The Inexperienced-Engineers-and-Programmers Edition Monday, July 3, 2023

Designing The First Apple Macintosh: The Engineers’ Story, by Fred Guterl, IEEE Spectrum

Although the odds seemed against it in 1979, the Macintosh, designed by a handful of inexperienced engineers and programmers, is now recognized as a technical milestone in personal computing. Essentially a slimmed-down version of the Lisa workstation with many of its software features, the Macintosh sold for $2495 at its introduction in early 1984; the Lisa initially sold for $10,000. Despite criticism of the Macintosh—that it lacks networking capabilities adequate for business applications and is awkward to use for some tasks—the computer is considered by Apple to be its most important weapon in the war with IBM for survival in the personal-computer business.

From the beginning, the Macintosh project was powered by the dedicated drive of two key players on the project team. For Burrell Smith, who designed the Macintosh digital hardware, the project represented an opportunity for a relative unknown to demonstrate outstanding technical talents. For Steven Jobs, the 29-year-old chairman of Apple and the Macintosh project’s director, it offered a chance to prove himself in the corporate world after a temporary setback: although he cofounded Apple Computer, the company had declined to let him manage the Lisa project. Mr. Jobs contributed relatively little to the technical design of the Macintosh, but he had a clear vision of the product from the beginning. He challenged the project team to design the best product possible and encouraged the team by shielding them from bureaucratic pressures within the company.

Tracking Air Quality In A Wildfire-Filled World, by Adam Engst, TidBITS

This is our second go-round with wildfire smoke. The first was when it drifted down from the Quebec wildfires about 3 weeks ago. It was terrible that time, with the worst air quality index (AQI) in our area at 460 on a scale of 0 to 500. An AQI is a pollutant measurement that offers a relative risk value—no matter what the scale, being near the top is extremely bad. In this second round of wildfire smoke, the AQI numbers have hovered lower, between 150 and 200, which “only” ranks as “Unhealthy” on the EPA’s scale.

The entire situation is making me jittery and ill at ease, and my reaction to anything unknown is to learn as much as I can and share it with others. You’ve just been nominated to help me keep my cool by letting me write this article.

On App Stores

New Rules Should Ensure Safety, Competition In Huge App Market, by The Asahi Shimbun

Rules for promoting competition would only be counterproductive if they lead to the spread of malicious apps that threaten safety and privacy or make consumers anxious. More assessments are needed to determine whether the measures proposed in the final report would really ensure safety.

Another big question is whether the envisioned new regulatory rules will actually promote competition in the market.

Google allows users of its smartphone OS to install apps from marketplaces other than its Google Store. But most of the apps obtained by users of its mobile OS are downloaded from the store.

Coming Soon?

What’s Next For Apple’s AirPods: Health Tracking, USB-C And Lower Prices, by Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

Apple is preparing to give the earbuds a fresh boost. It’s exploring major new hearing health and body-temperature features, and is planning cheaper models and a transition to USB-C charging ports. The product also will have ties to the Vision Pro headset due next year. The capabilities will come in addition to already-announced software features that were part of iOS 17, as well as plans for new AirPods Pro and Max models.

The company is working on a new hearing test feature that will play different tones and sounds to allow the AirPods to determine how well a person can hear. The idea is to help users screen for hearing issues, not unlike how the Apple Watch ECG app checks for heart problems.


Apple Weather App Now Offers Next-Hour Precipitation Notifications On iPhone In Australia, by Joe Rossignol, MacRumors

iPhone users in Australia can now receive next-hour precipitation forecasts and notifications from the Weather app, according to an updated Apple support document.


Apple Forced To Make Major Cuts To Vision Pro Headset Production Plans, by Qianer Liu, Financial Times

The complexity of the headset design and difficulties in production are behind the scaling back of targets, while plans for a more affordable version of the device have had to be pushed back, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the manufacturing process.


Two people close to Apple and Luxshare, the Chinese contract manufacturer that will initially assemble the device, said it was preparing to make fewer than 400,000 units in 2024. Multiple industry sources said Luxshare was currently Apple’s only assembler of the device. Separately, two China-based sole suppliers of certain components for the Vision Pro said Apple was only asking them for enough for 130,000 to 150,000 units in the first year.

Bottom of the Page

Apple is now a much more secretive company than in the days of Apple II, Lisa and Macintosh. I do hope one day we will learn about how iPhones and iPads and Vision Pros were developed. Please don't wait until someone is dying and commission a memoir before we get to learn about the hard work done by all the people behind the scenes.


Thanks for reading.