied himself a philosopher, and he wrote
his thoughts in an ever-expanding notebook that he called "The
Book of Macintosh." He also issued occasional manifestos. One of
these was called "Computers by the Millions," and it began with
an aspiration: "If personal computers are to be truly personal,
it will have to be as likely as not that a family, picked at
random, will own one."

Throughout 1979 and early 1980 the Macintosh project led a
tenuous existence. Every few months it would almost get killed
off, but each time Raskin managed to cajole Markkula into
granting clemency. It had a research team of only four engineers
located in the original Apple office space next to the Good Earth
restaurant, a few blocks from the company's new main building.
The work space was filled with enough toys and radio-controlled
model airplanes (Raskin's passion) to make it look like a day
care center for geeks. Every now and then work would cease for a
loosely organized game of Nerf ball tag. Andy Hertzfeld recalled,
"This inspired everyone to surround their work area with
barricades made out of cardboard, to provide cover during the
game, making part of the office look like a cardboard maze."
The star of the team was a blond, cherubic, and psychologically
intense self-taught young engineer named Burrell Smith, who
worshipped the code work of Wozniak and tried to pull off similar
dazzling feats. Atkinson discovered Smith working in Apple's
service department and, amazed at his ability to improvise fixes,
recommended him to Raskin. Smith would later succumb to
schizophrenia, but in the early 1980s he was able to channel his
manic intensity into weeklong binges of engineering brilliance.
Jobs was enthralled by Raskin's vision, but not by his
willingness to make compromises to keep down the cost. At one
point in the fall of 1979 Jobs told him instead to focus on
building what he repeatedly called an "insanely great" product.
"Don't worry about price, just specify the computer's abilities,"
Jobs told him. Raskin responded with a sarcastic memo. It spelled
out everything you would want in the proposed computer: a
high-resolution color display, a printer that worked without a
ribbon and could produce graphics in color at a page per second,
unlimited access to the ARPA net, and the capability to recognize
speech and synthesize music, "even simulate Caruso singing with
the Mormon tabernacle choir, with variable reverberation." The
memo concluded, "Starting with the abilities desired is nonsense.
We must start both with a price goal, and a set of abilities, and
keep an eye on today's and the immediate future's technology." In
other words, Raskin had little patience for Jobs's belief that
you could distort reality if you had enough passion for your

Thus they were destined to clash, especially after Jobs was
ejected from the Lisa project in September 1980 and began casting
around for someplace else to make his mark. It was inevitable
that his gaze would fall on the Macintosh project. Raskin's
manifestos about an inexpensive machine for the masses, with a
simple graphic interface and clean design, stirred his soul. And
it was also inevitable that once Jobs set his sights on the
Macintosh project, Raskin's days were numbered. "Steve started
acting on what he thought we should do, Jef started brooding, and
it instantly was clear what the outcome would be," recalled
Joanna Hoffman, a member of the Mac team.

The first conflict was over Raskin's devotion to the underpowered
Motorola 6809 microprocessor. Once again it was a clash between
Raskin's desire to keep the Mac's price under $1,000 and Jobs's
determination to build an insanely great machine. So Jobs began
pushing for the Mac to switch to the more powerful Motorola
68000, which is what the Lisa was using. Just before Christmas
1980, he challenged Burrell Smith, without telling Raskin, to
make a redesigned prototype that used the more powerful chip. As
his hero Wozniak would have done, Smith threw himself into the
task around the clock, working nonstop for three weeks and
employing all sorts of breathtaking programming leaps. When he
succeeded, jobs was able to force the switch to the Motorola
68000, and Raskin had to brood and recalculate the cost of the

There was something larger at stake. The cheaper microprocessor
that Raskin wanted would not have been able to accommodate all of
the gee-whiz graphics-windows, menus, mouse, and so on - that the
team had seen on the Xerox PARC visits. Raskin had convinced
everyone to go to Xerox PARC, and he liked the idea of a
bitmapped display and windows, but he was not as charmed by all
the cute graphics and icons, and he absolutely detested the idea
of using a point-and-click mouse rather than the keyboard. "Some
of the people on the project became enamored of the quest to do
everything with the mouse," he later groused. "Another example is
the absurd application of icons. An icon is a symbol equally
incomprehensible in all human languages. There's a reason why
humans invented phonetic languages."

Raskin's former student Bill Atkinson sided with jobs. They both
wanted a powerful processor that could support whizzier graphics
and the use of a mouse. "Steve had to take the project away from
Jef," Atkinson said. "Jef was pretty firm and stubborn, and Steve
was right to take it over. The world got a better result."

