Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Jef Raskin Died

"What? Who?"

You know how much I like my Apple Macintosh iBook, and Macintosh computers more generally. Its fair to say that my life would have been different if Jef Raskin (he thought the second "f" in the name was redundant; his legal name is Jef) had not invented the Macintosh in 1978, while working at Apple. He was employee #31 in the company.

I began reading up on his career yesterday when I read the news of his death from pancreatic cancer. Raskin's was the kind of pancreatic cancer that kills quickly. His diagnosis came in December and he died last Saturday. We had a good friend in New Hampshire, the Director of the public library in the town where we lived, who died the same way a number of years ago. He was only in his 40's, and died in six weeks from the diagnosis. Steve Jobs, founder and current Chairman of Apple, was given a similar diagnosis nine months ago, but his was deemed a curable kind, and seems to have gone into remission after treatment.

Raskin was a Renaissance Man for the modern age. He was an artist, a musician, an adventurer, an engineer and a philosopher, among many other accomplishments. He jealously guarded his right to be known as the one who came up with the idea for a computer that ultimately became Macintosh, while acknowledging the contributions of many others that led to his insights into what a computer ought to be like. Those insights led directly to the Macintosh Operating System, MacOS, and to every other graphical user interface, including Microsoft Windows.

I'd like to be able to say that there's a Key West connection in all of this, but I don't have one. Grant me this temporary diversion.


P.S. Here is a more comprehensive obit from the Times of London.

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