Jef Raskin (March 9, 1943 – February 26, 2005) was an American
human–computer interface expert best known for conceiving and
Macintosh project at Apple in the late 1970s.
1 Early life and education
2 Career history
2.1.1 Contractor writer
2.2 Pioneering the information appliance
3 Outside interests
4 Personal life
5 See also
7 External links
Early life and education
Jef Raskin was born in
New York City
New York City to a secular Jewish family,
whose surname is a matronymic from "Raske", Yiddish nickname for
Rachel. He received a BA in mathematics and a BS in physics with
minors in philosophy and music from the State University of New York
at Stony Brook. In 1967, he received a master's degree in computer
science from Pennsylvania State University, after having switched from
mathematical logic due to differences of opinion with his advisor.
Even though he had completed work for his PhD, the university was not
accredited for a PhD in computer science. The first original
computer application he wrote was a music application as part of his
Raskin later enrolled in a graduate music program at the University of
California, San Diego (UCSD), but stopped to teach art, photography,
and computer science there. He worked as an assistant professor in the
Visual Arts department from 1968 until 1974. He was awarded a National
Science Foundation grant to establish a Computer and Humanities center
which used a
Data General Nova
Data General Nova computer and graphic display
terminals rather than the teletypes which were in use at that time.
Along with his undergraduate student Jonathan (Jon) Collins, Raskin
developed the Flow Programming Language for use in teaching
programming to the art and humanities students. The language was first
used at the Humanities Summer Training Institute held in 1970 at the
University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. The language has only 6
instructions (get it, print it, print "text", jump to, if it is ' '
then, and stop) and can not manipulate numbers. The language utilizes
"typing amplification" in which only the first letter is typed and the
computer provides the balance of the instruction eliminating typing
errors. It was also the basis for programming classes taught by Raskin
and Collins in the UCSD Visual Arts Department.
Raskin curated several art shows including one featuring his
collection of unusual toys. It was during this period that he changed
the spelling of his name from "Jeff" to "Jef" after having met Jon
Collins and liking the lack of extraneous letters.
Raskin occasionally wrote for computer publications, such as Dr.
Dobb's Journal. He formed a company named Bannister and Crun, which
was named for two characters playing in the
BBC radio comedy The Goon
Raskin first met Apple Computer's
Steve Jobs and
Steve Wozniak in
their garage workshop following the debut of their
Apple II personal
computer at the first West Coast Computer Faire.
Steve Jobs hired
Raskin's company Bannister and Crun to write the
Apple II BASIC
Programming Manual. Raskin said "I was talking fifty dollars a page.
They talked fifty dollars for the whole manual." Upon the Apple II
unit with the serial number of "2", he reportedly wrote "a literate
manual that became a standard for the young industry".:108
In January 1978, Raskin joined Apple as Manager of Publications, the
company's 31st employee. For some time he continued as Director of
Publications and New Product Review, and also worked on packaging and
other issues. He had concealed his degree in computer science, out of
concern for cultural bias against academia among the hobby-driven
personal computer industry. He explained, "If they had known ... they
might not have let me in the company, because there was such an
antiacademic bias in the early Apple days.":108
From his responsibility for documentation and testing, Raskin had
great influence on early engineering projects. Because the Apple II
only displayed uppercase characters on a 40-column screen, his
department used the
Polymorphic Systems 8813
Polymorphic Systems 8813 (an Intel-8080-based
machine running a proprietary operating system called Exec) to write
documentation; this spurred the development of an 80-column display
card and a suitable text editor for the Apple II. His experiences
BASIC inspired him to design a competing product,
called Notzo BASIC, which was never implemented. When Steve Wozniak
developed the first disk drives for the Apple II, Raskin went back to
his contacts at UCSD and encouraged them to port the UCSD P-System
operating system (incorporating a version of the Pascal programming
language) to it, which Apple later licensed and shipped as Apple
Through this time, Raskin continually wrote memos about how the
personal computer could become a true consumer appliance. While the
Apple III was under development in 1978 and '79, Raskin was lobbying
for Apple to create a radically different kind of computer that was
designed from the start to be easy to use. In Computers by the
Millions, he stated that expandable computers like the
Apple II were
too complex, and development was difficult due to the unknown nature
of the machine the program ran on. The machine he envisioned was
very different from the
Macintosh that was eventually released and had
much more in common with PDAs than modern desktop-based machines.
