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Mac 30th Celebration: Original Mac team members share their stories

Macworld Live Band

The Macworld Live band provided pre-show entertainment.

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.

Rod Holt

Mac engineer Rod Holt was part of the first panel that talked about the very early stages of 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.

Andy Hertzfeld

Andy Hertzfeld speaks at a panel of original Mac team members at the Mac 30th Celebration.

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.”

Mac team

Members of the original Mac development team gather on stage for a group photo.

Steve Jobs’ reputation as a tough, demanding, and abrasive manager is well documented, but the members of the original Mac team found ways to handle Jobs. “Steve wasn’t an engineer,” said Atkinson, “but he knew how to get the best out of people.”

At the end of the second panel, Mike Marukkula came out with a speech to honor the Mac team. Markkula, known as Apple employee number three, was then honored with a statue of six hands holding up a Mac and an inscription that read, “Apple and Macintosh would never have happened without you. Your participation changed the world.” The members of the Mac team in attendance then took to the stage to pose for a photo.

Mike Markkula

Mike Markkula was presented with an award to recognize his contributions to the development of the Mac.

The rest of the event featured a look at Apple’s advertisments by Steve Hayden, a copywriter for the 1984 commerical and other Apple ads; and a panel of third-party software developers who shared their stories on how they started their businesses on the Mac.

The event ended with a letter to the Mac, written by Jerry Manock on behalf of the Macintosh team. It was read by Patti Kenyon, Mancock, and Caroline Rose and is available for download as a PDF:

Dear Mac:

Today you are celebrating your 30th birthday. Here are some things we wanted you to know as you enter your fourth decade:

Your early family really loved you...they had a lot of fun being pirates and worked very hard together before you were born.

You were a cute, chubby little baby but have grown up to be as slender as a #2 pencil with the power of a NFL middle linebacker.

You were writing and drawing sketches at a very early age. Who would have guessed that you would now be making movies all by yourself and sharing them with people around the world.

Your list of accomplishments is truly astounding! We are very, very proud of all the tasks you have mastered...many more than we had ever imagined.

Never forget that your parents wanted you to always be respectful of the individuality of your users...and we hope that you will continue to help them communicate their uniqueness to each other.

Do not let vanity and compliments about your beauty stop you from always remembering your core purpose of fostering innovation and creativity in others.

Finally, don’t forget to keep your sense of humor! True artists not only ship... they laugh! Don’t forget about that little Mac Man that used to run across the Desktop every once-in-a-while!

So have an insanely great Happy Birthday! We all wish you continued success in your next 30 years helping pilot The Mother Ship.

Sincerely yours,

Jerry Manock, for the 1984 Macintosh Development Team

Caroline Rose, Jerry Mancock, and Patti Kenyon

(Left to right) Caroline Rose, Jerry Mancock, and Patti Kenyon read a letter of birthday greetings to the Macintosh.

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