Sunday, November 27, 2022
HomeComputer HistoryDid Steve Jobs steal everything from Xerox PARC?

Did Steve Jobs steal everything from Xerox PARC?

Q: What’s your response when people say the Mac engineers stole everything from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center?
A: I just say, well, someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe in the very broadest sense we were inspired by Xerox. But literally no code was taken, I mean not a single line of code.
Q: Didn’t a lot of people join Apple from Xerox?
A: Just one person on the Mac team, more on the Lisa team–four or five. Many of the ones who came from PARC came after the Mac shipped. Alan Kay, who was the visionary and driving force behind Xerox PARC, came to work at Apple just about the time I was leaving, in March 1984. Once he came there, about 10 PARC people came.

Screen des Xerox Star


The screen of the Xerox Star

In contrast to the first Mac, the Alto featured no completed desktop metaphor nor ingenious desktop icons such as the trash can, which made it easier to delete files, and not just for computer novices. The historical accomplishments of the Mac team also included the Macintosh Human Interface Guide, which, for instance, when it detected a document in a Macintosh application, determined that it was to be saved using the command “Apple-S.”

Apple Lisa 2 screenshot
Apple Lisa 2 screenshot – © Apple Computer, Inc.

Although much influenced by the work at Xerox PARC, Apple engineers developed their Lisa computer’s similar graphical user interface from scratch. The commercial failure of the Lisa was a result of its high price and poor performance, not its features.

As for Xerox, the bitter aftertaste of having missed an historical opportunity remained, particularly due to the fact that parallel to the Apple developers, Bill Gates and his Microsoft crew also went in and out as they pleased. (By the way, they did so without holding an admission ticket comparable to the one Jobs had procured by means of the stock deal.)

Steve Jons in 1995: “(Xerox) Could have been, you know, a company ten times its size. Could have been IBM – could have been the IBM of the nineties. Could have been the Microsoft of the nineties.”

Besides, in the context of the dispute with Apple about the plagiarism accusations around the first Windows versions, Microsoft had pointed out that Apple and Microsoft had both helped themselves generously at XEROX.

In the early ’80s Steve Jobs needed help from Bill Gates: Apple was developing its first Macintosh. Microsoft, which had supplied IBM with the MS-DOS operating system for its PCs, was invited to be the Mac’s first software developer. Early Mac developer Andy Hertzfeld says that when Jobs recruited Microsoft he feared it “might try to copy our ideas into a PC. Steve made Microsoft promise not to ship any software that used a mouse – until at least one year after the first shipment of the Macintosh”.
In 1983, Microsoft sprang a surprise with a new operating system for PCs using an interface like the Mac’s – Windows. Jobs “went ballistic”, demanding an explanation and saying: “I want him in this room by tomorrow afternoon, or else.”
Gates arrived alone to find himself surrounded by 10 Apple employees. “You’re ripping us off,” Jobs shouted.
But Gates looked him in the eye, and said in his squeaky voice, “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbour named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

Apple sued Microsoft in 1988. Six years later a judge threw the case out.

Christoph Dernbach

****************************************************

Book cover: Revolution in The Valley
Book cover: Revolution in The Valley

James Turner from O’Reilly News interviewed Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original designers of the Macintosh and author of the book, Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made, which chronicles the efforts to create the Mac. Andy Hertzfeld currently works at Google as a Software Engineer. In this Interview James Turner asked some questions about Xerox PARC and the development of the Mac:

JT: In your book you allude to Xerox as being, to Bill Gates, the rich uncle that both Apple and Microsoft stole from. What was the relationship like with PARC when you were developing the Mac and how did the Xerox researchers feel about the Mac?

