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On Thursday, September 11, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Paul Kunkel, author of APPLE DESIGN.
Paul Kunkel: Hello, barnesandnoble.com audience. Thanks for sitting in. Let's go.
Paul Kunkel: Microsoft is a huge but not a big bad company. Over the years, they have profited from the work of others and gradually introduced their own innovations. Recently they have extended Apple a helping hand that is most welcome. But make no mistake The true innovations made over the past 20 years have come from Xerox (the work at Xerox PRC launched the Personal Computer Revolution) and Apple (which popularized the work that Xerox did). Microsoft is a truly great company. But being the biggest does not necessarily make you the best.
Paul Kunkel: By far the most interesting concept I saw was a cross-platform computer designed in 1985, code-named Jonathan. That's right. In the spring of 1985, Apple engineers, working with their design consultant Frogdesign, came up with a machine that would run Macintosh, MS-DOS, Windows, Apple II and Unix -- all at the same time. It was beautiful, black, and the most exciting piece of technology to be developed since the Macintosh. But Apple management refused to release it. You will see it for the first time in my book. Had Apple released Jonathan in 1985, the entire history of personal computing could have been very different. Read the book to find out why.
Paul Kunkel: Very much so. First of all, with Steve Jobs back at the company on a part-time basis, the atmosphere is very much like 1982 to '84, during the development of the Macintosh. The sense of expectation on the Apple campus is tremendous. I predict that Apple will be a $50 stock in a year's time. What are they developing? That's a secret. Let's just say, they will define the leading edge of personal computing in 1998-2000 the same way they did from 1984 to 86. It's a very exciting time.
Paul Kunkel: Looking at industrial design as closely as I do, I am naturally interested in anything that expresses itself in three dimensions automobiles, architecture, furniture, and consumer products of all kinds. I believe that, just as the Gothic architect defined the Middle Ages, just as the painter defined the Renaissance, just as the novelist defined the 19th century, it is the designer who defines and informs the late 20th century. Their work, in ways both subtle and overt, shape the world around us, and in so doing, shapes how we view ourselves. The strange part is, we have no idea who most of these people are. Therefore, I look and learn and record. To be honest, it is curiosity that drives me to look at subjects like this.
Paul Kunkel: Take my word for it, there is not a bitter bone in Steve Jobs's body. Actually, his return to Apple is a vindication. And his relationship with Gates is a complicated one. Jobs admires Gates for his single-minded determination. But he would never want to be Bill Gates. The recent announcement with Microsoft is no way a concession. For Apple, it is an opportunity to bridge the gap that now exists between the Macintosh and Microsoft worlds, and by doing that to give Apple users a wider array of software from which to choose.
Paul Kunkel: In the spring of 1995, I realized that 1997 would mark the 20th anniversary of the personal computer -- and the 20th anniversary of Apple. Armed with this insight, I approached Robert Brunner, who was then director of the Apple Industrial Design Group. I had long thought that IDG, as they are called, did the most interesting and important work at Apple. Basically, they were the ones who gave shape and meaning to the most important technology of our time. I asked Bob whether I could camp out at IDG, interview the designers, and turn it all into a book. I then went back to the beginning, found Apple's first designer (now living in Vermont), and traced the story up to the present. What I came away with was a saga of triumph, pain, blood, sweat, and tears. A lot of it could never go into the book, unfortunately. What interests me about computing? The power it gives me to roam the world at will. The pleasure it gives a writer, in translating my work with ease. It's also a great way to waste time.
Paul Kunkel: That's a hard question to answer. There are three people One is Jerry Manock, the man who designed the original Macintosh. An entire book could be written about this man an engineer by training who was given the chance of a lifetime, designed one of the icons of the 20th century, then, at the height of his achievement, had the rug pulled out from under him. Burned out, he fled California in 1984, a few months after the Mac was released, and finally landed in Vermont, where he runs a small design shop. Jerry Manock is an interesting case of what can happen in the high-pressure world of Silicon Valley. The second most interesting person is Hartmut Esslinger the most ambitious, flamboyant, and tenacious designer I have ever met. Hartmut is the founder of Frogdesign and is famous for making grand statements. You have to read the book to discover how he finagled his way into Apple, changed their culture from within, and gave Apple some of its greatest designs. The third person is a designer who currently works at Apple Daniel DeIuliis. More than an industrial craftsman, Danny is an artist who applies an almost philosophical approach to everything he does. He is the author of the Macintosh Color Classic, the PowerBook 500 series, and the current Newton MessagePad. Danny is a true original.
