Rod Holt, legendary Apple designer writing NowPublic, 40Y- mouse
at 22:45 on December 30th, 2008
Not to be too critical, but I would say there's history and then there's real history.
By 1981, Apple was the dominant personal computer manufacturer with over 90% of the world market conquered by the Apple ][. IBM by then was getting the notion that the small desktop computer might amount to something and started their own project in collaboration with Bill Gates and Co. (We didn't pay any attention to rumors about this.) By the end of that year, It was clear to Jobs, Mike Scott and myself that the Lisa project was badly bogged down and not likely to emerge. So we formed the Macintosh group to do an end run on Lisa.
About this time, Steve Jobs and I went up to Xerox Park to talk with some of the research staff who believed they had some good ideas but so little corporate support that they were afraid they'd be shut down with nothing to show for their hard work. There it was we saw the mouse.
It was almost laughable. Such a kluge I've rarely seen. It had three tiny ball bearings with sensors all over and didn't work. They thought it was a great advance in human interface and I just took their word for it. Steve thought the idea was great. I wasn't so sure but Steve convinced Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld, and they enthusiastically pursued the idea.So I gave up resisting.
The problem of making a real, manufacturable mouse for a tolerable price that would be reliable went to Jerry Manock. Jerry had designed the Apple ][ case and the floppy disk drive case and he was our man for the style, the Apple look. He had two graduate students from Stanford working for him and the three of them went off in a corner to ponder. Some months later, they came back with a marvelous design so simple and elegant that it has never been improved upon. All I did was bless the electronics and we had a living, breathing device. Too much credit cannot be given to these three designers, in my humble opinion. The difference between what they accomplished and the original mouse was night and day.
As we all know today, the mouse was integral to the original Macintosh, and was to a great extent responsible for that machine's success. Andy has written about the mouse from his perspective and those interested should consult his book. Jerry Manock is alive and well, so I understand, and lives outside of Brattleboro, Vermont, I think. I can't remember the names of the two young men who worked with him and I may be off on dates and spellings, for which failings I ask your tolerance.
Thanks Rod for insider history report Apple, you had also experience with Atari; designed the first Fan-free low noise switchmode power supply for Apple and disk readers
Original story: 40 years computer mouse, Apple first user
Rod Holt Bio Apple museum
Rod Holt, Apple , the inventor of the Switchmode power supply
Jobs wanted a power supply design that did not require a cooling fan. ...
Regis McKenna Finance and Marketing strategy "Silicon Valley Apple and Intel
Other aesthetics to which Jobs paid attention were the color of the keyboard, vents for heat dissipation (avoiding the need for a noisy fan), and a shape and color that would blend in with other items in a home or on a desk. He also hired an engineer who was good with analog circuitry (not Wozniak's area of interest) to design a reliable, lightweight power supply that would stay cool. The engineer, Rod Holt, was working at Atari at the time, but was convinced to help Jobs and Wozniak. He developed a new approach (for microcomputers) by taking household current and switching it on and off rapidly, producing a steady current that was safe for the expensive memory chips. The final design of this switching power supply was smaller than a quart carton of milk and was quite reliable. Holt also helped design the television interface for the Apple II.
The new company was racing to have the Apple II ready for the First West Coast Computer Faire in April of 1977. Some last minute bugs had to be eliminated; because of a static electricity problem affecting a sensitive chip, the keyboards went dead every twenty minutes. Chris Espinosa and Randy Wigginton, two high school students who were early employees of Apple, had written programs to demonstrate the computer's color and sound. They were hurriedly working to duplicate these programs on cassette. People at Apple were working to fix blemishes in the computer cases that had returned from the plastics molding company. The name for this new computer was also finalized as "Apple II", following the example of Digital Equipment Company, who had given each newer version of its PDP series a higher number (PDP-1, PDP-6, etc.). They stylized the "II" in the product name by using right and left brackets, and displaying it on the case as "][". The final product bore the mark of each person at Apple:
The computer that appeared at the West Coast Computer Faire was not one person's machine. It was the product of collaboration and blended contributions in digital logic design, analog engineering, and aesthetic appeal. The color, the slots, the way in which the memory could be expanded from 4K to 48K bytes, the control of the keyboard and hookup to the cassette recorder, and the BASIC that was stored in the ROM chip--in effect the motherboard--was Wozniak's contribution. Holt had contributed the extremely significant power supply, and Jerry Mannock the case. The engineering advances were officially recognized when, some months later, Wozniak was awarded U.S. Patent #4,136,359 for a microcomputer for use with video display, and Holt was given Patent #4,130,862 for direct current power supply. But behind them all Jobs was poking, prodding, and pushing and it was he, with his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, who became the chief arbiter and rejector... [Finally,] the combination of [Mike] Markkula [Apple's first president], Jobs, and the McKenna Agency turned Apple's public bow [at the West Coast Computer Faire] into a coup.