For almost six hours, seven of the individuals responsible for the creation of the first Macintosh--Daniel Kottke, Bill Atkinson, Donn Denman, Andy Hertzfeld, Jef Raskin, Caroline Rose and Randy Wigginton--talked about their experiences developing one of the world's most influential personal computers.
MacHack conference chairman John Penn addressed the audience before the speakers came on stage, saying that this reunion had attracted the biggest audience ever to the annual developers' gathering.
Also in the audience was Apple Computer Inc co-founder Steve Wozniak, who will appear in a "fireside chat" Thursday evening to discuss his past at Apple and the future of the Mac.
(Two Mac pioneers were unavoidably sidelined from the keynote event: Bud Tribble was stopped by family obligations, and Bruce Horn was grounded in Phoenix by a cancelled flight.)
The keynote event opened with moderator Scott Knaster asking each panelist about his or her personal history developing the Mac. Knaster also asked for the panel's thoughts about Mac OS X and Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, and their predictions for the Macintosh and computing in general. Knaster also invited the audience to ask questions.
Mac OS X
All of the panelists agreed that Mac OS X looks beautiful, but most expressed misgivings about the new user interface, its lack of documentation and the completeness of its implementation.
The speakers criticized Mac OS X's lack of support for some basic services that are supported in Mac OS 9. For example, Atkinson said that while he finds color synchronization absolutely essential in his work as a nature photographer, Mac OS X's support of this feature is not developed enough for him to use it. He said he will stick to Mac OS 9.1 until this feature is fully and accurately implemented in Mac OS X; even then, Atkinson said, he expects to migrate slowly, moving one of his Macs at a time to the new OS.
Raskin said he feels a "strong moral imperative" to provide the best UI possible. A poorly designed UI can sap productivity and physically hurt users from repetitive-stress injuries. Raskin, the author of The Humane Interface, is a leader in the field. His UI design philosophy was one of the tenets at the foundation of the early Macintosh's design.
"The internal improvements of Mac OS X are long overdue, but the UI--well, yuck!" he said. "Apple has ignored for years all that has been learned about developing UIs. It's unprofessional, incompetent, and it's hurting users."
Hertzfeld was less critical of the UI, offering a mixed bag of what he liked and disliked about the new OS. He suggested that it is not yet a mature product and that it will improve as it goes through changes. "It's definitely better than Windows," Hertzfeld said.
Wigginton agreed, saying that the UI has "a ways to go".
Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs' career and the path of the Macintosh are intertwined. While many of the panelists berated Jobs for his personal quirks and unique management style, most agreed that it was his will, perseverance and passion that created the Macintosh and saved Apple.
Denman said that Jobs could have an abrasive management style and that people who work with him need to be strong enough to justify their decisions when Jobs challenges them.
According to the panelists, the small, independent Macintosh project was created in reaction to Apple's early-'80s management team, which (despite the Apple II's success) was slowing development and slowly eroding Jobs' control.
The speakers lauded Jobs' passion for excellence, drive, design sense, and marketing savvy at the same time they criticized his inability to share control.
Some of the panelists took their remarks further. "It is not clear how Apple can keep going with just new pretty boxes without a revolution," Raskin said.
"Apple needs to pay more than lip service to open-source development," Hertzfeld said, if the company is to grow and woo new developers. "Apple is in a cul-de-sac, and I don't see [Jobs] as the leader who can lead Apple out of it."
"Don't ever count Apple out," Wigginton said. "But don't expect revolutions from Apple unless their backs are to the wall. Right now, things are pretty fat, but when magazines start counting Apple out, then you'll see something."
MacHack runs until Saturday.