Paul Kunkel: Sorry to disappoint you. The wrist-mounted computer shown opposite the table of contents is not a real product. It is what designers call "eye candy" -- a concept designed to push the engineers to think beyond the status quo. The wrist-mounted computer, called TimeBand, was designed by Bob Brunner, who then bought an ad in a design magazine and displayed the concept as a way of attracting hot young designers to work at Apple. Basically, Bob wanted to tell people that Apple does more than gray boxes. Am I tired of pagers, cell phones, etc? No, because I do not use them. Actually, I feel sorry for people who are forced to use such devices. Email, on the other hand, is a godsend....
Paul Kunkel: I wrote the book on a PowerBook Duo 280c (the smallest PowerBook Apple made at the time). At home, I plugged it into my DuoDock, which makes it a full-functioning desktop. On the road, it's a dream. For that, I thank its designer, Gavin Ivester, who now works at Nike.
Paul Kunkel: There is probably a simple reason for your Macintosh freezing too little memory, a fragmented hard disk, too many extensions, and using certain Microsoft programs that begin with the letter W are well-known culprits. System 8 is extremely good. As for Mac versus PC, I would choose a Mac any day, because the Mac (with the current version of Virtual PC) can run Windows 95 very quickly and still run all your Mac applications. No PC can do that. Yet I do like the new Toshiba Infinia PC. Perhaps that's because it was done by an ex-Apple designer, Bob Brunner.
Paul Kunkel: I have an article in the current issue of House Beautiful on how I bought and furnished a house using resources on the Web. My next book must remain a secret. But it is similar to the Apple saga in scope and breadth. And like the Apple story, it too begins in a garage. You will see the book in the fall of 1998.
Paul Kunkel: Actually, computers have two names The official name, which is slightly boring, like PowerMacintosh or MessagePad -- these names must pass intense scrutiny with marketing, legal, and other departments within Apple. Hence they are rather bland. The more interesting names are the internal, unofficial, thoroughly inventive code names that developers use, such as Green Jade, Junior, Spartacus, Cabernet, Blackbird, Stealth, Uzi, etc. Sometimes code names gets Apple in trouble. Once they named a product -- a desktop computer with a built-in CD-ROM -- Carl Sagan, because everyone figured that Apple would sell "billions and billions" of them. Sagan learned this and sued Apple. As a result, the lawyers decreed that no code name can refer to a living person or product trade name. After that, the next code name was LAW (short for Lawyers are Wimps).
Paul Kunkel: Actually, I never studied industrial design formally. My training is in the history of art and architecture. I gravitated toward design over time, partly in response to the inventive work being done by people like Ettore Sottsass and the folks at Apple, and partly out of a realization that modern art was running out of gas. Over the past ten years, I have read incessantly, visited designers around the world, and written many articles for iD magazine in New York, and thus have as good a training in industrial/graphic/product design as if I had attended the Rhode Island School of Design.
Paul Kunkel: Design and engineering are male-dominated fields, like mathematics and hard science, because schools tend to push men toward these fields and women away. It's a terrible situation that is now changing for the better. Actually, two women figure in my book. One is Susan Kare, the graphic designer who invented those unforgettable icons that appeared on the screen of the original Macintosh. The other is Susanne Piece, who joined Apple in 1990 and designed some of the most memorable products of the past five years, including the ubiquitous Macintosh Mouse. Her work on that one product has probably influenced more lives (and hands) than any other product.
Paul Kunkel: This is my first online interview, so it is a very new experience. Actually, it is much more intimate than an in-person interview. Rather than worry about performing, I can concentrate on giving clear, concise answers. For this reason, online interviews probably give readers a better idea of who a writer is and what the book is about. As of now, I am doing no New York store appearances. But if you leave me a message at Kunkel@Interport.net, perhaps we can arrange a one-on-one.
