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GUI Pioneer Jef Raskin Has Passed Away 353

Viridian writes "Jef Raskin, GUI pioneer, interface expert, Apple employee #31, and the man most credited with the creation of the Apple Macintosh, died of cancer on Saturday February 26, 2005. It was Raskin who named it after his favorite fruit, the McIntosh apple, although he said that he changed the spelling to "Macintosh" to avoid potential copyright conflicts with McIntosh, the audio equipment manufacturer."
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GUI Pioneer Jef Raskin Has Passed Away

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  • I sure hope... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ThomasFlip ( 669988 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:45PM (#11795636)
    Bill Gates pays his respects
  • by SallyMac ( 815623 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:46PM (#11795654) Homepage
    Steve is usually a touchy feely type guy, i'm surprised that there's not anything on the Apple site about it, however small.
  • Humane Interface (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rjordan ( 640052 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:49PM (#11795676)
    Well, oft criticized on here, I still hope his humane interface project keeps going...
    • Really bad timing, considering Raskin just got $2m funding to work on the Humane Interface. People can be so inconsiderate some times...
    • Re:Humane Interface (Score:5, Interesting)

      by buckhead_buddy ( 186384 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:45PM (#11796053)
      Jef Raskin's Humane Interface was eye-opening and invigorating for me even though I disagreed with some big bits. Now perhaps we'll see some developers open up to his thoughts when they previously rejected him because of traditional industry cliques, ip concerns, herd-like marketing, or just plain laziness.

      It's a sad, sad day; especially to lose another great mind to cancer. I just hope Jef's ideas may be taken even more seriously now that he's sloughed off this mortal coil.

    • I was totally surprised when, when I had heard about The Humane Interface Project from this Master creator of Machintosh and the real surprise was the project was hosted at SourceForge [] and Jef invited others whoever cared to Join this. Boy, thats a master coding his creation and you got to be careful with the invitation. Came to know later that Jef got $20 millon [] to develop the project and thought that, his work and dream is not going vain and he's got some support, would be quickening his effort and we cou
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:49PM (#11795683) Homepage


    There are few enough decent UI designers out there who understand what is actually important over what "looks real pretty". Here was a man who was more interested in it working for people, than it looking good on a poster.

    The original Mac interface is a design classic, where design is about function, not about style.

    So next time you design an interface or a web page remember the creator of the Mac. What you create will be WORSE than the Mac.. BECAUSE of all the colours and "clever" bits you used.

    • hmm.

      why do you compare a website to user interface of an operating system? my website might have one reason for it to exist, for example to say that "Tonight you will eat lemonades" - if the site said nothing else than that on big letters it would be perfect for what it was created for(for just saying that).

      I'll apploud anyone who can make THE work for doing real work(ironic ain't it? it isn't exactly that solved interface for doing real work - and that is what being functional is about).
    • I dunno. I always thought that looks real pretty should be synonymous with very effective. That's what I got after messing around with the old mac os interface. =/
    • A lot of Raskin's ideas were very text-centric and wouldn't be entirely applicable to people developing applications for processing graphics, for example, but I still feel that The Humane Interface should be required reading for anyone intending to develop software, even on an amateur basis.
    • by Leo McGarry ( 843676 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:58PM (#11796163)
      The blurb was incorrect. Jef did not design the Mac user interface. He had basically nothing to do with the Mac, in fact. He started the project with his idea for a computer that should be easy to use, but he left the Mac project in 1981, years before the team produced an actual computer.
      • by iocat ( 572367 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:02PM (#11797843) Homepage Journal
        Jef had a good idea, and he was a nice guy. Definitely although the Mac is remembered now more for its revolutionary UI, Jef had the "computer for the rest of us, PC as appliance" idea, which Jobs morphed quite a bit both before and after seeing what Xerox was up to -- Jef actually wanted Macintosh to use a tape drive, IIRC, to keep costs down.

        It's not taking anything away from Jef to set the record straight about who did what, he was a pioneer and we'll definitely miss him. I hope the humane interface project can survive without him.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    All my sympathy to his family and friends.
  • Thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ed Almos ( 584864 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:51PM (#11795692)
    Farewell sir, and thanks.

