1st Apple Macintosh Computer

A Macintosh with a Byte

by Elaine Schwartz    •    May 10, 2012

Did you ever wonder who created the trash can icon on your computer? It came from a designer working on the first Macintosh.

The year was 1981. No one really knew what a computer should look like and what it should do. Steve Jobs told the team developing the first Macintosh that it had to be “friendly.” One designer said, “To be honest, we didn’t know what it meant for a computer to be ‘friendly’ until Steve told us.”

Friendly meant everything from the shape and size of the computer to rounding the corners on rectangles on the screen. When his programmer said rounded corners were impossible, Jobs said it had to be done. Pointing to billboards, tabletops, car windows, a No Parking sign, he said, “Rectangles with rounded corners are everywhere.” The next day, Jobs had his rectangles with rounded corners.

It is legend that Jobs was passionate about fonts because of the calligraphy class he audited at Reed after dropping out. But the story about font names is great. When Jobs learned that his designer had named them Merion, Ardmore, Rosemont, the stops on Philadelphia’s suburban commuter rail line, he complained that those places were unknown. “They ought to be world-class cities.” And so, the Mac’s first fonts became Venice, Geneva, New York, Toronto.

The calculator story is also wonderful. Returning day after day, he kept saying, too dark a background, then the lines are too thick, and then the buttons are too big. As a joke, the designer responded with, “The Steve Jobs Roll Your Own Calculator Construction Set.” Jobs played around with it and created the initial standard design for the Mac’s calculator.

Isaacson concludes the Mac story with a signing ceremony. Saying, “Real artists sign their work,” Jobs asked each of the project’s participants, 46 people including himself, to sign a piece of drafting paper so that an engraving of the signatures could be inside every Macintosh.

Perhaps the best commercial ever made, Apple’s 1984 introduced the Macintosh to the world at the Super Bowl. Here is is.

Our Bottom Line: The first Macintosh displays the reality of Joseph Schumpeter’s creative destruction. From one innovation to the next, Steve Jobs replaced existing technology with new devices. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and interchangeable musket parts Henry Ford’s moving assembly line and Ray Kroc’s vision for McDonald’s, also display the impact of entrepreneurs.

My Steve Jobs stories and quotes are from the Walter Isaacson bio that I am still reading and loving. I also took a look at Insanely Great by Steven Levy. Moving beyond, Malcolm Gladwell explained in The New Yorker that Steve Jobs’s greatness came from being a “tweaker.”

 

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