Where great old Macs live again!

I am reminded on this very sad day of something I saw in the extras of one of the Lord of the Rings DVDs many years ago. The actor who portrayed King Theoden was talking about being dressed in the King's armour for filming - as some part of the costume was lowered over his head, he noticed carvings or motifs on the inside of the part in question.


Being on the inside, movie watchers would never see this detail. The craftsmen/women who made the armour would know about it. The actor would know about it (if he was observant enough, which he was). Some designers, the director, maybe the producer/s would know about it. But of all the people who ever saw that armour, only (literally) a handful would have been aware of, let alone have seen, the workmanship those motifs represent.


The craftsmen/women cared so much about doing their job, they did it as completely as they could, as if they were preparing the armour for a real King to whom such details would matter.


Anyone who has ever cracked open a classic Mac knows it can take some doing. Torx screws (who'd ever heard to Torx screws in 1984?!) down a long and narrow hole required a special tool and not a small amount of perseverance to remove. Apple did not design the original Macs in a way conducive to them being opened. Steve Jobs wanted a closed system, literally.


Steve Jobs recognised the original Mac team were artists and great artists sign their works. It was Steve's idea to have the signatures of the Mac team embossed on the inside of the Mac shell. Over at, Andy Hertzfeld recalls:

Most customers would never see them, since you needed a special tool to look inside, but we would take pride in knowing that our names were in there, even if no one else knew.


It's just a small, but very Mac retro way Steve Jobs reminds us that even invisible details matter in design, even if it's only to the designers who ever see the details.


R.I.P. Steve Jobs - we'll be discovering your invisible details in your life's works for many years to come.



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Comment by GDB on October 6, 2011 at 5:30pm

The invisible detail that I especially like in the case of the original Mac is the fact that those same engineers secretly created a machine that could be equipped with an improved RAM complement (the Mac512), thus providing an escape-route from the more or less unusable 128k of the original machine. It had to be done in secret because this was contrary to the express instructions of Steve Jobs, who who instead wanted Zen-like minimalism, in a machine that could only address 128k of RAM. At that point the man's Muse frankly failed him. Luckily he did not win out, and luckily he was not really so well versed that he could not be hoodwinked.


... At the same time, like everyone else, I appreciated the showmanship, and of course one has to acknowledge Jobs' overall design instincts, vision, and ability to run a tight corporate ship. The fact that he looked after his family and that he did not flaunt his wealth is also admirable — though what we know of it is nowhere near as admirable as what Gates has done.


Thus, amid the media frenzy today, it is useful to recall that Mr. Jobs was not infallible, that he was no engineer, that he could be a real prick in the workplace (by all accounts), and that these limitations and the faults they encouraged do show up in certain of the products he had a particular hand in. 


Too bad the guy died such a death, but Apple will go on. It may even change for the better — probably not ruling the media roost quite so much, admittedly, but quite possibly creating products that are even better than they would have been had Jobs still been at the helm. Apple has a heck of a lot of in-house talent, and some different thinking might just unleash some of it. I'd like, for instance, not to have to jailbreak an iPad to make it do what I want.


My $0.02.... I think things might just be going to get more rather than less interesting.


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