The disagreements were more than just philosophical; they became
clashes of personality. "I think that he likes people to jump
when he says jump," Raskin once said. "I felt that he was
untrustworthy, and that he does not take kindly to being found
wanting. He doesn't seem to like people who see him without a
halo." Jobs was equally dismissive of Raskin. "Jef was really
pompous," he said. "He didn't know much about interfaces. So I
decided to nab some of his people who were really good, like
Atkinson, bring in some of my own, take the thing over and build
a less expensive Lisa, not some piece of junk."

Some on the team found jobs impossible to work with. "Jobs seems
to introduce tension, politics, and hassles rather than enjoying
a buffer from those distractions," one engineer wrote in a memo
to Raskin in December 1980. "I thoroughly enjoy talking with him,
and I admire his ideas, practical perspective, and energy. But I
just don't feel that he provides the trusting, supportive,
relaxed environment that I need."

But many others realized that despite his temperamental failings,
Jobs had the charisma and corporate clout that would lead them to
"make a dent in the universe." Jobs told the staff that Raskin
was just a dreamer, whereas he was a doer and would get the Mac
done in a year. It was clear he wanted vindication for having
been ousted from the Lisa group, and he was energized by
competition. He publicly bet John Couch $5,000 that the Mac would
ship before the Lisa. "We can make a computer that's cheaper and
better than the Lisa, and get it out first," he told the team.
Jobs asserted his control of the group by canceling a brown-bag
lunch seminar that Raskin was scheduled to give to the whole
company in February 1981. Raskin happened to go by the room
anyway and discovered that there were a hundred people there
waiting to hear him; Jobs had not bothered to notify anyone else
about his cancellation order. So Raskin went ahead and gave a
That incident led Raskin to write a blistering memo to Mike
Scott, who once again found himself in the difficult position of
being a president trying to manage a company's temperamental
cofounder and major stockholder. It was titled "Working for/with
Steve Jobs," and in it Raskin asserted:

He is a dreadful manager ... I have always liked Steve, but I
have found it impossible to work for him ... Jobs regularly
misses appointments. This is so well-known as to be almost a
running joke ... He acts without thinking and with bad judgment
... He does not give credit where due ... Very often, when told
of a new idea, he will immediately attack it and say that it is
worthless or even stupid, and tell you that it was a waste of
time to work on it. This alone is bad management, but if the idea
is a good one he will soon be telling people about it as though
it was his own.

That afternoon Scott called in Jobs and Raskin for a showdown in
front of Markkula. Jobs started crying. He and Raskin agreed on
only one thing: Neither could work for the other one. On the Lisa
project, Scott had sided with Couch. This time he decided it was
best to let Jobs win. After all, the Mac was a minor development
project housed in a distant building that could keep Jobs
occupied away from the main campus. Raskin was told to take a
leave of absence. "They wanted to humor me and give me something
to do, which was fine,"Jobs recalled. "It was like going back to
the garage for me. I had my own ragtag team and I was in

Raskin's ouster may not have seemed fair, but it ended up being
good for the Macintosh. Raskin wanted an appliance with little
memory, an anemic processor, a cassette tape, no mouse, and
minimal graphics. Unlike Jobs, he might have been able to keep
the price down to close to $1,000, and that may have helped Apple
win market share. But he could not have pulled off what Jobs did,
which was to create and market a machine that would transform
personal computing. In fact we can see where the road not taken
led. Raskin was hired by Canon to build the machine he wanted.
"It was the Canon Cat, and it was a total flop," Atkinson said.
"Nobody wanted it. When Steve turned the Mac into a compact
version of the Lisa, it made it into a computing platform instead
of a consumer electronic device."

Texaco Towers

A few days after Raskin left, Jobs appeared at the cubicle of
Andy Hertzfeld, a young engineer on the Apple II team, who had a
cherubic face and impish demeanor similar to his pal Burrell
Smith's. Hertzfeld recalled that most of his colleagues were
afraid of Jobs "because of his spontaneous temper tantrums and
his proclivity to tell everyone exactly what he thought, which
often wasn't very favorable." But Hertzfeld was excited by him.
"Are you any good?" Jobs asked the moment he walked in. "We only
want really good people working on

* Raskin died of pancreatic cancer in 2005, not long after jobs
was diagnosed with the disease.

the Mac, and I'm not sure you're good enough." Hertzfeld knew how
to answer. "I told him that yes, I thought that I was pretty
good." Jobs left, and Hertzfeld went back to his work. Later that
afternoon he looked up to see Jobs peering over the wall of his
cubicle. "I've got good news for you," he said. "You're working
on the Mac team now. Come with me."

