Jef Raskin

Originator of the Apple Macintosh

Jef Raskin, computer designer: born New York 9 March 1943; married 1982 Linda Blum (one son, two daughters); died Pacifica, California 26 February 2005.

Jef Raskin, computer designer: born New York 9 March 1943; married 1982 Linda Blum (one son, two daughters); died Pacifica, California 26 February 2005.

Jef Raskin earned a place in computer history as the originator of the Macintosh computer, launched by the Apple Computer Corporation in 1984.

His original concept was for an "information appliance" that ordinary people could plug in and use with the minimum of fuss and learning - rather like a "toaster with a keyboard". In 1982, however, he resigned from Apple in a power struggle with the firm's youthful founder Steve Jobs. Although the Macintosh subsequently became one of the design icons of the 20th century, this owed very little to Raskin's original conception - though he did give the machine its name (in tribute to his favourite California-grown apple).

Born in New York in 1943, Raskin developed wide-ranging academic interests. He graduated from the State University of New York with two undergraduate degrees, Mathematics in 1964 and Philosophy in 1965. He then enrolled for a PhD in philosophy, but abandoned it for postgraduate studies in computer science and electronic music. He held various teaching jobs before starting a business making model-aircraft kits. In 1976 he set up another business creating software and writing computer manuals - whose clients included Apple Computer.

In 1978 Raskin joined Apple Computer to become manager of publications. The company was in hyper-growth following the success of the Apple II computer, the machine that started the personal computer revolution. The company needed successor products, and in 1979 Raskin obtained permission to set up an information appliance project. The hopes of the firm, however, lay in a much bigger project headed by Jobs. This computer, the Lisa, was the first personal computer to exploit the graphical user interface developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the early 1970s. It featured a mouse, windows and icons - now universal in personal computers.

After Apple Computer went public in 1980, Jobs was ousted from the Lisa project because of his quixotic management style. He then took over Raskin's Macintosh project. A clash of egos between Raskin and Jobs, 10 years his junior, was inevitable. Jobs insisted on incorporating the Lisa technology into the Macintosh, which smothered Raskin's original information appliance concept. Raskin particularly objected to the use of a mouse, which he considered inefficient. He left Apple in May 1982.

The Lisa went on sale in 1983, but it was so expensive that few were sold. In January 1984 the Macintosh, with similar facilities to the Lisa but at a more affordable price, was launched to universal acclaim, although it never secured more than a 10 per cent market share.

Following Raskin's departure from Apple Computer, which left him comfortably off from the sale of stock, the remainder of his career was divided between entrepreneurial activities, user interface research and evangelising, writing, teaching, and music. He established Information Appliances Inc in 1982, in order to develop his vision of a personal computer. His design was taken up by the Canon photocopier company and sold as the Canon Cat. It was not a popular machine, however, and was soon withdrawn from the market.

Raskin's firm ceased operations in 1989. He became an independent consultant in user interfaces, and boasted several blue-chip clients, including IBM, NCR and Xerox. He wrote columns for computer magazines and, when the internet took off in the late 1990s, articles for on-line journals such as Forbes ASAP and Wired. His musical activities included a spell as conductor of the San Francisco Chamber Opera Company. He wrote two books on user interfaces, and in 2001 established a firm, Humane Interfaces LLP, further to develop and commercialise his ideas.

Raskin harboured a lasting resentment at the lack of recognition for his role in the Macintosh. History's verdict is likely to be that, although he set a revolution in motion, it was Jobs and others who turned the Macintosh into a design icon.

Martin Campbell-Kelly

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine