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Interview With Mac Co-Creator Andy Hertzfeld 165

jeblucas writes "MacDevCenter interviews Andy Hertzfeld: formerly of Radius, Eazel, General Magic, and most famously, Apple. He discusses his recent book, Revolution in the Valley as well as sharing some anecdotes about his time at Apple developing the Macintosh personal computer. Check out this notebook page from the first cut of the memory layout. The book was reviewed here earlier."
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Interview With Mac Co-Creator Andy Hertzfeld

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  • by dcarey ( 321183 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:12AM (#11263007) Homepage
    LOL the first line in his personal notes is "Memory layout is a bitch." Nice.
  • Glad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phydror ( 846069 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:14AM (#11263022)
    to see someone other than Woz and Jobs get attention for their time at Apple!
    • Re:Glad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by capmilk ( 604826 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:42AM (#11263261)
      Would be especially nice to read more about Burell Smith. That guy was a Mac mastermind. Seems to have vanished, though.
      • Re:Glad (Score:3, Interesting)

        "Would be especially nice to read more about Burell Smith."

        I heard Andy interviewed about the book recently and he had a lot to say about Burell Smith as an unsung hero of the Mac's development. I think (memory is fading) that he said that Smith is reclusive and that they hadn't talked in years. He dropped of a pre-release copy of the book on Smith's door and also took one over to Steve Jobs. He told Jobs that there were some things in the book that were unflattering to him but that he wanted to be tru
        • Re:Glad (Score:3, Insightful)

          by capmilk ( 604826 )
          Could the interview be this one [wired.com]? I read that, too. :)
        • Despite his admitted discomfort in speaking ill of others he did not have anything nice to say about Jef Raskin.

          Well that's because Raskin is an arrogant prick.
        • According to the book "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" [amazon.com]:

          "[A] kind of living ghost from the Apple years returned to haunt and torment Steve. It was as if Steve were being punished for his past sins.

          In December, Steve's car windshield was broken by a vandal, as were sixteen windows in his house in Palo Alto. A few days later, Laurene [Steve Jobs's wife] saw a man sitting on the curb across the street and holding a bag of rocks.

          The man wasn't a stranger. He was Burrell Smith, who has been the chief hardware
      • Here you go. http://www.folklore.org/ProjectView.py?project=Mac intosh&characters=Burrell+Smith [folklore.org]

        Folklore.org is a great place to see what they were doing back in 1980-1982. They were doing things with windows that MS didn't get to for another decade.
    • Glad to see someone other than Woz and Jobs get attention for their time at Apple!

      Andy always got a lot of attention in Mac circles. Classic Mac owners knew Andy very well.

      It's just that Jobs gets a lot of press (being the on-again, off-again CEO of a large failing company since 1985 (sarcasm)).

      And Woz is well known in geek circles for being the only famous nuts-and-bolts engineer in the history of the world. And he looks like an engineer too.

      Andy - In my book, he's famous for taking Job's vision a
  • It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one who puts pen to paper when subtracting 44 from 128!
  • You can just imagine other segments of the computer being written on cigarette packets and bits of scrap paper. Oh well, it worked :)
  • "64k should be enough memory for everyone"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:27AM (#11263142)
    I love the part where it says 50k data for huge applications.
    • The thing you have to remember about the original mac, the video board actually used the memory bus to raster the screen. Sure, PC's had DMA, but on the Mac, the lower chunk of ram WAS the video ram. They had a device known as the "Bob Baily Unit" that divided time between the microprocessor and the video display engine.

      The size of the display, and it's black and white nature, was burned into the the design of the memory bus itself. Sure that would be horrible today, but this was 1984. A GUI was an insane

      • Memory mapped video was taken from the Apple II's design. Quite obviously from folklore.org, Burrell looked up to Woz and the Apple II's design inspired him a lot.
  • by ACK!! ( 10229 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:33AM (#11263182) Journal
    I mean this guy had a ton of stories and the article don't get me wrong was ended well.