Hertzfeld replied that he needed a couple more days to finish the
Apple II product he was in the middle of. "What's more important
than working on the Macintosh?" Jobs demanded. Hertzfeld
explained that he needed to get his Apple II DOS program in good
enough shape to hand it over to someone. "You're just wasting
your time with that!" Jobs replied. "Who cares about the Apple
11? The Apple 11 will be dead in a few years. The Macintosh is
the future of Apple, and you're going to start on it now!" With
that, Jobs yanked out the power cord to Hertzfeld's Apple II,
causing the code he was working on to vanish. "Come with me,"
Jobs said. "I'm going to take you to your new desk."Jobs drove
Hertzfeld, computer and all, in his silver Mercedes to the
Macintosh offices. "Here's your new desk," he said, plopping him
in a space next to Burrell Smith. "Welcome to the Mac team!" The
desk had been Raskin's. In fact Raskin had left so hastily that
some of the drawers were still filled with his flotsam and
jetsam, including model airplanes.

Jobs's primary test for recruiting people in the spring of 1981
to be part of his merry band of pirates was making sure they had
a passion for the product. He would sometimes bring candidates
into a room where a prototype of the Mac was covered by a cloth,
dramatically unveil it, and watch. "If their eyes lit up, if they
went right for the mouse and started pointing and clicking, Steve
would smile and hire them," recalled Andrea Cunningham. "He
wanted them to say 'Wow!'"

Bruce Horn was one of the programmers at Xerox PARC. When some of
his friends, such as Larry Tesler, decided to join the Macintosh
group, Horn considered going there as well. But he got a good
offer, and a $15,000 signing bonus, to join another company. Jobs
called him on a Friday night. "You have to come into Apple
tomorrow morning," he said. "I have a lot of stuff to show you."
Horn did, and Jobs hooked him. "Steve was so passionate about
building this amazing device that would change the world," Horn
recalled. "By sheer force of his personality, he changed my
mind." Jobs showed Horn exactly how the plastic would be molded
and would fit together at perfect angles, and how good the board
was going to look inside. "He wanted me to see that this whole
thing was going to happen and it was thought out from end to end.
Wow, I said, I don't see that kind of passion every day. So I
signed up."

Jobs even tried to reengage Wozniak. "I resented the fact that he
had not been doing much, but then I thought, hell, I wouldn't be
here without his brilliance," Jobs later told me. But as soon as
jobs was starting to get him interested in the Mac, Wozniak
crashed his new single-engine Beechcraft while attempting a
takeoff near Santa Cruz. He barely survived and ended up with
partial amnesia. Jobs spent time at the hospital, but when
Wozniak recovered he decided it was time to take a break from
Apple. Ten years after dropping out of Berkeley, he decided to
return there to finally get his degree, enrolling under the name
of Rocky Raccoon Clark.

In order to make the project his own, Jobs decided it should no
longer be code-named after Raskin's favorite apple. In various
interviews, jobs had been referring to computers as a bicycle for
the mind; the ability of humans to create a bicycle allowed them
to move more efficiently than even a condor, and likewise the
ability to create computers would multiply the efficiency of
their minds. So one day Jobs decreed that henceforth the
Macintosh should be known instead as the Bicycle. This did not go
over well. "Burrell and I thought this was the silliest thing we
ever heard, and we simply refused to use the new name," recalled
Hertzfeld. Within a month the idea was dropped.

By early 1981 the Mac team had grown to about twenty, and Jobs
decided that they should have bigger quarters. So he moved
everyone to the second floor of a brown-shingled, two-story
building about three blocks from Apple's main offices. It was
next to a Texaco station and thus became known as Texaco Towers.
In order to make the office more lively, he told the team to buy
a stereo system. "Burrell and I ran out and bought a silver,
cassette-based boom box right away, before he could change his
mind," recalled Hertzfeld.

Jobs's triumph was soon complete. A few weeks after winning his
power struggle with Raskin to run the Mac division, he helped
push out Mike Scott as Apple's president. Scotty had become more
and more erratic, alternately bullying and nurturing. He finally
lost most of his support among the employees when he surprised
them by imposing a round of layoffs that he handled with atypical
ruthlessness. In addition, he had begun to suffer a variety of
afflictions, ranging from eye infections to narcolepsy. When
Scott was on vacation in Hawaii, Markkula called together the top
managers to ask if he should be replaced. Most of them, including
Jobs and John Couch, said yes. So Markkula took over as an
interim and rather passive president, and Jobs found that he now
had full rein to do what he wanted with the Mac division.


One more chapter and that's it; you can read the rest of the
500 pages or so of the life of Steve Jobs and the iMac and etc.

Keith Hunt

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