Last modified on 2 November 2014, at 03:52

Jef Raskin

Users do not care about what is inside the box, as long as the box does what they need done.
I am only a footnote, but proud of the footnote I have become... the rise of a worldwide network will be seen as the most significant part of the computer revolution.

Jef Raskin (9 March 194326 February 2005) was an expert in human-computer interaction who began the Macintosh project for Apple Computer


  • Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining.
    • Interview in Doctor Dobb's Journal, also quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004) by Geoff Tibballs, p. 128
  • It would be wonderful if we could just tuck in a few loose ends and change a handful of details of present systems to have them work properly. Unfortunately, we have learned that the GUI concept has fundamental flaws that cannot be corrected by small changes. These flaws have to do with incompatibilities between the designs of both GUIs and command-line interfaces and the way our brains are wired. As we cannot change the way our minds work, we must change the interface design.
    • article "THE Is Not An Editor... So What Is It?" (2003)
  • Right now, computers, which are supposed to be our servant, are oppressing us.
  • I am only a footnote, but proud of the footnote I have become. My subsequent work — on eliciting principles and developing the theory of interface design, so that many people will be able to do what I did — is probably also footnote-worthy. In looking back at this turn-of-the-century period, the rise of a worldwide network will be seen as the most significant part of the computer revolution.
    • Interview in The Guardian (21 October 2004)

The Humane Interface (2001)Edit

Full title: The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems
  • Once the product's task is known, design the interface first; then implement to the interface design.
  • Users do not care about what is inside the box, as long as the box does what they need done.
  • As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product.
  • The system should treat all user input as sacred.
  • A computer shall not harm your work or, through inaction, allow your work to come to harm.
  • A computer shall not waste your time or require you to do more work than is strictly necessary.
  • An interface is humane if it is responsive to human needs and considerate of human frailties.
  • An unlimited-length file name is a file. The content of a file is its own best name.
  • When you have to choose among methods, your locus of attention is drawn from the task and temporarily becomes the decision itself.
  • If I am correct, the use of a product based on modelessness and monoty would soon become so habitual as to be nearly addictive, leading to a user population devoted to and loyal to the product.

MacUser interview (2004)Edit

Interview: "Jef Raskin: the man who should be king" (11 June 2004)
  • Now there is little difference, except packaging, between a Mac and a Windows machine. Not no difference, but at home we have — along with six Macs (one for everybody plus my travelling iBook) — three PCs and one Linux box, and I can move from one to the other without having to think about it much. What used to be a night-and-day difference in usability has become a small increment in Apple's favor (or favour for you Brits).
  • I've moved on, grown and learned in the years since then, and am designing interfaces that make the Mac's GUI feel as clumsy to use as the Mac made the old DOS-based systems feel primitive.
  • I'm developing cross platform now, and I'm as interested in helping as many people as possible to have a better experience when using computers. Morality demands that I write for Wintel machines first (Linux comes along free), and port to Macs when there is time.
  • MacUser: Which person do you most admire?
    Jef Raskin: For what attribute? Once again you ask a question that linearises a complex matter. I can name many. Let's start with people named George: George Cantor for moving infinity out of philosophy into mathematics, George Washington for showing how a leader should relinquish power, and George Bernard Shaw for his humanity... Or we can do it by subject and admire Aristotle, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein for their pulling from nature comprehensible laws; or Euclid, Gauss and Gödel for their contributions to mathematics; or people who have influenced me very directly, in which case I'd mention my very admirable parents and the teacher who taught me to be intellectually independent, L R Genise; or how about Claude Shannon without whose work on information theory I would have been lost.
  • MacUser: If you could change one thing, what would it be?
    Jef Raskin: To not have people assume you can rank every-thing one dimensionally. Or have everybody realise that killing people is not a way to solve problems.