AH: Well, we had no formal relationship with PARC while we were developing the Mac. We got a single demo before the Mac project got off the ground, when the LISA project, that sort of cousin or bigger brother of the Mac, was in development. And so from that one demo we were already pointed in that direction but I would say that Xerox PARC demo galvanized and reinforced our strong opinion that the graphic user-interface was the way to go. And then the influence of PARC was strong in the project, but not through a formal relationship with PARC; more through PARC people getting wind of what we were doing and coming to work at Apple. The very first one was Tom Malloy on the LISA project. He was sort of a disciple of Charles Simonyi–I write about that a little bit in my book. He was one of the original LISA people who came to Apple in 1978. But later, Larry Tessler was a really key figure coming to the LISA team in the summer of 1980 from Xerox PARC and eventually, mostly after the original Mac shipped, there were a dozen or more. Another person I have to mention is Bruce Horn who started working at Xerox PARC when he was 14 years old; he was one of those kids they picked from a Palo Alto High School to teach Smalltalk to and he was one of the four or five key Macintosh developers. And of course he was steeped in all of the PARC values and through Bruce, a lot of them made it into the Macintosh.

JT: Was there any feeling among the Apple engineers that any – guilt is probably too strong a word, but feeling like you know Xerox had these great ideas. I guess Xerox really let them go to waste but–

AH: Oh there was nothing like that; Steve Jobs has a good quote. It’s actually a Picasso quote that he often cites; he cited it at one of our retreats which was sort of good artists copy; great artists steal. And what that means is that when you’re passionate about what you’re doing you’ll take ideas from anywhere and with no guilt. You want to make the best possible thing and that was our mentality.

JT: I have to say I actually worked for Xerox AI Systems in 1986 and it was kind of frustrating because they really had the mentality there that if you couldn’t sell paper and toner for [them] they weren’t interested.

AH: Oh sure. Xerox in a well-documented fashion – they had at least the possibility of having the world at their feet there with the work that Alan Kay and his team did. But yeah; they completely blew it and most of the best PARC people were really frustrated by the Xerox management. There’s no doubt of that; that’s one of the reasons why Steve Jobs is great. You had someone leading the company who could relate to the customers and appreciate things.

****************************************************

Interview CNET with Andy Hertzfeld

What’s your response when people say the Mac engineers stole everything from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center?
I just say, well, someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe in the very broadest sense we were inspired by Xerox. But literally no code was taken, I mean not a single line of code.
Didn’t a lot of people join Apple from Xerox?
Just one person on the Mac team, more on the Lisa team–four or five. Many of the ones who came from PARC came after the Mac shipped. Alan Kay, who was the visionary and driving force behind Xerox PARC, came to work at Apple just about the time I was leaving, in March 1984. Once he came there, about 10 PARC people came.
What was the attraction, that Apple could get the technology into the market?
Yeah, sure. The people developing the stuff at Xerox PARC were different types of people. Some were professorial and academic, and they didn’t really care if their stuff was used by people. They just wanted to explore new ideas. They were happy there. But the people who wanted to make an impact on the world and improve the lives of their friends and stuff like that, they were very frustrated–nothing ever came out. So they saw Apple come out with something that embodied all of their ideals, but their kid brother could afford it. They were very attracted to that. They came to Apple to make a difference.

Kids playing with a prototype of the Xerox Alto

See also:

Myth: Copyright Theft, Apple Stole GUI from Xerox PARC Alto | Obama Pacman.

RELATED ARTICLES

65 COMMENTS

  1. […] network, data moves explicitly,” Lunt said. “With CCN, the data just moves.” Read more . . . [caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"][/caption] Updated. Xer…NetworkTopology-Mesh.png" alt="Image showing mesh network layout" width="300" height="227" […]

  2. Myth: Xerox management were stupid/did not attempt to commercialize the technology
    Fact: The Xerox Star was sold to the public years before the first Apple system with such a user interface: the Lisa.

    Myth: Xerox management were stupid not to prosecute Apple earlier
    Fact: Xerox was under anti-trust supervision at the time much like AT&T and IBM. It would be very dangerous from them to be seen squashing a competitor. Software patents were generally unenforceable. Apple claimed Xerox only had the ideas and ideas we not copyrightable only the expression of the ideas.

  3. Myth: THe Xerox Star was sold to the public years before the first Apple system with such a user interface: the Lisa.
    Fact: the Xerox Star was sold in the second half of 1981. The first Lisa was produced 1982. So it’s month, not years.

