Jef Raskin did NOT like Steve Jobs

Note: I’ve been meaning to blog about this since I came across it last month, but haven’t had the time…

Normally, this kind of thing doesn’t grab my attention, as I have little interest in anything related to Steve Jobs or the Macintosh, but this caught my eye.  For those who don’t know – likely anyone who is unaware (or has forgotten) that Apple made computers before Macintosh (David Pogue, I’m looking in your direction) – Jef Raskin gave birth to what would eventually become the Macintosh long before Jobs had anything to do with the project.  Woz designed the Apple II.  Dr. Wendell Sander and Dan Kottke designed the Apple III.  Other companies designed the iPod and its interface.  And that pretty much sums up Jobs and his responsibilities at Apple.  At least according to Jef Raskin, who didn’t have too many kind things to say about the Apple co-founder.

If you’re unfamiliar with the pre-Macintosh history of Apple Computer and the days leading up to the introduction of the computer for the rest of us, take a minute and read through Steve Weyhrich’s excellent narrative history of Apple here.  You see, Apple, Inc.’s revisionist history gives all the credit to Jobs for bring Macintosh to market but the reality is, Raskin had already done much of the design groundwork and the project was well under way when Jobs forced his way on to the team (and subsequently forced Raskin out the door when the two disagreed over design ideas).  Jobs had little to do with the design of the Apple-1 or Apple II – that was Woz – and his legacy for the Apple III, Apple’s first attempt at at business machine, was to design a case that caused overheating and other problems which contributed to the ultimate failure of the machine.

So other than the Reality Distortion Field – which admittedly, has done wonders to nurse Apple back to health in the 13 years since his return – has Jobs really done that much for Apple?  Well, he did kill several underperforming, money draining projects and streamline Apple’s production systems.  And he has a knack for hiring smart people who do know a thing or two about design.  But when it comes to the true design genius at Apple?  Probably not as much as Jobs would like you to think…

3 thoughts on “Jef Raskin did NOT like Steve Jobs

  1. Mestiphocles

    “Jobs gets all the credit for bringing Macintosh to market” — and he should — bringing Macintosh to market is objectively one aspect of what he did. Many of his contributions to the design of the Mac are also beyond dispute — Hertzfeld and others witnessed them first-hand, as described in Hertzfeld’s book.

    Let’s be clear. Jef Raskin’s Mac was a 6809-based machine with a maximum of 64K RAM and no mouse. And the entire Mac software story, the user interface design, occurred under the direct leadership of Steve Jobs.

    As far as I’m aware, Jef Raskin is the only person directly involved with the original Mac project who’s ever given any large portion of the credit for the design of the Macintosh to Jef Raskin.

    This isn’t to say that Raskin’s vision was necessarily bad or unworkable. If you want to see Jef Raskin’s undiluted vision for the Mac, look no further than the Canon Cat ( It’s very interesting and unique, but it’s not a Mac, and no unique features from the Cat have been adopted elsewhere.

    Also, I think it’s very unwise from a perspective of historical accuracy to dismiss Steve Jobs’s contribution to the design of Apple’s earliest products. There would not have been an Apple II without Steve Jobs. This is beyond dispute — read any of the numerous books detailing Apple’s early days. How much he contributed to the product design itself seems less clear. Various accounts indicate that he influenced the case design, and probably pushed Woz on specific features to include in the design. Read, for example, the sections of Stan Veit’s history book detailing Veit’s personal interactions with Steve Jobs.

    Remember, also, that Woz would have been happy continuing to sell naked PC boards — or, heck, just working at HP for the rest of his life.

  2. Steven Weyhrich

    The headline of this article is certainly correct; from email that I received from Jef Raskin while he was still alive, it is clear that he had no great love for Jobs. And regardless of the details of any of the books on the market that describe the history of Apple Computer, Inc (Raskin didn’t think much of any of them, either), it is clear from them all that Jobs is a tyrant to work for, regardless of whether or not his ideas are good or bad.

    As Mestiphocles stated, with Jobs there would have been no Apple II – heck, there would have been no Apple Computer. The Apple-1 would have been just another computer circuit board in the dust bin of history. Jobs had the drive to create a company, market the product, and push for the Next Great Thing when it appeared on the horizon. Wozniak was a great computer designer, but it was Jobs who made sure that it shaped up into a great final product.

    Jobs’ talent was not back in the 1970s and early 1980s what it perhaps is today. If the stories I have read about his last days at Apple before being ousted are true, he was ready to dump the Mac in favor of something else better and more amazing. This was one of the things that caused executives with more business experience at the company to try to marginalize him. He was (perhaps still is; who knows, those at Apple who talk don’t stay there long) a kind of loose cannon, just as ready to shoot you as to praise you. His behavior is reputed to be rude and bullying to those who disagree with him.

    Nevertheless, even if he doesn’t know ANYTHING about design and cannot actually create any piece of computer electronics on his own, it is absolutely true that his personality and leadership has resulted in the greatest company turn-around in history, and a string of hit products that are defining the technology landscape. Agreed, the products that are hits do not necessarily ORIGINATE at Apple, but he can take a good idea and turn it into a great implementation. Mac OS X, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad are all examples of not-invented-here but certainly made-fantastic-here products.

    From the beginning, Jobs knew how to surround himself with the smart people who could create products that would do well and sell well. And his input on the design process has usually been to know what to leave out, when some engineers would want to include everything and also the kitchen sink.

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