Why These Subjects?

Some readers-- particularly those familiar with the many books about the Macintosh and Apple Computer-- will wonder how the subjects covered in Release 1.0 of "Making the Macintosh" were chosen. There were several reasons.

Importance of Overlooked Subjects

Some of these subjects haven't been explored very deeply, but not because they're unimportant. User groups, for example, were important early adopters and Macintosh enthusiasts; the more important ones also became software publishers, incubators for hardware and software developers, and springboards for entrepreneurs and technology journalists. User group newsletters also provide a source of information about how buyers and users thought about the Macintosh. Technical writing is one of those things that is normally invisible (unless some frustration-- bad writing, inaccessible online help manuals-- brings it to one's attention), but which appears to have played a previously-unremarked role in the development of Macintosh software.

Prior Work on the Macintosh

Every history is an attempt at storytelling and interpretation, shaped by the interests of the present and the work of previous historians. The Macintosh already has been written about extensively, and that literature influences this project's priorities in several ways.

For one thing, it attempts to fill some gaps in the story as told by Steven Levy (Insanely Great), Michael Malone (Infinite Loop), and countless others. Hardly anything has been written about user groups, technical documentation, or the Apple mouse. The Macintosh marketing program is well-known in marketing and PR circles, but has received less attention among historians. Previous writing on the Macintosh has also focused mainly on a small circle of programmers and designers especially close to Steve Jobs. Writers who have used the culture of the Macintosh project as a mirror of Steve Jobs' personality (usually with unfavorable conclusions) have likewise had little incentive to widen their perspective and look outside the circle of developer-celebrities.

In this, historians have unintentionally followed the cues of the Macintosh's advertising campaign, which chose a small group of people to represent the entire development effort and the spirit of the product. (Ironically, this is one of the lasting legacies of the advertising campaign.) None of these people were unimportant to the Macintosh's development, but there were many others who also contributed to the success of the project.

Other Stanford Projects

The subjects covered in Release 1.0 of "Making the Macintosh" also connect with Stanford's earlier exhibit on the development of the mouse by Douglas Engelbart. The Engelbart site ends with the famous 1968 Joint Computer Conference demo of the oNLine System; this exhibit continues the story of the mouse's evolution.

Available Sources

The contours of the archives also play a critical role in determining the scope of this project. No collection of papers gives equal attention to everything an historian would like; projects have to tailor themselves to make the most of what materials are available. The Apple Computer collection is strong in its coverage of marketing, and has an extensive collection of user group newsletters. The Apple papers and Jef Raskin papers together provide an excellent cache of material on the early history of the Macintosh project, particularly in the form of The Book of Macintosh.

Other sections rely more on interviews, and the personal collections of individuals. Interviews have proved an important source for information on technical writing and its role on the Macintosh project; the design of the mouse; development of the Macintosh marketing plans; and the early history of Macintosh user groups. Documents and photographs tracing the evolution of the Apple mouse has come largely from the individuals who developed it. As this project continues, we can only hope that other features of the Macintosh's history will benefit from the same generosity.


After almost twenty years, the Macintosh story has become a kind of Ur-text for Silicon Valley. In today's "Internet time"-paced business world, in which startups regularly provide sleeping space for young employees and PR consultants routinely cast entrepreneurs as heroic characters, accounts of the Macintosh development team's youth, rebellious brilliance, ambition, and drive-- which once seemed so distinctive-- now are extraordinarily familiar. The very success of the Macintosh story has made it commonplace: like modern architecture, its ubiquity has sapped its power to surprise. A new history must therefore find other ways to interest readers, by unearthing new facts, widening its cast of characters, applying new historiographic tools to its subject.

Document created on 14 July 2000;