Larry Tesler on PARC and Apple

Filed under: People

On the 9th of November 2011 a group of engineers and other notable people who worked with Steve Jobs talked publicly about the Apple and Pixar founder during an evening organized by The Churchill Club, a Silicon Valley non-profit business and technology forum.

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Among them was Larry Tesler, who started as an engineer at Xerox’s famed PARC center, where (among other things) he invented the technique we now use to copy and paste on a computer and then worked for 17 years at Apple as VP of Advanced Tech and Chief Scientist.

I’ve taken the liberty to transcribe (and edit a bit) the very interesting six minutes of the video recording (start at 30:45, or see a clip) where Tesler tells about Apple’s involvement with PARC, its technologies and people.

“Xerox was facing a lot of competition from Asian companies in copiers when their patents expired and one thing they found was that they had a very high manufacturing cost and they were really having trouble competing with these new forces in the market.
At the same time they had Xerox PARC, developing very exciting technologies including the Ethernet, GUIs with windows and improved mice from what existed before. (more…)

Tuesday 08 November 2016, 2:00 pm
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The Apple III, Steve Jobs and Jerry Manock

Filed under: Hardware,People

Apple’s first computer designed for the enterprise market, the first not engineered by Steve Wozniak. And Infinite Loop’s first major failure

The Apple III went down as a costly and embarrassing failure. It tarnished Apple’s image and contributed to lose a good chunk of the precious market lead the Cupertino company had conquered with the Apple II.

Announced in May 1980, but made available only several months later, the Apple III was sold at prices ranging from 4000 to 7000 USD, depending on the configuration. It was a professional machine partially compatible with the Apple II, an 8 bit computer also powered by the same 6502 CPU, but with a higher clock. It also had more RAM, a higher screen resolution, built-in disk drives and a keyboard featuring upper and lowercase keys and a numeric keypad.

The often quoted story about the Apple III goes that it was a failure because of Steve Jobs’ unreasonable demands, most of all his dislike for fans, whose addition he forbade. This design choice supposedly caused such overheating and malfunctions that Apple was forced to replace 14000 units, even after having users perform odd procedures to try and fix the computer.

It’s undeniable that the Apple III hardware had some kind of serious problem, but in 2007 the original case co-designer, Jerry Manock, refuted the case design flaw charges and set the record straight, partially absolving Steve Jobs. (more…)

Tuesday 02 February 2016, 1:00 pm
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The Apple I

Filed under: Hardware,People

40 years ago, on July 29th, 1975, Steve Wozniak booted up for the first time the computer he designed and built on his own.

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At the beginning of March 1975, in Menlo Park, Gordon French hosted in his garage the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club, where the Altair was demoed.

Wozniak participated with his friend Allen Baum and his imagination was struck most of all by Altair’s Intel 8080 microprocessor. Suddenly, he had an insight. (more…)

Tuesday 30 June 2015, 3:14 am
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“Finding The Next Steve Jobs”

Filed under: Books

“Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent”
Author: Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Ohter info: 256 pages; also available in ebook format

Before starting Apple, in the Seventies, a young Steve Jobs worked at Atari. His big ego and lack of hygiene almost cost him the job, but Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, worked around his quirks and strived not to lose Jobs as an employee, having seen something special in him. During the following decades Bushnell kept in touch with Jobs, in a relationship based on mutual respect.

Bushnell isn’t just “the first and only boss Steve Jobs ever had” but a market pioneer, an engineer and entrepreneur who started more than twenty companies and is widely accepted as one of the founding fathers of the video game industry.

In 2013, assisted by Gene Stone, he wrote “Finding The Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent”, published in the USA by Simon & Schuster.

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The book is about finding and stimulating creativity and innovation in business by making unusual or plain unorthodox choices, such as those that propelled Jobs and Bushnell’s enteprises to success.

As Bushnell warns the reader

“it isn’t enough to find the next Steve Jobses and hire them; you have to create a situation in which they can flourish, and then your company can, too.”

Also:

“Steve Jobs knew that Atari was the kind of place that would allow him to flourish, no matter how arrogant he seemed. That trait made me wonder whether perhaps everyone has creative potential, but only the arrogant are self-confident enough to press their creative ideas on others. Steve believed he was always right, and was willing to push harder and longer than other people who might have had equally good ideas but who caved under pressure.”

Nolan Bushnell Campus Party Brasil

“Finding The Next Steve Jobs” is structured in 52 chapters, each of which is based on a pong, a name and concept which is a homage to the famous Atari videogame, a ping-pong simulator.

Bushnell’s pongs are tidbits, pieces of loose advice which he “sends“ to the reader. They are not rules, because he (and Jobs) don’t believe that creativity can thrive in the presence of strict rules.
Each pong offers a volley of reasonable advices, based on interesting and funny anecdotes from Jobs and Bushnell’s career.

Bushnell (and Stone) are great storytellers and are able to communicate the value of having a staff of wildly creative people whose ideas can guarantee that a company will prosper when other fail.

“Finding The Next Steve Jobs” is not only a source of inspiration for ambitious entepreneurs and company leaders but also a window into the world of  technological startups, in particular those of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Although it is not a biography or history book, it’s a stimulating and suggested read for anyone who wants to understand the climate which gave us Apple and its iconoclastic culture.

Nota: the book cover is © Simon & Schuster, while the (edited) picture of Nolan Bushnell is by Campus Party Brasil and has been released under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.

Wednesday 25 March 2015, 12:00 pm
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Mister Macintosh

Mister MacintoshIn the Eighties a stylized little man with an overcoat and hat was etched on some early Macintosh motherboards and also appeared on some rare merchandising items.

Known as “Mr. Macintosh” or “Macintosh Man”, the character was concocted by Steve Jobs who in 1982 became of the opinion that the upcoming “computer for the rest of us” needed a mascot.

When Mac developer Andy Hertzfeld enquired about Mister Macintosh, Jobs told him he was

“a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. He pops up every once in a while, when you least expect it, and then winks at you and disappears again.”

Jobs also added that the appearance should

“be so quick that you won’t be sure if you saw him or not. We’ll plant references in the manuals to the legend of Mr. Macintosh, and no one will know if he’s real or not.”

folon_mrmacThe idea was eventually abandoned but Mr. Macintosh lived on, at least for a while, both in hardware and in software.

Jobs had already commissioned a little drawing to belgian artist Folon, who drew a mysterious character in a “Macintosh” overcoat and hat. This drawing was used on some early hardware boards and promotional material.

Andy Hertzfeld couldn’t fit an image in the very small ROM of the Mac, but he modifified the system software that showed the menus of the Mac. In this way a developer could eventually make Mr. Macintosh appear on screen by calling a special memory location called… MrMacHook.
Hertzfeld doesn’t know if anybody ever actually implemented Mr. Macintosh or used the “MrMacHook” location for something worthwhile.

The image of Mr. Macintosh/Macintosh man is from bitsavers.vt100.net, while the pin is taken from folklore.org

Friday 13 March 2015, 5:53 pm
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