    Ed Almos
    Budapest, Hungary
  • Progammer at Work... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neutronica ( 863270 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:51PM (#11795698)
    He was one of my VERY few programming heros.
  • What a shame (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:52PM (#11795704)
    Controversial in his views, at least he had some mindshare and was pushing the envelope in innovation with his interface experiments. Rather than incrementally changing what has become the de facto UI over tha past 20 years, he was willing to step out of the box, get some metrics and push a vision for "easy to use" software and interfaces.

    Not just some crank with wild ideas, he was able to get some of his visions into practice and leverage that developmental capital into newer and more refined methods and idioms.

    We've lost a visionary folks, and that's just a shame. His loss hurts us all.
    • Re:What a shame (Score:4, Insightful)

      by crunch_crumble ( 842785 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:17PM (#11797958)
      Rather than incrementally changing what has become the de facto UI over tha past 20 years, he was willing to step out of the box, get some metrics and push a vision for "easy to use" software and interfaces.

      I absolutely agree. The current direction of (mainstream) user-interface design is incredibly dull. In Raskin's book The Humane Interface, some of his ideas throw up more questions than answers, but he at least articulates a genuinely different model of interaction from the current WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointers) mode of operation shared by Mac, Windows and Linux.

      He once remarked that there was little difference between Mac and Windows. I know that's likely to raise the ire of Mac users, but I think he was right. Any interface on the Mac can be duplicated on the PC (and vice-versa), and this includes the number of steps taken to complete a task. No, this won't necessarily make the PC more pleasant to use - the point is that both platforms share the same methods of interaction with minor (although important) differences.

      Consider Java: how could such a language promise cross-platform capability if these two operating systems were really so different in their behaviour and methods of interaction? Or iTunes? How could Apple write iTunes for Windows which pretty much mimics the same functionality as the Mac version if Windows didn't share the same fundamentals as the Mac?

      You can argue about the aesthetics of the interface, the general simplicity of operation the Mac has over similar tasks in Windows (and hence the general "user experience"), but none of this changes the fact that both systems share a common UI foundation. No-one seems to be challenging this existing framework - looking beyond it (gimmicky 3-D interfaces haven't impressed me) and that's why the direction of interface design feels so stagnant.

  • by trs9000 ( 73898 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <0009srt>> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:53PM (#11795721)
    I know we have discussed his more recent work on ZUI and whatnot here before and some people are a big fan of it and others are not. But I wonder what will happen with the project, or if it will be continued by others he was working with. He seems to be the one who really spear-headed the effort. Does anyone know? It would be a shame if he couldn't finish his project as he conceived it and it got dropped because there was no one to take it over. Condolences to anyone who knew him well.
  • Origins of the name. (Score:5, Informative)

    by thenetbox ( 809459 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:55PM (#11795729)
    Sad news indeed. :(

    Heres some more information I found about the naming of macintosh apples.

    "The Macintosh project began at Apple as one code-named Annie, and spearheaded not by Steve Jobs (he actually lobbied against the Mac project at one point) but by Jeff Raskin, a former computer professor and Apple employee number 31. Raskin is generally credited with quickly changing the codename from Annie to Macintosh, an obvious tie to the Apple brand. Macintosh was spelled differently than the apple variety, however, in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid trademark disputes. Apple itself, lore has it, was named by Steve Jobs for either his love of the Beatles (and their Apple Records label), his interest in health foods, or because of his fond experiences working in the apple orchards of Oregon during a brief stint at college there. Or for none of those reasons. Except for the short-lived Pippin operating system, Apple the company thankfully avoided any other product references to varieties of apple, the fruit."

    (taken from creativepro [])
    • That is not entirely correct. The Newton name is obviously apple related, although not a type of fruit, of course.

      Raskin is one of my personal heros as well. He will be missed.
    • This is not correct. Apple, and its bitten rainbow apple logo of old were tribute to Alan Turing whose personal problems that mostly stemmed out of being gay drove him to commit suicide by biting a cyanide-laced apple in 1954.
    • and spearheaded not by Steve Jobs (he actually lobbied against the Mac project at one point)

      It's interesting to think of what might have happened if the Mac had never come to fruition and Apple had just pursued the evolution of the Apple II line.
  • by ripbruger ( 312644 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:55PM (#11795730) Homepage Journal
    I have started reading his webpage and about The Humane Interface, and I have to say that this guy really knew what computers were for. For getting work done, to use as a tool for your tasks at hand. I think a lot more programmers could learn from him.
  • GUI King (Score:4, Funny)

    by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:55PM (#11795733) Homepage Journal
    With the greatest respect to the guy :)

    --Confirmation Dialog--
    Jef Raskin, are you sure you want to logout?

