Annotated transcription of the lecture “Origins of the Apple human interface”

Recently, the Computer History Museum has uploaded on its YouTube channel a lecture called Origins of the Apple human interface, delivered by Larry Tesler and Chris Espinosa. The lecture was held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, on October 28, 1997.

Being extremely interested in the subject myself, and seeing how apparently little thought is being given today to the subject, I wanted to quote a few selected excerpts from the talk, just to show what kind of hard work creating a user interface was back in the day when the Apple Lisa was being developed. It turns out that isolating this or that bit was futile, as the whole talk is made up of such cohesive, engrossing discourse. So I chose to transcribe it almost entirely, and add a few personal remarks here and there. You can read the full annotated transcription on my main website.


→ The Macs Apple was selling in 1996

I thought it would be interesting to offer an overview of the Macintosh models Apple was selling in 1996 and make a few related observations. In a nutshell: there was some level of organisation in what many have called the chaos of Macs available back then, and despite the long list of Mac models, the families and form factors were just a few; one of the main causes that generated confusion in the Macintosh product line was the frequent rebranding, and the progressive meaninglessness of the Performa line as the consumer choice versus the Power Macintosh as synonymous of ‘Pro’ machine.

Continue reading the article on my main website.



This is one of my favourite Macintosh computers never produced.

During the design investigation (circa 1992-1996) that eventually led to the creation of the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (codenamed “Spartacus”), lots of different ideas, mockups, prototypes were produced. In my previous entry, A seed of the iMac G4 design, I showed one of the first concepts. When, at a later date, the general design for the machine was getting closer and closer to the final result, the Apple IDG (Industrial Design Group) “presented smaller and larger versions of the concept to illustrate how a Spartacus product family might look.”

Here I’m quoting again from the book AppleDesign — The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, by Paul Kunkel with photos by Rick English (Graphis 1997). The passage continues:

The smaller version, called Sparky [pictured above, it’s Plate 396 in the book], was designed by Tim Parsey using a 10.4-inch flat panel display and internal components borrowed from a PowerBook 550c (the Japanese version of Blackbird). Conservative in its rear geometry compared to Spartacus, the Sparky design is more complex and eye-catching on the front, with an interesting mix of color and texture, inward-curving surfaces, framing elements around the display and hard buttons, such as a moon-shaped control that puts the unit into sleep mode and a sun-shaped button that wakes it up. Speaker holes below the screen convey the idea of sound travelling outward, which strengthens its visual appeal.

This image and the text above are the only mentions of the Sparky prototype in the book. While I really love how the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh turned out, I find the Sparky design to be cleaner and less cluttered (the absence of a CD-ROM unit on the front helps a lot), and I think it’s a true pity this machine was never finished and produced. The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh design still doesn’t look dated, and I find Sparky to be even less so. It would have been a great next-generation Colour Classic, and despite having been designed in October 1994, it looks much better, more visually pleasant than the later iMac G5 and pre-aluminium Intel iMac’s form factor.

A seed of the iMac G4 design

Through the libraries of the local Polytechnic University, I fortunately have access to a seminal book: AppleDesign — The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, by Paul Kunkel with photos by Rick English (1997). The book went out of print not long after being published, and it’s an amazing treasure trove of information on Apple’s design approaches and investigations from the early Apple II days until 1997. And that means not only a lot of details about several projects which never saw the light of day, but also a lot of photographs of prototypes and mockups illustrating the various ideas and explorations within the projects — whether they led to a known Apple product or not. Needless to say, I find this to be incredibly fascinating, and I return to this book on a regular basis even though I know it quite well by now.

Since I’ve just talked about the most recent addition to my collection, a 17-inch iMac G4, I’ll share a brief extract from that book showing a design idea that, while considered many years before, and for a different project, might be viewed as a first seed of the iMac G4 design.

The Pomona design investigation

(Image source: KCG Computer Museum)

The final design of the iconic Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (codename: Spartacus) was the result of a long investigation that had started a few years before, in the autumn of 1992. The investigation was internally code-named Pomona. From the AppleDesign book:

“For years, I’d wondered how the computer would evolve from a box into something more physically compelling that would fit better in the home,” says Bob Brunner [the Director of Apple’s Industrial Design Group at the time]. “In survey after survey, customers told us they want ‘power systems’ with expansion slots and extra drive bays that allow them to add to their system at a later date. That demand forced us to adopt a box-like design to hold the cards and drives. But most home users never add to their system, which leaves them with unused slots, drive bays that remain empty, and a box they don’t really need.”

