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Jef Raskin, 'Father of the Macintosh,' Dies

Jef Raskin, one of the men credited with creating the Apple Macintosh, died of pancreatic cancer on Saturday at the age of 61.

For the majority of computer users today, the graphical user interface is the primary method of interface, though before Apple's Macintosh took the stage in 1984, that wasn't the case.

Though he was not present at the launch of the Macintosh, he is credited with launching the project and defining its vision. Raskin officially started the Macintosh project in September 1979 at Apple.

Jef Raskin
Jef Raskin
Photo: Jennie Bourne

He was hired in January 1978 as the company's 31st employee. He was not, however, an Apple employee at the time of the Macintosh launch in 1984, having left the company in the summer of 1981.

In an article titled, "The Father of the Macintosh" on Folklore.org, Raskin's contributions to the project were critical.

"There's no doubt that Jef was the creator of the Macintosh project at Apple, and that his articulate vision of an exceptionally easy to use, low cost, high volume appliance computer got the ball rolling, and remained near the heart of the project long after Jef left the company," the article says.

The Macintosh was not Apple's first attempt at creating a GUI-based computer. In 1983, the high-priced Apple Lisa was released which arguably helped to whet the market's appetite for a lower cost GUI based computer.

The Lisa project began in 1978, more than a year before the Macintosh project started. Steve Jobs' exit from the Lisa project in 1981 to take over the Macintosh project is one of the reasons cited for Raskin's departure from Apple.

In 2000, Raskin collected his thoughts on where the GUI ought to go. In his landmark book The Humane Interface, he argued that current interface paradigms are dead ends.

To further his effort, he also founded the Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces to help shepherd development of the ideal GUI, which he proposed in his book. An initial attempt at creating that GUI exists as an open source project on SourceForge.net.