    [Yes] [No]
  • I bow my head (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jerry Smith ( 806480 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:58PM (#11795749) Homepage Journal
    He truly was one of my heroes, though I only realised it the last few years. Respect to him, condolances to them he left behind.
    *steps back and bows again*
  • That sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:59PM (#11795759) Homepage Journal
    I was looking forward to The Humane Environment (THE). It looked rather promising. I'm sure it will continue development, but without the man who actually had a good grasp on UI technology and THE behind it, the development is likely to go the wrong way. Imagine what would have happened if Stallman's Emacs was given over to Bill Gates to manage. We'd have wound up with a really hard to use word processor the also does calendaring, web browsing, e-mail composition, and a whole host of other things + Clippy. Oh wait... Beyond this, it must really suck for his family since he is of far more signifigance to them than he will ever be even to people who think he was a UI genius (myself inluded).
    • Re:That sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cookiepus ( 154655 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:19PM (#11795881) Homepage
      We'd have wound up with a really hard to use word processor the also does calendaring, web browsing, e-mail composition, and a whole host of other things + Clippy.

      Emacs does all those things too, sans (perhaps) Cllippy.

      On the other hand, at least they'd be integrated in some sane fashion, rather than sucking as they do currently.

    • It's funny that you bring up Stallman as an example since I thought his overarching goal was to create a free operating system. Instead he managed to develop a really good editor, compiler (both of which I use almost daily), and other tech, while failing in his original goal (practically speaking).

      My point is, the development may well go down a different path, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Re:That sucks (Score:4, Informative)

      by William Tanksley ( 1752 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @07:11PM (#11797917)
      The Raskin Center [] has been carrying on his work ... hopefully they'll continue it, especially with the funding they've been given. Oh, the name of THE has been changed, and it's scope has been expanded.

  • Thanks Jeff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mac os ken ( 732050 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:59PM (#11795760) Homepage Journal
    I found your insights to be spectacular. I used to work in a Software Etcetera and make fun of Macintosh computers all the time. Of course then I was a hardened Windows user pushing software. I'm glad I finally came around and bought a Macintosh. The interface simplicity, and how much of it Windows derived, really sold me and now I own three.
    ...and of course the stories about you at are an inspirational read.
  • Goodbye.
  • So long, and thanks for all the clicks, Jef. May you find the perfect interface you have dreamt of for so long in the hereafter.

    For ever in debt.
    • May you find the perfect interface you have dreamt of for so long in the hereafter.

      Are you kidding? Raskin would have no compunction whatsoever against lecturing God him/herself. He's probably out there right now talking God's ear off, saying, "This whole arrangement you have here -- angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim... Strict heirarchical systems tend to break down when they get too large. When new things don't fit, they either get placed randomly or in a giant 'misc' pile, and people can't fin

  • Sorry Jef (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theolein ( 316044 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:04PM (#11795797) Journal
    I hope you'll be more satisfied up there than you were down here. So long and thanks.
  • Hrm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ashpool7 ( 18172 )
    So much for this []?

    Bizarre UI. Would have been interesting if it had been cultivated.

  • Damn.
    Smart guy, excellent GUI designer, and someone who will be truely missed in the Apple Community.

    Hell, even my Mac mini looks sad.
  • SF.NET (Score:2, Informative)

    by dedazo ( 737510 )
    This is Raskin's SF project page []. He used to host a complete web site on the SF-provided home page (here []) with quite a lot of articles and essays, but it's gone now. You can still see parts of it in the Way bak machine [].

    He'll be missed.