Eventually, says Brunner, “home users should realise they only need a standard setup with a single expansion slot. When that happens, we can stop thinking of the computer as a plastic box and instead give it a shape that expresses its function, using materials such as wood, metal and leather that are more in tune with the home environment.”

To anticipate this change, Brunner launched the Pomona Design Investigation in October 1992, wrote a two-page design brief, and invited IDG’s designers, as well as consultants from Silicon Valley, Tokyo and New York, to submit concepts in an effort to redefine the home computer, invent shapes to better address user’s needs and employ materials that would function as well in a domestic setting as Apple’s platinum grey plastic works in the office. […]

The Pomona design brief was distributed to IDG’s designers and five outside consultants — Eric Chan of EC Design (New York), Tangerine (London), IDEC (Tokyo), Montgomery & Pfeifer (San Francisco), and IDEO Product Development (San Francisco). Their task was to create a desktop Macintosh with high object value using miniature components, high aesthetic content, and alternative materials. […]

As Brunner expected, the Pomona brief sparked an avalanche of ideas, many of which did away with the traditional computer box or shrunk it to a barely noticeable size. Eric Chan and his staff at Ecco Design generated dozens of sketches showing tabletop, desk-mounted and freestanding concepts.

One of such concepts took inspiration from Richard Sapper’s Tizio lamp, with the motherboard and drives housed in a desk ‘base’, and a flat panel display mounted on a long, adjustable arm. Sounds familiar?

(Source: P. Kunkel, AppleDesign — The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group, page 212)

Above you can see a scan of plates 388-389 from the AppleDesign book. The notes on the sketch should be fairly readable, while for sake of completeness I’ll transcribe the caption printed in small text under the photo:

Pomona Design Investigation: Hard Models. 388 Phase One Sketch for a Desktop Computer, by Eric Chan (Ecco Design, New York, NY), inspired by Richard Sapper’s Tizio Lamp. 389 Tizio Concept. Industrial Design: Apple Computer: Robert Brunner, based on a sketch by Eric Chan. Dates of Design: January-April 1993.

1993 means almost ten years before the introduction of the iMac G4. Now, I don’t know if the iMac’s design was achieved internally through a completely different, independent route, or if the designers went back looking at past ideas and thought about giving this concept a second chance, but it’s a nevertheless intriguing connection.

eWorld again

Apple eWorld

Image from Vintage Computing & Gaming

Last year on this day I forgot to update this blog with the traditional eWorld mention. eWorld was Apple’s ill-fated online service that debuted in June 1994 — almost 20 years ago — and was shut down on March 31, 1996. Every March 31, from 2010 on, I published an eWorld-related post with some interesting links and resources about eWorld. Here are a few more:

Past eWorld entries here on System Folder:

Hello, iPod

Hello ipod

To sweeten the vintage weekend, I just wanted to share a couple of iPod-related things. The first one is the video Apple made available on its site in October 2001 when the original iPod was introduced. I found it in one of my backups, possibly lying there for the past 13 years. It’s not hard to get hold of it if you look around on the Web (I’m sure YouTube is your friend), but I’d like to offer a direct link here for documentary reasons: iPod introduction video.

I must say, of all the Apple videos featuring Jonathan Ive, this is the one where Ive looks the most excited and possibly smiles the most. You’ll also notice someone who later left Apple to work with Palm…

As for the second thing, I thought I could assemble a useful table listing which iPod models can be managed by PowerPC Macs running Mac OS 9.x to Mac OS X 10.5.8 and which system software and iTunes version are required. I still don’t understand why more modern iPods — such as the 7th-gen. iPod nano or the 5th-gen. iPod touch and later — support Windows software as old as XP but require Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (and an Intel Mac, of course).

In case you acquire an old iPod model, in this table you can easily see your Mac/PC’s minimum requirements to be able to manage it.

