Origins of the Apple Human Interface - part 1b

From: Shirl <shirlgato_at_email.domain.hidden>
Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 07:29:06 -0600

Okay, so let's start at the beginning. I started at Apple on July 17th, 1980, and I just left there a few months ago. I was there for 17 years. This memo was written on July 18, 1980, so one thing I discovered when I left the big Xerox Corporation and went to this little Apple startup, was that you just really get engaged immediately and they put you right to work. One thing I was told, the day I got there, was that the user interface design was basically done, and they were just going to write it up and finalize it, and implement it, and that was the end of it. And it was too bad I took so long to show up at the office, because they were hoping that I could have contributed to it, but now there was no time left to do that. And this was the 18th, and they told me that all the decisions had to be made by the 23rd, and by one week later the external reference specifications had to be done, which was the complete spec, but we couldn't compromise quality at all, and so, what could I do between the 18th and the 23rd, to make sure we made all the right decisions?

So I started explaining how it was really necessary to do months of user testing, and careful iteration, and I gave my whole spiel about the right way to design software, and they said, "Well, sorry, we only have five days, and the weekend in there." [Laughter] So, we got together and we came up with a compromise, which was to lay out a schedule that was very aggressive, and people promised that they would meet their part. So let's go through the schedule -- this was the 18th.

So here was the schedule. Monday, we're going to run user tests, so -- well, we're all going to try it ourselves. Everybody's going to try Bill Atkinson's prototype. Bill Atkinson was the person building the prototypes at that time, and thinking up a lot of the ideas. And we were going to evaluate several issues that were going on. Then we were going to bring in, after two hours of that -- we were going to take a break for lunch. Then at one o'clock we were going to bring in Sue Espinosa, who was in charge of training, and also coincidentally is Chris Espinosa's mother, and then she was going to give her opinions about that, and maybe help us decide on what would be easiest to train in her opinion. And then at two o'clock we were going to discuss, for an hour, a couple more issues, and now we would be done. We will have discussed all the issues. And in between three and five o'clock we would present this all to Steve Jobs, and Steve would make the decision, which we knew would be definitely forthcoming. [Laughter]

And then on Tuesday we were going to take the things that Steve liked, and we were going to test them on subjects, from 9:00 to 10:00. Two subjects. [Laughter] Two more subjects from 10:00 to 12:00 -- we must have figured we'd be slowing down by then. [Laughter] 1:00 to 3:00, we'd evaluate the test results.

So that was it. Remember, that was supposed to be July 22nd. For the next 15 minutes or so, keep in mind that that was the schedule for July 21st and 22nd. And we actually did that. We did all those tests. We did talk to Steve Jobs. He gave his opinions. We did some more testing. And then Bill went to write up a user interface specification, external reference specification. I was a little worried, because we hadn't really done extensive testing, but we tested a couple things.

So this date, August 6, which as you may notice, a few days later than the deadline date that we had provided, but it took a while. And it said that you had one week to review and return your comments. So we were already starting to slow down a little bit here. And let's look at some of the names of the people who got this memo, because it will turn up to be important later in the story, or just interesting right now: Ken Victor, who is going to respond to it later, and Jef Raskin also. Barry Smith. In additon to that, notice we sent it to Mike Markkula, who was one of the founders of the company, and Steve Jobs. Trip Hawkins, who was the head of Product Marketing. We sent it to everybody in Lisa software group. We only sent one copy to Lisa hardware; they get to share. [Laughter] We sent it to every vice president we could think of, and to two people who became Apple Fellows somewhat later, Rod Holt and Steve Wozniak, who's here in the back today. I don't know if he remembers receiving this memo, but he probably does, it was pretty dramatic.

I think we did some things right. Bill started out by talking about who is the customer. So it wasn't just some easy to use computer, it was an easy to use computer for specific people. So, what was it? First of all, it's a single user workstation. That was in important point in those days. Well, it's still an important point if you work at Sun or something. And [it was] designed to enhance the productivity of the office worker. So our market was office workers. And it went on and talked about the hardware and so on.

It's more than a piece of hardware, though. It includes major software, and we had specific applications in mind: word processing, graphics, data management, and communications. It wasn't intended to run thousands of applications, not the Lisa. The concept that Trip Hawkins had was, they had done studies and they had found that most people, on the Apple II, ended up using only two or three applications. Therefore -- this was the great leap -- all we need to do is provide two or three applications, that's all anybody will ever want. It was an interesting theory, and Apple funded a whole project based on that assumption.

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Received on 2005-05-11 06:34:08

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