Jef Raskin, widely regarded as the father of the Macintosh, has died at the age of 61. Raskin, who also wrote widely on human interface design, had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to a statement released by his relatives.
Raskin, who died at his home in Pacifica, Calif., on Saturday night, joined Apple as employee No. 31 in 1978 and headed the Macintosh development team from its founding until 1982. In addition to coming up with the name of the product, Raskin shaped the original concept of the Mac as a computer that would be easier to use than anything that had come before it, as well as being more affordable.
Andy Hertzfeld, an early member of the Mac team best known for his work on the first Mac operating system, described Raskin as “the initiator of the project, so it wouldnt be here if it wasnt for him.”
During his time on the Mac team, Raskin also hired his former student Bill Atkinson, who later went on to develop both MacPaint and HyperCard, the first popular hypertext system. “One of the things Raskin taught me was that the person was important and the computer wasnt,” said Atkinson.
Raskin left Apple in 1982, after his relationship with founder Steve Jobs turned sour. The two had differing visions of the Mac, with Raskin favoring a more specialized, cheaper machine than the general-purpose computer wanted by Jobs. Unsurprisingly, given his position as founder and chairman of the board, Jobs vision won out.
Raskin went on to work with Canon, designing the Canon Cat—a powerful word processor that included many unique ideas for data manipulation and that was based in part on his concept of the Mac. Although the product was released in 1987, it failed to sell widely, due in part to the increased popularity of word processing applications on conventional computers.
After Canon, Raskin continued to work on user interface design. In 2000, he published a book titled “The Humane Interface,” the ideas from which are being developed into a program dubbed The Humane Environment. THE is intended to combine the power of a command-line interface with the ease of use of a GUI. Work on THE—now renamed Archy—will continue under the auspices of Raskins son, Aza Raskin.