Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Looking back to Apple's future

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

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"If you look backward in this business, you will be crushed. You have to look forward."

These are the words of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs when asked about celebrating the Mac's 25th anniversary.

While the landmark event is being remembered by user groups, the Mac faithful and those who worked on it, the company that gave birth to the Mac is ignoring it altogether.

"It has to do with Steve's values," said Andy Hertzfeld, a key member of the original Macintosh development team during the 1980's.

"Apple is a reflection of Steve and he doesn't want to celebrate the past. He always said the important work is that which you do today and tomorrow, not the work you did yesterday."

Mr Jobs' lack of nostalgia for the Mac, which has been credited with changing the way people engage with computers, was recently displayed in an interview with Wired magazine.

He said on his return to Apple in 1997: "I was looking for more room and I found an archive of old Macs and other stuff. I said, "Get it away!" and I shipped all that .... off to Stanford."

"Artistic tour-de-force"

Mr Jobs' unsentimental view has been a boon to the Mac community and people like Bruce Damer who runs the Digibarn Computer Museum near Silicon Valley.

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Apple's other co-founder Steve Wozniack has also been a big contributor to the museum which, among other things, celebrates all things Mac related. The artefacts include an original Mac, rare hardware and documents, the preliminary business plan, marketing materials and packaging.

"The project is a community effort celebrating an innovation that changed the world. Until the Mac came along, computers were a chore," said Mr Damer.

"There is something in the ether when you sit in front of a Mac. It's a creative space, a play space, a place I am going to have fun."

In his book about the times called "Revolution in The Valley" Mr Hertzfeld wrote that everyone on the team was driven by a real vision to make the Macintosh "a technical and artistic tour-de-force".

"One of Steve's things was it wasn't about software it was about everything. Every single aspect of the machine had to be the best possible," he told BBC News.

In the spirit of artistry, Mr Jobs had the whole team sign their names on the inside of the plastic case like an artist proud of his work.

"It's amazing the Mac has lasted so long and had such a positive impact on the world," said Mr Hertzfeld.

That's a view echoed by Guy Kawasaki, a software evangelist for Apple who was one of those originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh.

"The first time I saw the Mac, it was a religious experience. The angels started singing and the scales were removed from my eyes," he said.

"This was a machine that worked the way you expected it to work. We believed we would make people more creative and more productive and believed we were preventing world domination in the 1984 Orwellian sense by IBM.

"We were freedom fighters and we had a dream," said Mr Kawasaki.

"Macheads"

Central to the success of the Mac has been the community that has supported Apple through the good times and the bad. That included the years when the company was written off as having lost its way and the ink on one of its many obituaries was all but dry.

"There is a certain vindication that we believed in the Mac way back when and now its cool and accepted as a standard," said Raines Cohen of the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, one of the largest in the country.

"It does feel like the Mac community has been a part of that success. We were there during the darker times."

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The makers of MacHEADS, a movie about the Mac community, said there is a downside to this 25th anniversary.

"The movie explores everything from the early days to the current days but it ends on a sad note reminiscing on the possible end of the Mac community," said director and producer Kobi Shely.

"This is driven by the uncaring attitude of Apple. Steve Jobs is away from Apple at the moment, they are leaving Macworld and announcing they have their stores and online to reach people and now the community is left by itself.

"I think Apple should think twice if they really want to dump the thousands of people who are devoted to the company and who are passionate in a way you just don't normally see," said Mr Shely.

Mr Cohen disagrees but admitted that some of that sentiment was aired at the recent Macworld Expo in San Francisco earlier this month after Apple announced it would no longer take part.

"Macworld was our place and Apple came here and now they are not but I don't feel left behind.

"This is an opportunity for the community to take control of that environment without Apple. It's evolution. It's progression," claimed Mr Cohen.

"Everything else stinks"

While Apple might well be ignoring this landmark date in its calendar, a few of the original development team will be getting together for a private celebration.

Mr Hertzfeld, whose business card at Apple listed his title as "Software Wizard," recalled that in the early days the Mac project was treated almost like a joke.

"It was a tiny research project and no one thought it would amount to anything. Even after Steve got involved, most in Apple thought this was a Steve 'back to the garage fantasy'."

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"We, however, believed we were changing the world and we didn't need the rest of Apple to believe it. We just needed them to stay out of our way.

"Steve of course exacerbated tensions, though I don't think he meant to. He would go around the company saying the Mac is great and everything else stinks."

From the outset, Mr Hertzfeld said the Macintosh project was one he wanted to work on and when he went to ask if he could, Mr Jobs was not exactly ecstatic.

"He was sceptical if I was good enough and he said: 'Are you good enough? Are you creative?'"

"He then went on to ask others working on the project what they thought and liked what he heard. He then came to me and said 'You're working on the Mac.' It was a Thursday and I said I will start on the Monday.

"That wasn't good enough for Steve so he unplugged my computer and carried it away with him to the Macintosh building."

For Mr Hertzfeld, the rest is history.

For Mr Kawasaki, the time has come for another revolution in the computer world.

"Today there has been no great leap forward. There is nothing different.

"We need a computer that is to Macintosh what Macintosh was to the Apple II," said Mr Kawasaki.

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SEE ALSO
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