I think John Sculley said he was going to turn Apple engineers
into rock stars. So what's it like being an engineer at Microsoft versus
Apple? Are you a rock star?
It's hard to be a rock star if you don't live in Redmond, I think.
That came from Jobs actually. So I think that buzz has been around for a
good decade, if not longer. And Sculley, I think, just echoed what Jobs set
up and I think that's one of the problems. If you look at the mentality of
the people who come out of Apple, Jobs did make a lot of people from the Mac
group kind of very famous as programmers. And I think it's hurt them because
they got their first debut album and it's very hard to follow up with your
Look at General Magic. Those two guys are one of the best,
main contributors to the Macintosh?this is Bill Atkinson and Andy
Hertzfeld--and Steve made them kind of stars, demigods, and they struggled
to follow that up with something that was as revolutionary as the Mac. You might want
to tone that down a little bit so you don't have to feel like you have to
live up to your past work. Because the Mac was more of a phenomena of the
time, being in the right place at the right time. It was a great piece of
work that we did, but it was more the world was ready for it and that's what
made it such a success. It helps that there was very good implementation of
it but it was more so the fact that the technology was there and cheap
enough and the world was just waiting for it.
How come you didn't get sort of chewed up in that star-making machine?
But he just said the world cannot focus on 20 heroes. The world can
only focus on a handful of heroes and these are the people I chose. So at
that point, you kind of said OK. I kind of sneaked in here and there.
Well, I didn't make the cut. In fact, I used to complain to Steve
about. You know, my ego was bruised by
Are you glad that you didn't make the cut now?
There's nothing wrong with getting that excitement and getting the
credit when you do something good. What's bad is when it goes to your head.
And you've just got to be very careful and not believe somebody else's hype.
You know today on the Web and there are discussion groups
talking about say Newton, and they're talking about Walter Smith leaving
Newton, and you've just got to ignore this. It's basically gossip. It doesn't
mean anything. Sometimes you want to respond and say you guys got it wrong.
But other times, you just say, "This is the price of doing business." Like I
said, you've just got to ignore it.
Out of all the things that you've done, what are you most proud of?
That's a tough one. What I go for is to make people smile, to make
people enjoy what they're doing. I always like a UI design to be like doing
a soundtrack to a movie. The point is the user's work. You're not there to
get in the way of the user accomplishing a task or the user enjoying
themselves playing a game. The trick is make yourself fade away into the
background so you enhance their experience. And that's what a good
soundtrack will do for a movie. And that's what a good UI should do. I think
there are a lot of examples of UIs that are just in your face that I find
totally ridiculous and they become a joke unto themselves, which may be
fine. So anytime that I can make people accomplish something that either
they didn't think they could accomplish or make them accomplish it with more
fun than they had thought possible--anything to make it easier to view
stuff--it makes me smile.
So to put that down to one accomplishment, it's tough because that's what I
try to do everywhere. So if you look at Newton, the fact that you can walk
up to it and write. And you know, if the handwriting gods are nice to you, it
will recognize it. The point is you can walk up and do something that you
know how to do. You don't think, you just write. I guess my
favorite reaction is when enough users or enough purchasers buy the product
and then write you these nice long letters that say this thing is really
cool. Unfortunately, a lot of the products I worked on like Newton, you get
these die-hard fans that just love it, but there's not enough of them. And
Jaminator (an electrical air guitar toy) is the same thing. There are people
that wax poetically about Jaminator, but unfortunately there's just not
enough of them out there. So someday I've got to get it lined up right. But
I just say, you know, people are not ready for this stuff yet. I think you're
going to see that with Newton. That it does embody what we set out to do.
It's going to be a completely snappy experience and hopefully it will be
just as easy to use.
I noticed you have two really great loves: technology and
thrifting. One points forward one back.
I think trips to the thrift store are a very humbling experience.
When you find your product in a thrift store, you have arrived in a certain
way. And about two or three years ago, you'd start to see Mac 128Ks there.
And now you see Mac 512Ks there. We haven't seen Mac Pluses yet. But I've
heard of people buying Mac IIs in thrift stores for $40 so it's just, I think,
a way of showing you've arrived, that your technology is still
worth something. People didn't throw it away but they gave it away.
It's also just a good inspiration. Most ideas you ever come up with
have actually already been done before.
Another thing is there's some cool industrial design. I'll buy products just
because they look cool. And they're fun to hold. It's fun to look how
they're made just in terms of the materials and the shape.