    • Re:SF.NET (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I believe the site you are referring to has been moved to
  • Oh yes! The Stapler!
  • by Dave Burstein ( 863276 ) <> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:26PM (#11795916) Homepage
    From Linda Blum, his wife, comes this note: Dear Friends, Jef died this evening, surrounded by friends and family, with some favorite music playing. While I am overcome by a profound sense of sadness and am not looking forward the days, weeks and years ahead without him, I am also relieved that he did not suffer for a long time and that he is at peace and no longer in pain. There will be a memorial service, time and date to be determined. ----------- My first thoughts: We lost one of the great ones today, a good and generous man. Jef Raskin died of cancer this evening, after being sick for several months. A wonderful spirit and renaissance man, who inspired me and many others. He created the Macintosh project at Apple in 1979, naming it after his personal favorite fruit He left Apple to form Information Appliances, where he designed the Canon Cat with an innovative interface. He continued refining human interface design, publishing his ideas in The Humane Interface (Addison Wesley, 2000.) The Humane Interface ideas are being implemented in the Raskin Center project Archy, where is son, Aza, is a programmer. His artwork was displayed at New York's Museum of Modern Art. He conducted the San Francisco Chamber Opera Society and wrote the score for a movie, "Smog Patterns," shown on PBS. He has a patent for a "Construction Technique for an Airplane Wing," and was a noted model airplane designer, an accomplished archer, and an occasional race car driver. Website is .There is also a collection of photographs and history at tml Jennie Bourne and I are in the midst of making a movie about him .
  • by myrdred ( 597891 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:28PM (#11795927)
    Slashdot previously covered his project, and there is some interesting discussion about some of his ideas in this article [].
  • Huh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:37PM (#11795989)
    The only mention I can find on the entire Apple site (using their "advanced search") is something about "DB2 HyperCard Demo Disks" referring to the "Raskin-Bobbins Hypercard Stack". You'd think that someone of Raskin's stature and relevance to Apple's success would at least have an honorable mention somewhere.
    • Re:Huh (Score:5, Informative)

      by buckhead_buddy ( 186384 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:44PM (#11797177)
      I've found it pretty rare that something at the Apple site gets updated on the weekend unless it's very carefully pre-planned (which this was not).

      But considering that:

      • Raskin attacked the Mac [] in an October 2004 interview in The Guardian.
      • He wasn't a current employee
      • Corporate death notices sting corporations stock prices
      • There's further suspected but unpublicized animosity between Apple and Raskin
      My guess is that it probably won't be mentioned on Apple's website on Monday, but it will be all over many mac community websites [] by then.
    • You'd think that someone of Raskin's stature and relevance to Apple's success would at least have an honorable mention somewhere

      When the 128k mac shipped, the signatures of the people who created it were molded on the inside of the case. Here's the collection []; Jef's name in the bottom-left corner.

      That's probably the best mention Apple gave Raskin - his name's inside every 128k and 512k mac.

  • I recall wandering in my fave computer shop at the times, I was a proud Apple //c owner. There were the Lisa beast and the Mac. I could play with them a little. I was really blown away when I experienced the desktop metaphor and how it worked, it was the first time i could use a new system without touching a manual for command syntax.

    This guy made a difference.

  • by doodleboy ( 263186 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:52PM (#11796113)
    There are a lot of great stories on Andy Hertzfeld's [] site about the early days of the Mac, including many of the inevitable personality conflicts that arise when you have a lot of folks working under a deadline to get a huge project shipped. A fascinating site - I read it end to end when I came across it.

    My sense is that while Jef had the original vision for the Mac it was Burrell Smith who did much of the actual implementation. If the Mac must have a father, Burrell might be the better choice.

    Here's the funniest take [] on the whole thing.
  • by dirkstoop ( 863286 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:11PM (#11796267) Journal
    The following documents provide a nice insight in the man's work at Apple on the Mac project: ndex.html/ []

    especially the article on Design Considerations (M4.1) makes a nice read:

    "If the computer must be opened for any reason other than repair (for which our prospective user must be assumed incompetent) even at the dealer's, then it does not meet our requirements. Seeing the guts is taboo. Things in sockets is taboo (unless to make servicing cheaper without imposing too large an initial cost). Billions of keys on the keyboard is taboo. Computerese is taboo. Large manuals, or many of them (large manuals are a sure sign of bad design) is taboo. Self- instructional programs are NOT taboo.

    There must not be a plethora of configurations. It is better to offer a variety of case colors than to have variable amounts of memory. It is better to manufacture versions in Early American, Contemporary, and Louis XIV than to have any external wires beyond a power cord.

    And you get ten points if you can eliminate the power cord."
  • Here [] is the most recent interviews before he died. He is a very creative guy, that's for sure.
  • by eomnimedia ( 444806 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:31PM (#11796441)
    We UI developers of various industries owe Jef their deepest gratitude. We also owe you, his family, our gratitude as well. Thank you for letting him work the long hours, for helping him endure what seemed like fruitless (no pun intended) meetings that probably frustrated him from time-to-time, and for listening to him rant aloud about his interface musings as he bored you for hours (don't the great ones often do that?).