Raskin started the
Macintosh project in 1979 to implement some of
these ideas. He later hired his former student
Bill Atkinson from UCSD
to work at Apple, along with
Andy Hertzfeld and
Burrell Smith from the
Apple Service Department, which was located in the same building as
the Publications Department. Secretly bypassing Jobs's ego and
authority by continually securing permission and funding directly at
the executive level, Raskin created and solely supervised the
Macintosh project for approximately its first year. This included
selecting the name of his favorite apple, writing the mission document
The Book of Macintosh, securing office space, and recruiting and
managing the original staff.:111 Author
Steven Levy said, "It was
Raskin who provided the powerful vision of a computer whose legacy
would be low cost, high utility, and a groundbreaking
The machine was similar in power to the
Apple II and included a small
9-inch black-and-white character display built into a small case with
a floppy disk. It was text only, as Raskin disliked the computer mouse
or anything else that could take his hands from the keyboard.:111 A
number of basic applications were built into the machine, selectable
by pressing function keys. The machine also included logic that would
understand user intentions and switch programs dynamically. For
instance, if the user simply started typing text it would switch into
editor mode, and if they typed numbers it would switch to calculator
mode. In many cases these switches would be largely invisible to the
It was clear that
Macintosh was the most interesting thing at
Steve Jobs took it over.
In 1981, Steve Jobs's attention drew toward Raskin's Macintosh
project, intending to marry the Xerox PARC-inspired GUI-based Lisa
design to Raskin's appliance-computing, "computers-by-the-millions"
Raskin takes credit for being one of the first to introduce Jobs and
the Lisa engineers to the PARC concepts, though he ultimately
dismissed PARC's technology and opposed the use of computer
mouse.:110 Raskin also claims to have had continued direct input
into the eventual Mac design, including the decision to use a
one-button mouse as part of the Apple interface, a departure from the
Xerox PARC's 3-button mouse. Others, including Larry
Tesler, acknowledge his advocacy for a one-button mouse but say that
it was a decision reached simultaneously by others at Apple who had a
stronger say on the issue. Raskin later stated that
were he to redesign the mouse it would have three clearly labeled
buttons—two buttons on top marked "Select" and "Activate", and a
"Grab" button on the side that could be used by squeezing the
mouse. This description nearly fits the
Apple Mighty Mouse
Apple Mighty Mouse (renamed
"Apple Mouse" in 2009), first marketed in 2005. It has the three
described buttons (two invisible), but they are assigned to different
functions than Raskin specified for his own interface and can be
In a 2005 NerdTV interview which is available as a bonus feature of
Steve Jobs - The Lost Interview (2012),
Andy Hertzfeld relates an anecdote about Raskin's reputation
for often inaccurately claiming to have invented various technologies.
Raskin's resume from 2002 lends credence by stating he was "Creator of
Macintosh computer at Apple Computer, Inc." Raskin did create and
solely supervise the
Macintosh project for approximately its first
year;:111 however, Hertzfeld describes Raskin's relationship to the
drastically different finished Mac product more like that of an
"eccentric great uncle" than its father. In Jobs's "Lost
Interview" from 1996, he refers to the
Macintosh as a product of team
effort while acknowledging Raskin's early role.
Apple acknowledged Raskin's role after he had left the company by
giving him as a gift, the millionth
Macintosh computer, with an
engraved brass plaque on the front.
Pioneering the information appliance
Raskin left Apple in 1982 and formed Information Appliance, Inc.
to implement the concepts of his original
Macintosh concept. The first
product was the SwyftCard, a firmware card for the
Apple II containing
an integrated application suite, also released on a disk as SwyftWare.
