Remebering Jef Raskin

I saw the news on Jason Calacanis’ blog that Jef Raskin had died.  Jef is a legend in the computer business having designed the original Macintosh computer.

I first met Jef in 1987 after I joined Euclid Partners.  Euclid had recently invested in Jef’s company, Information Appliances.  I recall Jef’s passion for simplicity and ease of use.  His mantra was that computers should be like washing machines or toasters.  He was adamant that they needed to be that simple and easy to use.

CatInformation Appliance designed a bunch of computers and one of them actually got made, the Canon Cat.

Unfortunately, not many Canon Cat’s were ever sold.  I recall that we had one at Euclid for many years.  I wonder if they still have it lying around.

The Canon Cat was incredibly easy to use.  You’d just turn it on and start doing stuff.  It wasn’t very expensive either.

After the commercial failure of the Canon Cat, the writing was on the wall for Information Appliances.  I remember Milton Pappas, the founding partner at Euclid, working like hell with Jef to come up with a plan B to save the company, but it didn’t happen.

That whole experience for me was a real lesson in business.  The best ideas often don’t work.  Great design doesn’t always translate into commercial success.  And ideals and passion without commercial reality are losing propositions.

Jef went on to do some interesting things, many of which are highlighted on his blog.  He was an interesting man and I feel richer for having known him.