Jef Raskin, Mac pioneer, dies at 61

The expert on computer interfaces, and Apple employee No. 31, launched the Macintosh project.

Jef Raskin, the computer interface expert who launched the Macintosh project for Apple Computer, died Saturday at age 61.

The author of "The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems," died of cancer at his Pacifica, Calif., home, according to his family.

Raskin, who named the Macintosh after his favorite fruit, joined Apple in January 1978 as employee No. 31. The Macintosh was launched in 1984, but Raskin left Apple in 1982 amid a well-documented dispute with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Raskin was an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, and a visiting scholar at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the 1970s when he first visited Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC. (Apple is often accused of copying Xerox's graphical user interface--GUI--into the Macintosh operating system).

"When PARC was in its first few years I was often a visiting academic there, taking part in discussions and viewing with delight some of the developments going on there; I trust that people there also took pleasure in finding in me someone who was already on much the same user-interface wavelength," Raskin later wrote. "I didn't have to be sold on the idea that UI and graphics were of primary importance to the future of computing."

Raskin said he told Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple's other co-founder, about what he had seen at Xerox the first time he met them in their garage in 1976, but that he stopped visiting Xerox when he went to work for Apple "to avoid any possible conflicts of interest."

Raskin reportedly left Apple after Jobs increasingly muscled in on the Macintosh project.

After leaving Apple, Raskin designed Canon Cat, a small computer with a text-based user interface that did not make use of either a mouse, icons or graphics. Some blamed poor marketing on the part of Canon USA for the computer's short life.

In later years, Raskin worked on The Humane Environment, a system incorporating his interface concepts with open-source elements within a Zooming User Interface.

Raskin earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics and philosophy from the State University of New York and a master's degree in computer science from the Pennsylvania State University.

 

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