Information Appliance later developed the Swyft as a stand-alone
laptop computer. Raskin licensed this design to Canon, which shipped a
similar desktop product as the Canon Cat. Released in 1987, the unit
had an innovative interface that attracted much interest but it did
not become a commercial success. Raskin claimed that its failure was
due in some part to Steve Jobs, who successfully pitched Canon on the
NeXT Computer at about the same time. It has also been suggested that
Canon canceled the CAT due to internal rivalries within its divisions.
After running a cryptic full page advertisement in the "Wall Street
Journal" that the "Canon CAT is coming" months before it was
available, Canon failed to follow through, never airing the completed
TV commercial when the CAT went on sale, only allowed the CAT to be
sold by its typewriter sales people, and prevented Raskin from selling
the CAT directly with a TV demonstration of how easy it was to use.
Shortly thereafter, the stock market crash of 1987 so panicked
Information Appliance's venture capitalists that they drained millions
of dollars from the company, depriving it of the capital needed to be
able to manufacture and sell the Swyft.
Raskin also wrote a book,
The Humane Interface
The Humane Interface (2000), in which he
developed his ideas about human-computer interfaces.
Raskin was a long-time member of BAYCHI, the Bay-Area Computer-Human
Interface group, a professional organization for human-interface
designers. He presented papers on his own work, reviewed the human
interfaces of various consumer products (such as a
BMW car he'd been
asked to review), and discussed the work of his colleagues in various
companies and universities.
At the start of the new millennium, Raskin undertook the building of a
new computer interface based on his 30 years of work and research,
called The Humane Environment, THE. On January 1, 2005, he renamed it
Archy. It is a system incarnating his concepts of the humane
interface, by using open source elements within his rendition of a ZUI
or Zooming User Interface. In the same period Raskin accepted an
appointment as Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at the University
of Chicago's Computer Science Department and, with Leo Irakliotis,
started designing a new curriculum on humane interfaces and computer
His work is being extended and carried on by his son
Aza Raskin at
Humanized, a company that was started shortly after Raskin's death to
continue his legacy. Humanized released Enso, a linguistic
command-line interface, which is based on Jef's work and dedicated in
his memory. In early 2008, Humanized became part of Mozilla.
Archy project never managed to include a functional ZUI, a
third party developed a commercial application called Raskin inspired
by the same
Zoomworld ZUI idea.
Raskin expanded the meaning of the term "cognetics" in his book The
Humane Interface to mean "the ergonomics of the mind". According to
Raskin Center, "Cognetics brings interface design out of the mystic
realm of guruism, transforming it into an engineering discipline with
a rigorous theoretical framework."
The term cognetics had earlier been coined and trademarked by Charles
Kreitzberg in 1982 when he started Cognetics Corporation, one of the
first user experience design companies. It is also used to
describe educational programs intended to foster thinking skills in
grades 3-12 (US) and for Cognetics, Inc., an economic research
firm founded by David L. Birch, a Professor at MIT.
Raskin discouraged using the informal term "intuitive" in user
interface design, claiming that easy to use interfaces are often due
to exposure to previous, similar systems, thus the term "familiar"
should be preferred. Aiming for "intuitive" interfaces (based on
reusing existing skills with interaction systems) could lead designers
to discard a better design solution only because it would require a
While best known as a computer scientist, Raskin also had other
interests. He conducted the San Francisco Chamber Opera Society and
played various instruments, including the organ and the recorder. His
artwork was displayed at New York's
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art as part of
its permanent collection, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and
the University of California, San Diego. He received a patent for
airplane wing construction, and designed and marketed radio
controlled model gliders.
He was said to be an accomplished archer, target shooter, bicycle
racer and an occasional model race car driver. He was
a passionate musician and composer, publishing a series of collected
recorder studies using the pseudonym of Aabel Aabius.
In his later years he also wrote free-lance articles for Macintosh
magazines, such as MacHomeJournal as well as many modeling magazines,
Forbes, Wired, and computing journals. One of his
most favorite pastimes was to play music with his children. He would
accompany them on the piano while they played or sang while going
through old fake-books passed down from his father. They would also
routinely improvise together.
Raskin owned a small company, "Jef's Friends", which made and sold
model airplane kits through hobby shops.
One of Raskin's instruments was the organ. In 1978 he published an
BYTE on using computers with the instrument.
