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Apple donates MacPaint and QuickDraw Source Code

According to this Businessweek article, Apple donated "the single most important component of the original Macintosh technology" to the Computer History Museum.

I myself am certainly no stranger to MacPaint. I first fell in love with the software when my father brought home a new Mac 128k back in 1984. It didn't take me long to master the mouse and the methodology behind painting with pixels on-screen. This amazing paint program by Bill Atkinson, along with my WYSIWYG ImageWriter I printer enabled me to wow my school teachers for many years, all of whom were completely dumbfounded by the impressive and eye-popping graphics I was able to put in my reports and other school work. And to think, that was back in the day when graphics were only 72dpi and not impressive at all by today's standards!

Suffice it to say, I found Andy Hertzfeld's MacPaint Evolution article to be of great interest. In that Folklore article, Andy reminisces about a version of MacPaint that Bill Atkinson worked on extensively but later refused to release. Atkinson's new feature allowed the user to edit text that had been already been placed. For those of you how know anything about MacPaint, such a feature is simply ground-breaking. The reason is because once you place your text in the normal version of MacPaint, it becomes a graphic comprised of pixels and is no longer editable. Atkinson programmed a means to resurrect the dead, so to speak, and allowed that text to become editable. Oh, how I long to play with that version of MacPaint!

Not being able to sleep well with that mystery MacPaint version on my mind, I decided to write to Bill Atkinson a few months ago. I asked if he still had a copy of that "editable text" version of MacPaint. To my delight, Mr. Atkinson wrote me back. But sadly, he said he no longer had the code. I was then led to wonder if it might have been stored somewhere at Apple, in some dark closet somewhere. But if it had been, I am sure it would have been found by now, especially in light of this museum donation.

All said, this story brings back many fond memories. And being a vintage Mac lover, I am still very much enamored by the software program that ignited my fire for computing: MacPaint.

Views: 91

Comment by Derek on July 22, 2010 at 6:17pm
Amen. :-)

It's nice to see that this happened a mere five, six years after Andy Hertzfeld said he set the wheels in motion. (see his NerdTV interview with Robert Cringely, show #1: )

Bill Atkinson initially sais he didn't have any source, claiming that the last copy disappeared along with a ProFile hard drive in a plume of black smoke. Andy was more determined, going through a number of floppies in order to track it down, so we're lucky just to have the release version. :-)

The code wasn't even in ASCII; it was in the Lisa Monitor file format, and the whitespace at the beginning of each line of code was run length encoded to save space. Those were the good old days, eh?
Comment by James Wages on July 22, 2010 at 7:26pm
Thank you for your comment, Derek.

Since Bill Atkinson has long since moved beyond programming in his life, now spending all his time on photography, it would not surprise me in the least if he still has that never-released MacPaint source code with the editable text function. He probably "assumed" it was lost, not wanting to go through every floppy disk in his attic looking for it. But personally speaking, if I was Atkinson's next door neighbor, I would certainly volunteer to search his attic for him!
Comment by Lars (WhyOSX) on July 22, 2010 at 10:09pm
Compared to some PC systems, this was State of the Art.
Development and improvement go together, don't they ?


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