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INSANELY GREAT: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MACINTOSH covers the research and development that led to the first 128K Mac and the struggles involved to make the continued evolution of the Macintosh possible. Predecessors of the Mac and ideas that made their way into the first computer with a smiling start-up screen are discussed in loving detail (the author is a big fan of the Macintosh) -- the mouse, icons ...
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INSANELY GREAT: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MACINTOSH covers the research and development that led to the first 128K Mac and the struggles involved to make the continued evolution of the Macintosh possible. Predecessors of the Mac and ideas that made their way into the first computer with a smiling start-up screen are discussed in loving detail (the author is a big fan of the Macintosh) -- the mouse, icons and other discoveries that revolutionized the way people work with computers.
Along the way, the reader gets a sense of the people who contributed to the various Macintosh teams: Steve Jobs, with his "reality-distortion field" that prodded the team to create the near-impossible; John Sculley, the former Pepsi CEO brought in to facilitate the growing up of the Apple company; and many other key members of the Macintosh teams including Bill Atkinson, the genius behind MacPaint and later, HyperCard.
As it turns out, Bill Atkinson did not originally plan for a menu bar on top of the screen. It sort of migrated upward, like cream rising to the top. Atkinson wanted the commands to be geographically predictable, the same place in every application. For that reason, he rejected pop-up windows [as had been used in Xerox's PARC computers]. Then he got the idea of a menu bar -- a constant presence from which one could evoke a menu of commands by pointing and clicking. At first he put the bar at the bottom of the active window, then after some testing moved it to the top. But putting the menu bar on top of a window presented a problem: when the user shrank the size of the window, you couldn't get the headings to fit. (Microsoft's Windows uses this approach, and suffers by it.) So finally, at [user-testing fanatic Larry] Tesler's urging, he moved it to the top of the screen. Users quickly learned where the commands were under the individual headings. Atkinson was impressed that they could implicitly visualize where a command might "live" on the screen, moving the mouse over the heading, dropping down the menu and going right to the location in one fell swoop. It was a case of totally internalizing the illusion of geography in cyberspace -- you would "go" to a menu choice that didn't really exist until you created it.
Steven Levy's INSANELY GREAT isn't only the chronicle of a single machine; it's a chapter in the story of the personal computer's ongoing evolution. Readers who may have never used a computer without icons or a trash can (or Recycle Bin) may want to learn how the Macintosh made the computers and operating systems that followed its introduction were made possible.
In this "holy scripture for loyal clickers of the mouse" (San Francisco Examiner), veteran technology writer Steven Levy zooms in on the Mac and the fortunes of the unique company responsible for its evolution. Includes a new afterword on the PowerMac.
Posted September 26, 2014
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