System requirements (Mac OS, Windows, iTunes version) iPod models
Mac OS 9.2 or later
Mac OS X 10.1 or later

iTunes 2.0 or later

Original iPod (iPod with scroll wheel)
Mac OS 9.2.2 / Mac OS X 10.1.4 or later (Mac OS X 10.2 or later recommended)
Windows Me, 2000, XP (Home or Professional)

iTunes 3.0 or later

iPod with touch wheel (2nd-gen. iPod)
Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later (Mac OS X 10.2 or later recommended)
Windows Me, 2000, XP (Home or Professional)

iTunes 4.0 or later

iPod (Dock Connector) (3rd-gen. iPod)
Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later (Mac OS X 10.3 or later recommended)
Windows 2000 (SP 4), XP (Home or Professional)

iTunes 4.2 or later

iPod mini
Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later (Mac OS X 10.3 or later recommended)
USB 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.4 or Windows 2000 (SP 4) or Windows XP Home or Professional

iTunes 4.6 or later

iPod (Click wheel) (4th-gen. iPod)
iPod U2 Special Edition
Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later (for FireWire)

USB 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later or Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 4.7 or later

iPod photo
iPod colour display
iPod U2 Special Edition (colour display)
Mac OS X 10.2.8 or Mac OS X 10.3.4 and later (Mac OS X 10.3.6 or later recommended for use with low-power USB ports)
Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 4.7.1 or later

iPod shuffle (1st gen.)
Mac OS X 10.2.8 or Mac OS X 10.3.4 and later (Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later recommended)
USB 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later or Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 4.7.1

iPod mini (2nd gen.)
Mac OS X 10.3.4 and later
Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 5.0 or later

iPod nano (1st gen.)
Mac OS X 10.3.9 and later
Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 6.0 or later

5th-gen. iPod
Mac OS X 10.3.9 and later
Windows 2000 (SP 4) or later, or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 7.0 or later

5th-gen. iPod (U2 Special Edition)
5th-gen. iPod (late 2006)
5th-gen. iPod (U2 Special Edition – late 2006)
iPod nano (2nd gen.)
Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 7.0 or later (2006)
iTunes 7.4 or later (2007/2008)

iPod shuffle (2nd gen.)
Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 7.4 or later

iPod nano (3rd gen.)
iPod classic
Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 7.4 or later

iPod touch (1st gen.)
Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 2) or later

iTunes 8.0 or later

iPod touch (2nd gen.)
Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 3)

iTunes 8.0 or later

iPod nano (4th gen.)
iPod classic (120 GB)
iPod shuffle (3rd gen.)
Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
Windows Vista or Windows XP Home or Professional (SP 3) or later

iTunes 9.0 or later

iPod shuffle (3rd gen. late 2009)
iPod nano (5th gen.)
iPod classic (160 GB – late 2009)
iPod touch (3rd gen.)
Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
Windows 7, Vista, or XP Home or Professional (SP 3) or later

iTunes 10 or later

iPod nano (6th gen.)
iPod touch (4th gen.)

(Data collected using Mactracker.)

The Apple Network Server resource


From Wikipedia:

The Apple Network Server (ANS) is a short-lived line of PowerPC-based server computers manufactured by Apple Computer from February 1996 to April 1997, when it was discontinued due to poor sales. It was codenamed “Shiner” and originally consisted of two models, the Network Server 500/132 (“Shiner LE”, i.e., “low-end”) and the Network Server 700/150 (“Shiner HE”, i.e., “high-end”), which got a companion model, the Network Server 700/200 (also “Shiner HE”) with a faster CPU in November 1996. They are not a part of the Apple Macintosh line of computers; they were designed to run IBM’s AIX operating system and their ROM specifically prevented booting Mac OS. This makes them the last non-Macintosh desktop computers made by Apple to date. The 500/132, 700/150, and 700/200 sold in the U.S. market for $11,000, $15,000 and $19,000, respectively.

Apple Network Servers are not to be confused with the Apple Workgroup Servers and the Macintosh Servers, which were Macintosh workstations that shipped with server software and used Mac OS; the sole exception, the Workgroup Server 95—a Quadra 950 with an added SCSI controller that shipped with A/UX—was also capable of running Mac OS. Apple did not have comparable server hardware in their product lineup again until the introduction of the Xserve in 2002.