    It just seemed to brief.

    The Woz story is just funny stuff.

    It kind of reminded me of my only non-corporate IT work experience where I was a tech support guy for a small niche software company.

    Very nice and some people here seem to thing that Andy does not get enough credit.

    I typically agree but it is good to note that a number of tech friends interested in the history of computers know his name so perhaps the knowledge won't get totally lost.

  • by cbelt3 ( 741637 ) <cbelt@yahooPERIOD.com minus punct> on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:37AM (#11263220) Journal
    Nice interview, and sounds like a nice book to pick up at the Border's outlet near me next year. Unfortunately, Cult-o-Mac stuff like this book don't sell well around here. I particularly love the arguments about memory from the children on here.

    C'mon- back in the day you didn't just automatically load every freaking library that your compiler offered you in the expectation that your users loved your bloatware. Hell, I remember paying $50 for a 1K RAM chip back in the 70's when boys built computers with wire-wrap guns and lots of gate chips. And when you could see a processor's cycles on a cheapo Korean War surplus o-scope.

    And we had to code 5,000 lines each day, uphill both ways...
    • And we had to code 5,000 lines each day, uphill both ways...

      In BASIC. Kids these days...

      • BASIC? Luxury! We did a CALL -151 and hand-entered assembly in hex! We did have shape tables, though, so it wasn't all bad :)
      • RE: BASIC

        "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration."

        Edsger Dijkstra quotes (Dutch computer scientist. Turing Award in 1972. 1930-2002)
    • It always amuses me when folks these days talk about building a computer.

      My first machine was a Ferguson Big Board [ornitron.com], a Z80 [lowendpc.com] based kit.

      I was doing my Undergraduate degree (Math & Computer Science) and didn't have much money. A bunch of us bought these kits - and the cheapest options, just the etched board - then begged, borrowed and stole parts (well, I didn't really steal any but you get the idea).

      We'd get together every Friday night for a soldering session - great excuse to drink beer! It took u
      • Agreed- My first computer was a 6809 that I designed and built myself on a chunk of perfboard with some surplus (read thrown away at the lab I visited) sockets and a lot of chips and stuff that I begged, borrowed, or bought at Gateway Electronics in St. Louis (God, I miss those junk electronics surplus stores- they just don't exist that much any more). Wire wrapped for the better part of a month until I realized that I'd read my own netlist backwards- it was designed looking at the top of the chips, and I w
      • Heh... I was friends with the designer of that board (well, one of). He also wrote the bios (the PFM - "Pretty F'king Magic" monitor). They got screwed by their lawyer who literally sold all rights to the board to Xerox for next to nothing ($2000? I don't remember).

        Man, those were the days... but they sucked compared to my iBook and house full of Macs!
  • by FrankSchwab ( 675585 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:38AM (#11263224) Journal
    I think all the children who posted "Gee, but 4 digits for the year isn't that much more memory than 2" in the Y2K story really ought to look at this guy's notebook page to get an understanding of the environment in those days. 4K (or 18K) for the OS. I love the notation: "40K code, 50K data for huge applications" /frank
    • Yes, because memory prices didn't drop at all until 2001, right? I can certainly remember paying a dollar per byte when I bought my first 128 MB RAM stick back in 1995 ...

      No. Wait. Memory has been plenty cheap to use four digits to store the current year in since before 1990. Maybe that's why some of us find it idiotic that you had applications (modern applications written after 1990) running on comodity PCs, that only use two digits.
    • Re:4 digit years (Score:2, Informative)

      by momus_radar ( 668448 )
      The interesting bit about the development of the Mac and the Y2K story is that the Mac was built to address four digit years. IIRC the Date & Time control panel in the MacPlus my Dad brought home in '86 (System 3.2) could be manually set to about 2016 and the OS itself could recognize years into the late 2900's.

      It was a bug, Dave.
      • Re:4 digit years (Score:3, Interesting)

        by momus_radar ( 668448 )
        Well, IDRC. According to this article at LowEndMac [lowendmac.com] the hardware of the first Mac can handle dates until A.D. 2040, the Mac OS can work correctly through A.D. 2019.

