Steve Jobs and the Macintosh Man

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When Apple was preparing to launch the Macintosh 30 years ago this month, the company actually planned to have a little man in a Mackintosh raincoat pop-up from time to time. Not frequently enough to get a good look at him, just enough to make you think you’re crazy.

According to Folklore.org, Steve Jobs bound into the office of Andy Hertzfeld, the software wizard behind the graphical interface Apple had stolen from Xerox PARC, and exclaimed “We’ve got to have Mr. Macintosh!”

“Mr. Macintosh is a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh. He pops up every once in a while, when you least expect it, and then winks at you and disappears again. It will be so quick that you won’t be sure if you saw him or not. We’ll plant references in the manuals to the legend of Mr. Macintosh, and no one will know if he’s real or not.”

So they turned to Susan Kare, the woman who designed the icons for MacOS 1.0, to design the little guy while Hertzfeld programmed the “hooks” into the software so they could drop in the character once it was done.

But as the Mac got closer to release, it became evident they simply wouldn’t have the room to pull it off because of the 64K limitation of the ROM (the user memory was 128K RAM). But Hertzfeld tells Folklore anyone who wants to add him today, could do so.

I made the software that displayed the menus look at a special low memory location called the “MrMacHook”, for an address of a routine. If the routine is present, it’s called with parameters that let it draw in the menu box, and it returns a result that tells the menu manager if it did anything. Using this, an application or system module could implement Mr. Macintosh (or perhaps his evil twin) if they saw fit.

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