January 9, 2007 5:39 PM PST

Thanks for the Mac memories

SAN FRANCISCO--For fans of Macintosh computers, Tuesday brought a chance to hear some of the inside stories behind the history of the iconic machines.

At Macworld here, Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the team that built the original Mac, spoke to a crowd of about 50 people about the early days of the project.

Hertzfeld was on hand to promote his book, Revolution in the Valley: The insanely great story of how the Mac was made, at publisher O'Reilly's booth.

Andy Hertzfeld

The book first came out in 2004, but that didn't keep a standing-room-only crowd from gathering to hear Hertzfeld tell the tales behind the famous project.

Looking a little bit stouter than he did in 1984, he began his talk by paying his respects to fellow Mac pioneer Jef Raskin, who died in February 2005.

"I'll begin with a tribute to Jef and tell you how Jef hated my book," Hertzfeld began. "The hardest part of all (was that) he really objected to a few of" the book's stories.

He recalled that Raskin had not been particularly pleased by an anecdote in the book about how fellow Mac team member Burrell Smith, whom Hertzfeld said had a talent for imitations, used to mimic Raskin.

"'Why, I, I, I, I invented the Macintosh,'" Hertzfeld said, quoting Smith imitating Raskin.

He also said Smith would then mimic a reporter responding to Raskin: "'Why, no, I thought Burrell invented the Macintosh.'"

And Smith would end the joke with one final Raskin imitation: "'Why, I, I, I, I invented Burrell.'"

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Clearly fond of Raskin, Hertzfeld nevertheless poked a little bit of fun at him during his talk. Hertzfeld remembered his first week at Apple Computer and how Raskin sat next to him at one point and introduced himself.

"'I'm not only a mathematical genius, but a musical genius, as well,'" Hertzfeld said Raskin told him by way of greeting. "I thought, 'What do I say to that?' So I said, 'Good for you.'"

Hertzfeld also said Raskin had been critical of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs' "unique management style." So Raskin put together a written critique of Jobs' perceived managerial shortcomings and sent them to Apple investor Mike Markkula. But Jobs found out about the memo.

"Steve saw it and responded by asking Jef to take a three-month mandatory" suspension, Hertzfeld said.

He also recalled how prior to joining the Mac team, Hertzfeld had been working on a new operating system for the Apple II. But Jobs demanded that he stop working on the project.

"'That'll be obsolete even before it comes out,'" Hertzfeld quoted Jobs as saying at the time. "'What's more important than the Mac?'"

So Jobs yanked the power cord for the Apple II Hertzfeld was working on out of the wall and walked away with the computer, Hertzfeld said.

And while Hertzfeld is clearly fond of Jobs, he didn't hesitate to point out that Smith, whom he said "had a great knack for nicknames," used to call Jobs "the devil."

He also related that in the early days of the Mac team, anyone who wanted to quit Apple but who Jobs valued had to weave their way through Jobs' famous "reality distortion field" sessions.

"If Steve didn't want you to quit," Hertzfeld said, "you'd have to go through a reality distortion session with Steve."

Tales of Jobs and Woz
He said that Smith began talking about how, if he ever decided to quit, he would "'just pull down my pants and urinate on (Jobs') desk.'"

Apparently, though, Jobs found out that Smith was saying that. So later, when Smith finally did decide to leave the company, Jobs was ready.

"Are you going to do it?" Jobs asked of the urinating threat.

Later, Hertzfeld said, he got a phone call one day from the Cupertino, Calif., police. It turned out that Jobs had been parking his car in the handicapped parking spaces and that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had reported it to the police, but had done so claiming he was Andy Hertzfeld.

"Steve (Jobs) thought the rules were for everybody else," Hertzfeld said. "So he parked in the handicapped spot. Maybe he thought the blue wheelchair symbol meant it was for the chairman of the board."

Still, despite some knocks on Jobs, Hertzfeld said that it's quite possible that the Macintosh wouldn't even exist today if someone hadn't "hit the undo button" and brought Jobs back to Apple years after his forced departure from the company.

Hertzfeld also had more Wozniak stories to relate to the gathered crowd. He remembered that Smith and Wozniak had both been big fans of the video game Defender.

After awhile, he said, Wozniak got so good at the game that he would come home from work and end up playing single games that would go on forever.

"Woz's wife would have to spoon-feed him his dinner," Hertzfeld said, "because the games would last three or four hours and he'd get hungry."

These days, Hertzfeld is a software engineer at Google, which he called "the greatest company ever."

Asked why Mac fans are so into talks like his and other historical recollections of the early days of the computer, Hertzfeld said it is because the fans are "passionate" about the machines.

"It's a spiritual touchstone...It's the love and care that Apple puts into it," he said. "It's not just a product. The key word is 'just.' It is a product, but I don't know about the 'just.'"

See more CNET content tagged:
Andy Hertzfeld, Jef Raskin, Steve Jobs, Macworld, Apple II

 

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