        That's still not bad for early '80's thinking.

        Even more interesting is the article also notes that Power Macs are designed to handle dates through A.D. 29,940.

        It was a bug, Dave.

    • Actually, the two digit year was never about memory.

      On the Apple ][ and Mac, you didn't have space to store the date in human readable format most of the time, so you used packed binary notation. Typically you would reuse several bits for other purposes as well.

      For example, byte 1 would be year, byte 2 would be month, byte 3 would be day. This lets you store a 256 year period (not a 100 year period) in the program. It lets you sort the records without having to process text, etc. If you were working w
  • Folklore.org (Score:3, Informative)

    by corrie ( 111769 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @10:44AM (#11263277)
    Mr Hertzfeld wrote a lot of the articles on http://www.folklore.org [folklore.org], where some very interesting Apple history is recorded.
  • X _ X

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That has nothing to do with the memory . It's a sad mac error code you get when trying to load a newer disk (HFS format) using a Mac with the old (64k) ROMs which didn't recognize HFS. (Actually, it may be an error for not recognizing the format, period, but I'm not too sure about that.)

      Goddamit I feel like a complete dork for knowing the answer to that....
    • That is a realy sad Mac notebook.
  • From the note: "40 k code, 50 k data for huge applications." (my emphasis)

    And then: "40 k equals 10 pages of text." Yes, at least that's still true today, unless you happen to use Word, where 20 k equals 0 pages of text. Wow.

    • Keep in mind though, work processors in those days would only load the page you were currently editing into memory. Oh Bank Street Writer, so many fond memories (sniff.)
    • by dbacher ( 804594 )
      In addition to the other child, keep in mind we had word Processors on the Apple ][, where 16k of RAM was bank switched with ROM (if it was installed at all), and high end units had 48k total memory, about 16k of which was available for use depending on what the design was.

      So this was indeed huge for the day, you were talking about a huge increase. And things like fonts were single or maybe a pair of control codes, in a non-extensible binary format custom to the specific word processing application.

      And y
  • When I first saw that notebook page, I worried that someone had posted a page from one of my notebooks from an undergraduate EE class. Seriously though, it is pages like those that generally lead to great progress.

    Obviously I am a Mac fan. However, even if I weren't, I would still read Andy Hertzfeld's book and enjoy interviews such as these. I have visited the folklore site and it is pretty cool. Maybe I am too much of a nerd, but I think reading about the history of technology is simply a great read. On

  • by amightywind ( 691887 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @12:49PM (#11264438) Journal

    You might enjoy this site [folklore.org] which has lots of material written by Andy about the early years at Apple.

    • The folklore.org site is mentioned in the interview...

      There's another site with a lot of excellent content on the making of the Macintosh:

      http://library.stanford.edu/mac/ [stanford.edu]

      I think the "Technical Writing" part on that site is extremely valuable. It explains how the Inside Macintosh books were written and how that process affected the development of the MacOS APIs.

      As far as technical documentation is concerned, the original Inside Macintosh books are still some of the best that I have ever read.

  • by antispam_ben ( 591349 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @12:58PM (#11264515) Journal
    ... with Andy and most or all of the people on the design team, as well as all the other articles on and reactions to the Mac (What?!? Only one disk drive??? This things' gonna flop!).

    There was of course hype of the Mac and put-downs of the IBM PC line, I recall a line about the Mac having three crystals (for main processor, clock, and is there a third? Maybe I can spent $2 at the thrift store to buy one and find out), and the PC color card by itself having three crystals. There's lots more, partly about the social aspects of being on the team and being "paid like baseball players", and partly technical, programming the 68000 and 'keeping the registers full'.

    The '84 Byte would be a great thing to (re)read along with Hertzfeld's book, to put this in historical perspective.

    "It was Twenty Years Ago Today..." (Oh, it was LAST year - my, how time flies)

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly