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Jef Raskin, Father of the Macintosh, Dies at 61

Jef Raskin, Father of the Macintosh, Dies at 61

by , 1:30 AM EST, February 28th, 2005

Jef Raskin, Apple employee #31 and father of the Macintosh, died Saturday at age 61.

Mr. Raskin died at his home in Pacifica, Calif. A family statement said he had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

A professor turned consultant, Mr. Raskin wrote the BASIC manual for the Apple II in 1976 and joined the company on January 3, 1978. Less than two years later, he gained approval from the board for the Macintosh project, despite strong opposition from Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs. Mr. Raskin envisioned the Macintosh as a departure from computers of the time. Instead of forcing users to toil with slots and cables, he conceived an all-in-one enclosure. Mr. Raskin also originally wanted to sell the computer for just $500-$1,000, but when Mr. Jobs took over the project it soon ballooned from a research project to a full blown product development that would arrive in 1984 as both a savior to Apple's failed Lisa computer and a $5,000 system.

Feeling squeezed and unhappy by how much of the Macintosh project Mr. Jobs had taken over, Mr. Raskin tendered his resignation from Apple on March 1, 1982. Mr. Jobs and Mr. Raskin had differing visions of what the Macintosh should be, according to Steven Levy, a technology writer and the author of "Insanely Great," a history of the Macintosh computer.

"Jef had an idea of a much more focused machine in mind, not really a general-purpose computer which the Mac became," Mr. Levy told The New York Times. "He had this idea of a Swiss Army knife of computers, and Steve really wanted it to be a new kind of computer which could perform any kind of task."

After his departure, Mr. Raskin founded Information Appliance Inc., where he created the Canon Cat in pursuit of his vision that a computer should be an easy-to-use tool. The device never took off, however.

A strong proponent of elegant human interface design, in 2000 Mr. Raskin authored The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems and created the Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces (RCHI).

In recent years, following Apple's release of Mac OS X, Mr. Raskin became an outspoken critic of all desktop operating systems, including Apple's, arguing that they all for the most part resemble what they did 20 years ago and that there's "little difference between using a Mac and Windows."

Mr. Raskin, who was also a mathematician, professor, bicycle racer, model airplane designer, orchestral soloist and composer, is survived by his wife of 23 years, Linda Blum; his children, Aza, Aviva, and Aenea; and his children in all but name, Jenna and Rebecca. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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