Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Skunkworks Project At Apple

Ron Avitzur tells the incredible story of where the Macintosh Graphing Calculator comes from:

"I used to be a contractor for Apple, working on a secret project. Unfortunately, the computer we were building never saw the light of day. The project was so plagued by politics and ego that when the engineers requested technical oversight, our manager hired a psychologist instead. In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.

I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple's doors, so I just kept showing up."

Isn't this how most great software is being done? Not by design committees, not by a large corporate programming staff, but by a small group of talented and dedicated and slightly crazy people. This is how Bill Gates and Paul Allen developed their Altair Basic on Harvard University's DEC PDP-10 in 1975, or how Bud Tribble, Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld built the original Mac OS under Steve Jobs' pirate flag at Apple, or how Eric Bina and Marc Andreessen created NCSA's Mosaic browser.