Raskin published a paper highly critical of pseudoscience in nursing,
such as therapeutic touch and rogerian science, wherein he said:
"Unlike science, nursing theory has no built-in mechanisms for
rejecting falsehoods, tautologies, and irrelevancies."
Jef Raskin married Linda S. Blum in 1982. They had three children
together—Aza, Aviva, and Aenea, with honorary/surrogate siblings R.
Fureigh and Jenna Mandis.
He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2004 and died in
Pacifica, California, on February 26, 2005, at age 61.
^ Jef Raskin, "Meeting Merlin",
^ a b A Conversation with Jef Raskin,
^ "Folklore.org: The Father Of The Macintosh". Archived from the
original on November 1, 2007.
^ a b c d e f g h Levy, Steven (2000) . Insanely Great: The Life
and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything. New York
City: Penguin Books. ISBN 0140291776. OCLC 474924791.
^ Jef Raskin, "Computers by the Millions", 1979
The Humane Interface
The Humane Interface Appendix A, Pg. 209, last paragraph
Steve Jobs - The Lost Interview". Retrieved 2012-11-20.
Jef Raskin - Curriculum Vitae". January 8, 2002. Archived from the
original on October 3, 2003. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
^ "Folklore.org: The Father Of The Macintosh".
^ "Steve Jobs, Jef Raskin, and The Humane Interface".
^ Leith, Sam (2011-10-25). "Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by
Walter Isaacson – review". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-07-07.
^ Elliott, Andrea (February 28, 2005). "Jef Raskin, 61, Developer of
Apple Macintosh, Is Dead" – via NYTimes.com.
^ Raskin, Jef 2000.The Humane Interface, Addison-Wesley
^ "Humanized Joining Mozilla". Humanized Inc. January 16, 2008.
Archived from the original on January 20, 2008. Retrieved August 25,
^ "Raskin, A Finder Replacement for Mac".
^ "Raskin - Beyond Desktop - Raskin Beta". first1= missing
last1= in Authors list (help)
^ Introduction to Zooming with Raskin (german)
^ Anderson, Clifford. "UPA Voice - October 2007 - Thumbnail: Charlie
Kreitzberg". Upassoc.org. Archived from the original on February 22,
2012. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
^ Burr, J. et al., Cognetics: Thinking Skills Activities in
Inventions/Technology and Science. Teacher's Manual and Student
Manual. Philadelphia, PA: RBS Publications, 1992.
^ "The Little Engine That Could". The New York Times. May 1, 1988.
^ Intuitive equals familiar, Communications of the ACM. 37:9,
September 1994, pg. 17.
Jef Raskin – Curriculum Vitae". Archived from the original on
July 20, 2007. Retrieved 2012-04-09. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url
status unknown (link)
^ Raskin, Jef (March 1978). "The Microcomputer and the Pipe Organ".
BYTE. p. 56. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
^ "Rogerian nursing theory: A humbug in the halls of higher learning".
Skeptical Inquirer. 24 (5): 30–35. 2000.
^ Raskin, Jef. "Humbug: Nursing Theory". Archived from the original on
July 10, 2001. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
^ Elliott, Andrea (February 28, 2005). "Jef Raskin, 61, Developer of
Apple Macintosh, Is Dead". The New York Times.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Jef Raskin
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jef Raskin.
Jef Raskin at Find a Grave
Jef Raskin from Interaction-Design.org
Audio interviews with
Jef Raskin and photos from various periods of
"Raskin Family Press Statement". Archived from the original on March
3, 2005. Retrieved 2005-02-28. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url
status unknown (link) , February 27, 2005.
Key figures in the history of Apple Inc.
Michael Scott (1977–1981)
Mike Markkula (1981–1983)
John Sculley (1983–1993)
Michael Spindler (1993–1996)
Gil Amelio (1996–1997)
Steve Jobs (1997–2011)
Tim Cook (2011–present)
Fred D. Anderson
Satjiv S. Chahil
Guerrino De Luca
Macintosh developer team
ISNI: 0000 0001 0885 0585
BNF: cb12359282w (data)