There’s a cool-but-geeky (but cool) post over at the Pacfic Tech site, telling the story of how Graphing Calculator came to be written and included on the first Power PC-based Macintosh computers.
Basically, it was done by two guys sneaking into the building. Ron Avitzur wrote it up. He’s my new favorite hero.
My favorite parts:
At 1:00 a.m., we trekked to an office that had a PowerPC prototype. We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and launched the application. The monitor burst into flames. We calmly carried it outside to avoid setting off smoke detectors, plugged in another monitor, and tried again. The software hadn’t caused the fire; the monitor had just chosen that moment to malfunction.
NOTE: I’ll bet it probably was an AppleVision 1710 monitor. Apple was always replacing those. Although the timeframe is a little off…
I asked my friend Greg Robbins to help me. His contract in another division at Apple had just ended, so he told his manager that he would start reporting to me. She didn’t ask who I was and let him keep his office and badge. In turn, I told people that I was reporting to him. Since that left no managers in the loop, we had no meetings and could be extremely productive. We worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
Oh, man. My dream job. Imagine a world without managers… it’s easy, if you try…
Most engineers at Apple had been through many canceled projects and completely understood my motivation.
I think this is true at many companies, especially post dot.bomb.
My skunkworks project was beginning to look real with help from these professionals as well as others in graphic design, documentation, programming, mathematics, and user interface. The secret to programming is not intelligence, though of course that helps. It is not hard work or experience, though they help, too. The secret to programming is having smart friends.
Interesting… as well as a compliment and support for open source development.
Once we had a plausible way to ship, Apple became the ideal work environment. Every engineer we knew was willing to help us. We got resources that would never have been available to us had we been on the payroll. For example, at that time only about two hundred PowerPC chips existed in the world. Most of those at Apple were being used by the hardware design engineers. Only a few dozen coveted PowerPC machines were even available in System Software for people working on the operating system. We had two. Engineers would come to our offices at midnight and practically slip machines under the door. One said, ‘Officially, this machine doesn’t exist, you didn’t get it from me, and I don’t know you. Make sure it doesn’t leave the building.’
Waitwaitwait… the folks developing the SYSTEM SOFTWARE only had a “few dozen” PowerPC machines to work with? NO WONDER the first PowerPC units shipped ran System 7.x so FRIGGIN’ SLOOOOOOW.
And the reason they did it all:
I view the events as an experiment in subverting power structures. I had none of the traditional power over others that is inherent to the structure of corporations and bureaucracies. I had neither budget nor headcount. I answered to no one, and no one had to do anything I asked. Dozens of people collaborated spontaneously, motivated by loyalty, friendship, or the love of craftsmanship. We were hackers, creating something for the sheer joy of making it work.”