If Books Were Sold as Software (2004)Edit

  • If books were sold as software and online recordings are, they would have this legalese up front:
    The content of this book is distributed on an 'as is' basis, without warranty as to accuracy of content, quality of writing, punctuation, usefulness of the ideas presented, merchantability, correctness or readability of formulae, charts, and figures, or correspondence of (a) the table of contents with the actual contents, (2) page references in the index (if any) with the actual page numbering (if present), and (iii) any illustration with its adjacent caption. Illustrations may have been printed reversed or inverted, the publisher accepts no responsibility for orientation or chirality. Any resemblance of the author or his or her likeness or name to any person, living or dead, or their heirs or assigns, is coincidental; all references to people, places, or events have been or should have been fictionalized and may or may not have any factual basis, even if reported as factual. Similarities to existing works of art, literature, song, or television or movie scripts is pure happenstance. References have been chosen at random from our own catalog. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher shall have any liability whatever to any person, corporation, animal whether feral or domesticated, or other corporeal or incorporeal entity with respect to any loss, damage, misunderstanding, or death from choking with laughter or apoplexy at or due to, respectively, the contents; that is caused or is alleged to be caused by any party, whether directly or indirectly due to the information or lack of information that may or may not be found in this alleged work. No representation is made as to the correctness of the ISBN or date of publication as our typist isn't good with numbers and errors of spelling and usage are attributable solely to bugs in the spelling and grammar checker in Microsoft Word. If sold without a cover, this book will be thinner than those sold with a cover. You do not own this book, but have acquired only a revocable non-exclusive license to read the material contained herein. You may not read it aloud to any third party. This disclaimer is a copyrighted work of Jef Raskin, first published in 2004, and is distributed 'as is', without warranty as to quality of humor, incisiveness of commentary, sharpness of taunt, or aptness of jibe.

Programmers At Work (1986)Edit

  • What I proposed was a computer that would be easy to use, mix text and graphics, and sell for about $1,000. Steve Jobs said that it was a crazy idea, that it would never sell, and we didn't want anything like it. He tried to shoot the project down.
  • Jobs took over. He simply came in and said, "I'm taking over Macintosh hardware; you can have software and publications." … And then a few months later Jobs said, "I'm taking over software; you can have publications." So I said, "You can have publications too," and left. That was in May of 1982. He and Markkula said, "Please don't leave. Give us another month and we'll make you an offer you can't refuse." So I gave Apple a month; they made me an offer, and I refused.
  • After he took over, Jobs came up with the story about the Mac project being a "pirate operation." We weren't trying to keep the project away from Apple, as he later said; we had very good ties with the rest of Apple. We were trying to keep the project away from Jobs' meddling. For the first two years, Jobs wanted to kill the project because he didn't understand what it was really all about.
  • I was very much amused by the recent Newsweek article where he [Jobs] said, "I have a few good designs in me still." He never had any designs. He has not designed a single product. Woz (Steve Wozniak) designed the Apple II. Ken Rothmuller and others designed Lisa. My team and I designed the Macintosh. Wendell Sanders designed the Apple III. What did Jobs design? Nothing.
  • We have a whole valley full of people talking UNIX versus MS-DOS. What do you need any of that for? Just throw it all out; get rid of all that nonsense. Maybe you need it for computer scientists, but for people who want to get something done, no. Do you need an operating system? No.
  • Have you ever noticed that there are no Maytag user groups? Nobody needs a mutual support group to run a washing machine.
  • I hate mice. The mouse involves you in arm motions that slow you down. I didn't want it on the Macintosh, but Jobs insisted. In those days, what he said went, good idea or not.
  • It's absolutely ugly, but unfortunately quite true of the world today; the more money you make, the more people tend to listen to you. If you're not quoted in Fortune or Forbes or the Wall Street Journal, then nobody listens. If you say something that makes a lot of money, whether what you said is true or not, people listen.
  • Icons, windows, mice, big operating systems, huge programs, integrated packages.... I would like to remind the world that just because two things are on the same menu doesn't mean they taste good together.

Quotations about RaskinEdit

  • His role on the Macintosh was the initiator of the project, so it wouldn't be here if it weren't for him.
  • Making technology work simpler, he was at the heart of that from the first days at Apple. Jef Raskin is one of the most important people in personal computers, to this day.

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about:


  1. Jef Raskin; Innovator Behind Macintosh Computer, Obituary, Washington Post, AP 2 March 2005.
  2. Father of the Mac Dead at 61 - Ex-Apple Employee Made Computers Easier to Use, San Jose Mercury News, Mary Ann Ostrom 28 February 2005.