  4. Two lines devoted to the 1988 court case. Didn’t wanna quote what the JUDGE said about Apple’s theft of Xerox’s intellectual property, eh? And emphasizing that not a single line of code was stolen? COME ON. The issue is Raskin knowing about Xerox’s work and dragging Jobs along to ensure the (stolen) GUI idea got funded at Apple. This was never about stolen code and the use of “everything” in the title is a silly way to give deniability to one of the greatest thefts of intellectual property in history.

  5. Zimborg said:
    Myth: Xerox management were stupid not to prosecute Apple earlier

    It’s sad that such implied anti-Apple bias and hatred still exists despite the facts as laid down right before us by the people that were on the scene.

    Apple PAID upfront for use of the GUI technology with a very large amount of shares from their IPO, and furthermore vastly improved the technology along the way.

    Meanwhile, Xerox’s own workstation offerings at the time are reported to have cost about $16,000 a pop, and would not work without a Server that cost $24,000!!!

    And these rabid haters still consider Apple products expensive.

  6. What was told to me, in vague terms, was that Alan Kay was on the team that invented SmallTalk and that Apple hired him because Xerox failed with the Alto and Star systems and that they weren’t interested in going after the lower price home/smaller personal computer market, which is partly why not only Alan Kay left PARC, but Metcalfe ended up leaving to start up 3Com, so since they developed the technology and Xerox didn’t have any plans to do anything with it, they left to go elsewhere to further develop the GUI.

    By the time the first GUI came out with Apple, Xerox had nothing on the market because they had already canned the Alto and Star projects, plus they were VERY expensive and the average person couldn’t afford them. Obviously Apple made some improvements and changes to make it more useful. And obviously it stuck and the GUI has just gone through improvements.

  7. Why don’t people say that 3Com stole ethernet from PARC too? Same thing. Metcalfe engineered Ethernet while he was at PARC and he left PARC to start up 3Com. It’s almost the same thing because Alan Kay worked on the early Alto/Star SmallTalk and GUI with PARC and he left to go to Apple to help develop the Mac.

  8. On your youtube you had Xerox PARC Demo for Apple and now it is private. I need it for my NHD project, so I was wondering if you could un-private it or send me an email with the video file in it. My email is yodacrafter2000@gmail.com

    sincerely,

    David McHugh

  9. […] Apple did not steal the GUI from Xerox, they had given Xerox shares of Apple to see their work. There was no working relationship between Apple and Xerox. No lines of code were stolen.  Xerox’s attempt to sue Apple was dismissed by the courts. Apple’s Lisa team was already developing a GUI at the time Apple employees visited Xerox. […]

  10. The concept that apple could use it because Xerox was not using it is ridiculous. So if a movie company is not selling a movie anymore, do you have the right to steal it? Or if someone comes in my home and steals something that I am not using it is okay? The idea that Apple is an honest company is ludicrous. I go into details without getting myself in trouble, but I have a lot of inside information on how they destroyed companies, had their buddies at the FBI railroad people to jail for doing something that could hurt their bottom line, etc. Everyone knows that the hide their money in Scotland so they only pay 1% tax. But to be honest that is they way all big business is, and if anyone thinks they got rich being fair and honest, they are a fool

  11. Tour or trade show? He and Apple didn’t steal anything it was part of an investment agreement that xerox greatly benefited from. I don’t understand how even Walter Issacson can also claim Steve “stole” the technology shortly after mentioning how he acquired it in the first place. People love to point the finger.

  12. In every visit Xerox gave a copy of the OS to anyone who wont it, so nither Jobs or Gates stoled anything, only made reverse engennering an made pirate OS, that in fact windows and mac os are.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Brayden on Apple II
Barbara parshley on Contact / Legal
Ian G. E, Cumming NDPM,A.IMKT (SA.) on History of the Apple Ads (1978 – 2008)
austjeremy@hotmail.com on Apple I and Apple II
DAVID CRAIG on Apple Lisa
Anton Kashirin on Contact / Legal
Hardened on PowerMac Commercials
Sarah M on Apple Macintosh
Patricia E Phelps on The Wizards behind the Macintosh
Shad Glovier on Newton Message Pad
mark smith on Contact / Legal
Kayamkulam Kochunni on PowerBook 100 (1991)
Luis Galavis on PowerBook 100 (1991)
Ned Truslow on Contact / Legal
henn claus on Mac OS 1 (System)