Last month, my friend the excellent Cameron Kaiser has updated a section of his awesome website. The section is called Floodgap ANSwers: The Apple Network Server Resource and it’s dedicated to this very machine. In the introduction, Cameron writes:

In 1998, I was a working stiff at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and the bookstore had an Apple Network Server 500/132 for their inventory system which the vendor wouldn’t support anymore. It was pristine and barely used, and sat in a corner. They asked me if I wanted it for anything, and I thought it would be fun to play with, so I wiped it and started its new long life. stockholm served as my do-everything server for 14 years until I finally decommissioned it in 2012 for an IBM POWER6, but it still works today and has a place of honour in my machine room. It was never flawless, but it was dependable and fascinating and a machine deserving of more than a footnote in Cupertino’s corporate history. This site, therefore, is my weak attempt at a memorial to the best enterprise-class machine Apple ever disowned.

Make sure to check out the various links Cameron provides on his page. I enjoyed the ANS FAQ and the AIX on ANS FAQ because, admittedly, I didn’t know much about this particular line of Apple servers and the operating system they run. I hope you’ll enjoy Cameron’s resource as much as I did. And remember to add his main website to your bookmarks, too. The typical System Folder reader will find a lot of valuable information and projects there.

Cult of Mac interviews Adam Goolevitch, Mac Collector

This article appeared more than ten days ago, so I’m probably the last to report it. Sadly, these days I’ve been dreadfully busy and I couldn’t update this site with the frequency I had in mind. Nonetheless, Adam Rosen’s interview of Adam Goolevitch is a must-read for all vintage Mac users, collectors and enthusiasts out there. Especially for the great photos of really unique systems accompanying it — a 128k Mac with a 5.25″ Twiggy floppy drive, a clear Macintosh SE, and a lot of Lisa 1 and 2.

Goolevitch has a few interesting anecdotes as a Mac collector, which I won’t spoil. And by the way, he’s selling that 128k Mac with Twiggy drive to someone (or some museum or organisation) who can really take care of it. The asking price is $50,000: it’s a lot, but according to Goolevitch “the prototype Macintosh 128k is the only complete example found so far.”

I am not a collector of such calibre, but I have had a few curious adventures myself over the years. Read The strange cases of vintage Apple hardware sellers, Part 1 and Part 2 for some examples of what and whom I had to deal with.

Classic Tech

While performing some Web searches related to vintage technology, I encountered Classic Tech, an interesting blog by Michael Nadeau, author of the book Collectible Microcomputers. I very much like how the blog is organised, with brief entries outlining the profiles of various companies and their hardware products, some of them quite obscure and unknown to me. Each ‘company profile’ provides a short history and the tech specs of the machine presented. There are also some lovely photos, like this one of the Barreto MicroMaster (1982):

Barreto MicroMaster 1982

The site is not Apple-specific, but if you love vintage tech, it’s definitely worth bookmarking. Also, you should buy Michael’s book too.

Apple at a glance, May 1982

Thanks to a tweet by Jason Scott, I could download this beautiful 1982 Apple brochure from the Internet Archive, and I suggest you do the same if you love to have some bits from pre-Macintosh history.

The brochure is focused on one of the most short-lived machines in Apple’s history, the Apple ///. Here are a couple of images to tease you:

The Apple /// in all its glory

But even more impressive is this spread showing the available peripherals:

Look, sir, paddles!

The biggest gap between that computing era and our present time I think is best represented by another spread with a series of internal expansion cards which customers could purchase to achieve the most varied tasks. Two examples (the text is taken from the brochure):

  1. The Integer BASIC Firmware Card provides Apple II Plus users access to a variety of programs written in Integer BASIC. It contains hardware and software controls that allow it to electrically replace the existing Applesoft BASIC firmware in Apple II Plus computers.
  2. The Apple II Hobby/Prototyping Card and the Apple /// OEM Prototyping Card are modular-printed circuit cards on which you can build custom interfaces for the Apple II and the Apple ///. They accommodate most integrated circuits and components and have built-in facilities for attaching a variety of edge connectors and switches to your circuits.

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, that big rectangular box under the monitor is a ProFile external hard drive, and had a whopping 5 MB (megabytes) of storage space… As I said, you should download this just to have an idea of Apple’s cutting-edge technology almost thirty years ago.