    I'm sure you realize how much Jef's work has affected, no, changed, our lives. Everyone in the modern world has been touched by Jef's work. Probably more so than most great artists of any genre. Not everyone likes the Beatles, but almost everyone has used a computer interface at work or at home that has been influenced by Mr. Raskin. The users, of course, don't think of Jef every time they click a dialog box, but society is different at every level because of his work. Computers are accessible and usable to almost everyone because not everyone understands what a "command line" is.

    Our prayers, thoughts, and thanks for Jef Raskin and his family on this sad day. Godspeed Jef.

    Sincerest thanks,
    Users and User Interface Developers Everywhere
  • Contribution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Words like "aggrandizing" and "arrogant" seem ill suited to a man quick to answer his email, even from unknowns like me. Anyone who doubts Raskin's contribution should pick up a copy of "The Humane Interface" and read it, and try to find anything to compare it with. After Doug Englebart, I don't know anyone who made a similar contribution to usability.
  • I never really owned a Mac, but every time i tried one (from the original Mac to the newer ones running OSX) i am floored by their user interface. When Apple jokes everyone steals UI ideas from them, they do it with reason.

    My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
  • by Cee ( 22717 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:12PM (#11796886)
    It was Raskin who named it after his favorite fruit, the McIntosh apple, although he said that he changed the spelling to "Macintosh" to avoid potential copyright conflicts with McIntosh, the audio equipment manufacturer.

    Once again.. for the millionth time: it's not about copyright when you are dealing with brand names (like M[a]cIntosh), it's a trademark issue.
  • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:16PM (#11796914) Homepage Journal
    Raskin, whether you liked him or not, forced you to think about the issue of usability in the light of learnability, which are too often very separate things. It is possible for an interface to be hard to learn, yet very usable once you understand how it works, and god knows the opposite is also true. This is obviously not a very commercial idea, and possibly why he never got on with Steve Jobs.

    Raskin knew that usability isnt just what looks good in the showroom, but what endures and helps the user once the eye candy has worn off. Very few have been prepared or able to make that leap.

  • by mtec ( 572168 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:25PM (#11796994)
    until someone empties the Trash.
  • by writermike ( 57327 ) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @05:50PM (#11797242)
    I see a lot of comments here regarding whether Raskin was really the cornerstone of the Macintosh. I don't think any of US can really answer that, but it seems to me that Mr. Raskin fits Apple's definition:

    Here's to the crazy ones.
    The misfits.
    The rebels.
    The troublemakers.
    The round pegs in the square holes.

    The ones who see things differently.

    They're not fond of rules.

    And they have no respect for the status quo.

    You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

    About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

    Because they change things.

    They invent. They imagine. They heal.

    They explore. They create. They inspire.

    They push the human race forward.

    Maybe they have to be crazy.

    How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written?

    Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

    We make tools for these kinds of people.

    While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

    Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
  • another voice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) <{fidelcatsro} {at} {}> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @06:00PM (#11797344) Journal
    I dont know what hapens after we die , but if your out there somewhere then i hope this gets to you

    Mr Raskin
    The first computer i ever used was a zx spectrum , the first computer that ever made me feel pasionate about computing was a mac.
    I myself am severly dyslexic and dysphraxic and during my younger years had great difficulty in schooling, had it not been for the mac in our school i feel i would still be marked slow , the interface allowed me to put my thoughts down so other people could understand , it allowed me to excell and fill in a void which would have crippled my education.
    I owe you and your team alot as do many others who were in my situation.
    so tonight i shall open a 12 year old speyside single malt and drink a glass to honour your memory.
    Thank you for all you have done for the world

    Gregg Taylor Kincaid
  • by digigardener ( 863536 ) on Monday February 28, 2005 @02:36PM (#11805546)
    Slashdotters, I have been working with the Raskins for several years to document Jef's life and work for the DigiBarn Computer Museum. I have turned Jef's page at the museum site into a memorial page for him. See what Jef was all about (more than just GUIs) at:
    Jef Raskin: A Life of Design [] and the rest of the DigiBarn is of relevance to this topic at:
    DigiBarn Computer Museum []
    Bruce Damer, Curator

Slowly and surely the unix crept up on the Nintendo user ...