Origins of the Apple Human Interface - part 8

From: Shirl <shirlgato_at_email.domain.hidden>
Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 07:23:43 -0600

Now, here's the big change. The Star had come out a year earlier than this, and we were all told by management and ourselves, "Don't pay any attention to that. We've got a product to ship." But in everybody's heart they kind of felt like "You know, most of the Lisa's easier to use than the Star, but there's one thing about the Star that is really, really nice, which is those little icons on the desktop." There was icon envy that was very serious, and we weren't allowed to work on it. But around March of that year some of the guys got so troubled by it that they started working at home on weekends on an iconic filer, we called it. And at first it was a big secret, and they started letting people in on it a little bit at a time, and finally everybody found out about it, and there was a major uproar that people would dare to make changes at this late stage. But, they'd already implemented it. And so you couldn't complain about the schedule impact. [Laughter]

The person writing the manual thought it was kind of a good idea, so she kept saying it wouldn't affect her schedule [laughter], so nobody knew what to do. So I made a deal with Trip Hawkins, and Wayne Rosing, who was the engineering manager at that time: we'll run user tests, and let the users decide. So I ran tests, and you know what? It turned out that the interface we had, which I won't bother to show you, but it was kind of more like Find File -- that's the closest thing I can think of -- was actually equally good in terms of ease of learning, equally easy to use, same error rate, very low, people understood both, there was no difference. And we already had one, so why did we change? The last question I asked everybody is, which did you like better? And they all liked the picture one better. And so we made a decision that had nothing to do with ease of use, nothing to do with ease of learning, nothing to do with error rate. It wasn't a human factors decision at all, in the traditional sense. It was a decision based on what customers liked.

And there's a whole history I won't go into here about the icons. They didn't actually come from the Star, they came from something IBM did. I'm not going to get into that. Long story. You can read the proceedings of Apple vs. Microsoft lawsuit or something to find that out. [Laughter]

Okay, so this is my last slide here. This was a memo that included on it Chris Espinosa, who was in the Macintosh group at that time. And the Macintosh people, who had been doing a totally different user interface, at some point decided they really ought to do some subset of the Lisa interface instead. And so they wanted to get a lot of ideas from us, as they designed their user interface. We started copying the Mac people on it. And with that, September '82, I'll turn it over to Chris.

Q. You know back in the days when the arrows were the single scroll bar, did it take a second mouse button to move it in the other direction?

LARRY TESLER: No, you used one for both. Why don't we, if you want, we can talk about that after the talk. I forgot that I had a videotape here -- is that monitor turned on? What I've got here is just 30 seconds, because the tape is really bad, of one of the very first user tests, in July of 1980. And the one I have here, Bill and I took turns, and this one I'll be showing you is Bill with a subject. You can't see the subject. Most of the tape, all I can see is the out of focus back of Bill's head, but for about half a minute we can actually see the screen of the Lisa. So it's really quick, you'd better get a good look.

[PLAYS THE VIDEOTAPE -- NOT TRANSCRIBED] See, here's that menu at the bottom of the window, this is really early. And there's that highlighted selection the person made with the mouse. And he just explained something very simple, and she didn't understand it, so he's starting all over. And now we get to see his hair, so I think we'll stop. Okay, so there's nothing much to get out of that, but I did promise to show some early Lisa user tests. Now I've done it.

Given the time, I think we're going to save questions to the end, and let Chris take off on his. Great. Thanks very much. [Applause]

CHRIS ESPINOSA: As Larry said, the work that we did on the Macintosh human interface dovetailed with the end of the very fruitful period of Lisa human interface design. I cannot believe how much work they went through in a short period of months in the summer of 1980, to put together what we still see today in the human interface of the Macintosh, and the human interface of Windows. What was really interesting to me was that when Larry first proposed this talk to educate some new people at Apple, from some companies we'd acquired, on how the user interface came to be, that a lot of the people he was referring to, a lot of the people who are co-copied on some of the documents, a lot of the work that they drew on, really had nothing to do with the graphic user interface, but had to do with a long standing user interface community at Apple that had evolved in a totally separate organization for a totally separate strain, and that was the Apple II and the Apple III human interface effort that was going on in the Personal Computer Systems Division, which was by that time physically remote down in the big black triangle shaped building at the intersection of 280 and Lawrence Expressway, called the Triangle Building or by then the Bermuda Triangle, because it's where the Apple II group had been moved to die. [Laughter]

The thing you have to understand about the crucial difference between the Lisa-Macintosh human interface effort and what was going on in the Apple II group was not the difference between graphic human interface and text-based human interface, though that was an important part of it. The crucial difference was that in the Lisa and Macintosh, the engineering groups were completely integrated in, and the driving forces behind, making the computer easier to use, whereas in the Apple II the evolution of that had been that the impetus for making the computer easier to use, and which programs were selected to make that, had come from the Publications Department, the Training Department, and the department doing demonstrations for in-store retail sales, and I was a member of that group. Out effort was primarily to mask the complexity of the real underlying software that we were already shipping, by putting sugared user interfaces on top of the real interfaces. And by putting training programs on top of the real computer programs. This was -- remember the Apple computer by 1980, boy, we'd been around for three years. We had a long history behind us in the personal computer industry. And we had a lot of accumulated legacy software that we couldn't just haphazardly change, we really had to work on it.

One of the documents that I have here is a document; I've got it on video here, although I don't think it will be that easy to read.

VIDEOTAPE: ... manual is consistent and provide a consistent and familiar and productive experience to readers of manuals. Bruce Tognazzini took the concept of the ... [sound fades out]

This is that document, and this is the change history of the Apple II human interface guidelines, that show the first draft Bruce Tognazzini claims to have written in September of 1978. A second draft in March of '79, third draft in mid-1980, fourth draft with Steve Smith in early 1981, and then it got into the Macintosh group in 1982. I started working on it in late '82, and that's when I incorporated many of the things from the Lisa efforts. And then it moved back over into the Apple II group, to cover the Apple II graphic user interface. But it originally started as an Apple II text human interface document. And it came originally from Bruce's efforts with J. D. Eisenberg, writing an application called Apple Presents Apple, which was the main in-store, or first user demonstration program for the Apple II.

Bruce started out -- well, I don't know where Bruce started out, but when we encountered Bruce Tognazzini in his long and checkered career, he was the proprietor of a computer store in San Francisco, which is where the Apple Corps of San Francisco used to meet. And that's how he got into the Apple community, by selling Apple computers. So he had front line experience in what happened when a person encountered a personal computer for the first time. When he came to Apple he started writing demo programs with J. D. Eisenberg. And one of the things that they did was, they tested on real users in real situations, where you bring somebody who's never seen a computer before, much like the Lisa group was testing people off the street, or new employees, put them in front of this program and gave them no advice whatsoever.

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Received on 2005-05-11 06:34:03

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