In defense of Steve Jobs: No, he did not steal from Xerox, et. al.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

MacDailyNews 30 Oct 2011 — “About a week after Jobs’ death, the promotional tour for ‘ Steve Jobs,’ the Walter Isaacson biography, began in ernest [sic]. This week, the book itself hit,” Mike Elgan writes for Cult of Mac. ” And so did the ‘dark side’ revelations. Plus, former rivals and Apple employees with an axe to grind came pouring out of the woodwork to tell snarky stories about Jobs’ flawed morality, bizarre personality and petty misconduct.”

“As they are wont to do, the lame-stream media pounced on the negative angle,” Elgan writes. “The praise was too much. But so is the ongoing character assassination. It’s time to bring the pendulum back to the center, and provide context for some of the most egregious dissing. In particular, there are four major falsehoods about Jobs being thrown around in the past three weeks that need to be addressed.”

Four major falsehoods about Steve Jobs:
1. Steve Jobs stole ideas from Xerox to create the Mac.
2. Steve Jobs was mean, petulant, brittle, abrasive and cantankerous.
3. Steve Jobs intended to spend all of Apple’s money to destroy Android.
4. Steve Jobs was evil.

None of which are true, of course. Steve Jobs is certainly a bigger than life character but what the haters miss is that he was a positive force dedicated to make things better, he did not even have a profit motive since he was only paid $1 a year by Apple.

I personally knew Doug (Douglas Engelbart), the actual (documented) inventor of the mouse when he would personally attend the monthly meetings of an education conference that was hosted in my company’s facilities. I would sit next to him and ask him all about the mouse and other items specifically related to the rise of Apple and the personal computer.

After severe months, and much questioning on my behalf, Doug finally realized that Apple was the only company that actually paid Stanford AI the license fee, and that the haters should stop hating on Apple for something they did not do (i.e. they did not steal the mouse, they licensed it and according to Doug were the only ones to do so). So I personally know that the haters are just that, haters. They base their hate is antagonistic fiction instead of bothering to do their homework and discover the real and true facts. The Mouse was not stolen from Xerox PARC because they had in fact stolen it from Stanford AI, where it was invented, created, and officially patented. Doug told me in person that Apple had paid something like $100,00 for a lifetime license. No other company to date had ever paid a penny. The look in his eyes told me that he was not happy that every one else ripped off his mouse invention.

Then I had the opportunity to communicate at length with Jef Raskin who was the original guy who started the Macintosh project. Jef stated that the original Apple II (and by inference all the computers that copied it, to this day) with slots that could accept expansion cards were too complex for ordinary users and that Apple should invent a computer that everyone could truly use. That was the genesis of the Macintosh. Jef had come up with the concept, well before anyone at Apple had visited Xerox PARC.

It was Jef Raskin that received a PhD for his thesis on the Graphical User Interface (GUI) at Penn State University in 1967. He coined the term QuickDraw, which is very important because if you ask any true Mac software developer (pre-NeXTStep) the will tell you that QuickDraw is the official name for the foundation software used to draw the GUI on the Apple Macintosh. Xerox PARC was founded in 1970 as a division of Xerox Corporation, so its was impossible for Xerox PARC to have invented anything before Jef because they did not exist until three years after he was awarded his PhD for the very GUI that Apple used to change the world. Jef then went on to be the Father of the Macintosh, based on the foundation he created in his 1967 thesis.

From another perspective, the GUI (graphical user interface) unquestionably was first commercially, and successfully,  pioneered by Apple, and was not stolen from Xerox PARC according to Doug Engelbart because he had already talked about and publicly demonstrated a prototype computer using a GUI at Stanford AI (AKA Stanford Research Institute (actually in San Francisco) years before Xerox PARC was founded. (Doug called it Stanford AI when we spoke so that name got stuck in my head, but its the very same group at Stanford University.) Therefore, once again, Xerox was not the first to invent the GUI, and they were not the first to publicly display it to anyone.

Keep in mind that Apple had started the Lisa project in 1978. The Lisa was Apple’s first GUI based computer before the Macintosh, so although historically when we say Macintosh, we really mean the Lisa and Macintosh were the first GUI based personal computers that you could actually go buy and use and not need an engineering degree (or be a serious hobbyist) to operate.

The reason that Xerox PARC had the mouse at all was that “Several people went from SRI to Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. ” They obviously brought the mouse technology with them, which Xerox PARC did not have before then. In order to use the mouse, they had to also bring the concept of the GUI, to Xerox PARC, therefore The Mouse and The GUI at Xerox PARC were both stolen from Stanford AI (SRI). It was Doug Engelbart’s technology that Xerox PARC has been erroneously taking credit for all these years.

So if the documentation that formed the basis of the original Lisa and Mac kernels existed before Xerox PARC was even founded (created by Jef Raskin and documented by Penn State University), why is there even a debate? Because there are a few terrible people out there, the haters, who just can’t stand that there was a successful challenger to IBM’s dogma of all-computers-have-to-be-mainframes (with IBM logos on them), who then went on to infect an entire generation of computer uses into trying to hate o Apple as much as possible. I know. I was in the middle of that war,it was ugly it was wrong an the fallout of lies is still with us today. This post is here to help shine light oh this dark corner hateful corner of the commuter industry.

It was the IBM-Microsoft-Intel zealots, and their dogmatic marketing practices that started and perpetuated the religious wars between Apple and everyone else. I think they owe Apple an apology.

Of course this hatred (from IBM, Microsoft an dIntel fanbois) was designed to restrain sales of Apple products, a terrible (and anti-competitive, anti-innovative) propaganda tactic that worked for many years, but Apple persevered and Steve Jobs returned to lead the company and bring it to the forefront of technological innovation, as well as making it the most successful personal commuter company company (in revenue and profit). Ever.

Source: Cult of Mac; MacDailyNews

Want to learn more? Available now on Amazon is the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Please note that although I reference Wikipedia for attributablity purposes, they still have the old, uncorrected stories about Xerox PARC and Apple. I hope that one day they get corrected to the actual, full and complete truth.

For my long time followers, sorry to have to repeat this post again. Google lost my original post when they crashed my account and were unable (or unwilling) to recover it from backup, so I had to start all over again (on a new hosting provider). If anyone has my old story, particularly with the original links, I would greatly appreciate it if you’d forward me a copy. I am also looking for a copy of Jef Raskin’s original thesis (“A Hardware-Independent Computer Drawing System Using List-Structured Modeling: The Quick-Draw Graphics System“) from Penn State University, since that is a crucial point in the history of how Apple’s GUI for the Mac was actually created in-house and not stolen from Xerox PARC. – Thanks Dr Bob

Additional Reference Material:

Articles from Jef Raskin about the history of the Macintosh

The nature of creative development By Jonathan S. Feinstein

Mac Lore


Design Considerations for an Anthropophilic Computer — Source: Jef Raskin, “Design Considerations for an Anthropophilic Computer” (28-29 May 1979)– in “The Macintosh Project: Selected Papers from Jef Raskin (First Macintosh Designer), Circa 1979,” document 4, version 1.  Location: M1007, Apple Computer Inc. Papers, Series 3, Box 10, Folder 1.

The Father Of The Macintosh Author: Andy Hertzfeld

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