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Macintosh designer linked to Google+ user interface

Google+ circles, swooshes, and fadeaway menus can be attributed, in part, to one of the original designers of the Macintosh software, Andy Hertzfeld.

Among the many tidbits in Steven Levy's piece about Google+ in Wired yesterday, one worth picking out is that the new social network's design can be attributed to Andy Hertzfeld, one of the team members who worked on the first Mac.

Hertzfeld joined Google near the end of 2005, and has put his design strokes on the company's newest project. In Levy's story, he notes that Hertzfeld was effectively given free rein to "flex his creative muscles," the result of which was given the OK by the normally minimalist Google co-founder Larry Page.

"I've heard in the past that Larry Page he didn't like animations but that didn't stop me from putting in a lot of animations in, and Larry told me he loves it," Hertzfeld told Levy. "Maybe Apple's resurgence had a little bit to do with it."

Google+ is Google's latest social effort. Like Facebook, Google+ lets users share all sorts of content with others, as well as track it in a consolidated stream. It also bundles together a number of Google-owned services like Picasa, Picnik, Buzz, and Google Talk. The service, which made its debut yesterday as a "field trial," is still a far cry from being open to the public, with many Google employees not even being able to get access to it.

The circles feature in Google+
The circles feature in Google+ Josh Lowensohn/CNET

One of the crowning design elements in Google+ is "circles," an interface for grouping together users into different privacy sets. You can, for instance, make a circle for family, and another for co-workers. Google has included a tool for doing this efficiently just by having users drag and drop, with a person's icon dropping into place like a gumball to show that the addition was a success.

Hertzfeld famously dropped out of graduate school at University of California at Berkeley to join Apple in the summer of 1979, later working on the Macintosh team alongside Bill Atkinson, Burrell Smith, Steve Wozniak, and (now Apple CEO) Steve Jobs. Hertzfeld specifically wrote some of the initial Mac system software including the user interface toolbox, window manager, menu manager, and control manager. After Apple, Hertzfeld went on to co-found Radius, General Magic, and Eazel, later starting up the site, and writing "Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac was Made."