Paul Kunkel: Currently the Macintosh is the only computer that is now affected by the year 2000 problem. The code written back in 1983 and '84 was designed to work well into the next millennium. That alone is a good reason to buy a Mac over a PC. Remember, at the heart of every Windows PC beats a primitive heart called MS-DOS.
Paul Kunkel: Yes, the Newton MessagePad is widely available for about $900. But before you plunk down your money, take a look at the latest Newton product, called eMate. Rather than force the user to navigate the system with a stylus on a screen, the eMate has a small built-in keyboard. It is an amazing product, designed by one of Apple's newest design stars, Thomas Meyerhöffer. Its curvy translucent green case is worth the $800 Apple is charging for this machine. Also, it works like a dream. I recently bought one and may give up my PowerBook as a result. It's definitely the computer of the moment.
Paul Kunkel: Apple's worldwide headquarters is in Cupertino, California, on a site that in the late 1960s was an orchard. Rick English is a friend and an inspiration to all who know him.
Paul Kunkel: If I had one wish, it would be for a computer that did not force me to change my behavior to accommodate its limitations. This has been the key challenge that Apple's designers have been trying to solve since the Macintosh was born. It would have to be small, like a PowerBook (or eMate), have a large color screen, be powerful enough for speech recognition, and save files and do other routine chores in the background without having to ask my permission. And it should cost no more than $1,500, not the $3,000 to $4,000 that a top-of-the-line computer costs these days. If such a machine could ever be designed, I would bow down to that person.
Paul Kunkel: In truth, there was no archive when I started this project. In November, 1982, the Apple Industrial Group's Archive was accidently destroyed. Every concept model, photograph, and sketch (except one) for the Macintosh, the Lisa, and all earlier products are now buried 1000 feet down in the Sunnyvale landfill. All that existed when I started the project was a spotty collection of photos, boxes of transparencies at Rick English's studio, a cache of photos at Frogdesign's studio and the collective memory of everyone who had designed for Apple. From these disparate elements, I pieced the story together. Over time, I discovered secret hiding places where Apple kept its "hidden history" products they had designed, engineered, and in many cases manufactured, but never allowed the world to see. Discovering these long-forgotten gems was the highlight of my project. Macworld magazine will feature this hidden history in their online magazine (www.Macworld.com) in the coming weeks.
Needless to say, working with and talking to the current design team was every writer's dream. There is lots of cool stuff in that lonely little building on Valley Green Drive.
Paul Kunkel: Actually, the newest Macintosh does not render your old Mac obsolete. I know plenty of people who still use 10-year-old Macintosh II computers. Remember, I use the Duo 280C, which is four generations behind the current product line. If you think about it, one of Apple's biggest problems has been developing products that are too good -- they don't break. They don't become obsolete, because the company continues to support them. The Mac is the only technology that allows 10-year-old hardware to run current software. So don't despair. Just keep using your old machine and trade up when your pocketbook allows. The only thing you're sacrificing is speed, not functionality.
Paul Kunkel: Computers joined the world of painting and sculpture in the early 1990s with products like the Mac Color Classic and the design language that Apple calls Espresso. The current 20th Anniversary Mac is the highest expression of that credo.
Paul Kunkel: Apple designers have won every award you can imagine, and their products are in every museum collection that matters, from the MOMA in San Francisco to obscure German and Japanese museums that collect design and "cult" objects. Probably the biggest award they've won recently was the Chrysler Award, which gave them $10,000. They took the money and bought cool black leather jackets.
Paul Kunkel: In the next five years, Apple will migrate toward the Intel platform, go head-to-head with Microsoft in the operating systems arena, develop a network computer that will take the country by storm, and evolve again as markets and buyers' tastes change, which they inevitably will. The only constant thing in this story is change. Kind of like life itself.
Paul Kunkel: Goodnight, everyone. It's been a pleasure to see your questions. I hope it was as much fun for you as it was for me.