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Jef Raskin's writings:
"The Macintosh Project - Apple Computer Network (1979)"

In mid to late 1979, Jef Raskin wrote the following version of his concept for the Macintosh project at Apple. This is a great piece of history. For something like this you can also see Butler Lampson's document "Why Alto" here at the Digibarn.

Curator Bruce Damer





DATE: 11 Sep 79-11 Oct 79


There are very few potential uses of the personal computer per se in the home at the present time. The question "What do you do with it?" still haunts the industry. While balancing checkbooks, playing chess and writing letters are all viable uses, it is likely that a true mass market cannot be supported on the basis of such applications. In the face of this problem, most manufacturers, seeing the hobbyist and technophile markets becoming saturated, have turned to marketing business systems. The business system market is big and legitimate opportunities abound there, but the volume can never be as large as it would be for an item that goes to consumers in general.

There is a feeling in the industry that telecommunications will become a key part of every computer market segment, and this is increasingly becoming so. Many experiments and a few successful services are in operation. Aside from long-standing timesharing systems such as GE and TYMSHARE, we have the ARPA net, Xerox's internal Ethernet, TCA (alias "The Source"), Prestel, the MECC network, and many others. Appendix 1 lists a few commercial services that may be of interest to us. A set of "underground" message centers have come into operation, for example, the PCNET. There are also a few other individuals and small groups that set up a microcomputer with an autoanswer modem and some software that allows users to leave and retrieve messages.

According to "Computer Retailer", Radio Shack and Western Union are working out some cooperative venture involving WU's "Mailgram" service whereby Radio Shack computer owners can exchange messages.

It is clear that one answer to the question "What do you do with it?" will probably be: "I use it to send birthday greetings to Aunt Tillie." More to the point there are a number of easily forseen potential uses for a network of personal computers. What is more exciting is that, as has happened with the computers themselves, there is the potential for many unforseen applications.


Many applications have been put forward. Among them are:

Time of day; News (with a boolean query data base); Stock Market (as per what we are already doing); Soap Opera Condensations; A guide to local TV programs (what's on at 9:00PM?, any westerns tonight?); Message forwarding and distribution; Fax transmission (special case of message: the bits are interpreted pictorially); Weather Travel Info; Phone directory; Local, area or national business directory; Apple program distribution channel; Apple update distribution channel; Access to Lockheed's DIALOG or Stanford's BALLOTS systems or similar ones; A better way to answer user questions than a phone based hotline at Apple; Library of Congress card catalog; Legal precedents; Program exchange; Educational courses; Educational testing; Voting; Computer program exchange; Advertising; Computer dating; Tax information; Banking (another step to the cashless society (If taxes don't reduce us to a cashless state first)); Access to large data storage for individual needs; Access to computer power (i.e. timesharing); Insurance quotes; Credit information (what is available: what is my status); Market research; Purchasing information (who has the cheapest refrigerator model 34- aa within 10 miles); Plane schedules; Dictionary and Encyclopedia searches.

The list is potentially endless. Most come under one heading: Access to a Data Base. A few come under the heading: Communication. The remaining handful are miscellaneous.

The point of this list is that telecommunications provides a host of answers to the "What do you do with it?" question.

See Jef's other writings on this topic here

Back to Jef Raskin's Pages at the Digibarn

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