Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Historical MacPaint Source Now on Display

MacPaint is considered a pioneering program by many experts and historians. Developed by designer, Bill Atkinson, MacPaint introduced tools which have become standards in other graphics programs, such as the paint bucket and lasso. The images created in MacPaint could be used in other programs -- another feature which made it unique in its time. MacPaint was released with the Mac in 1984 and, though fondly remembered, it was sold drifted into obscurity as more advanced programs became available.

Professor Dan Knuth mentioned MacPaint in a speech he gave at an event commemorating Macintosh's 20th anniversary and asked the crowd if anyone knew how to get the original source code. A former Macintosh developer in the audience, Andy Hertzfeld, knew Atkinson and called him about the code. While Atkinson had a copy of the source, it had been processed and saved on an experimental machine, called Lisa, which no longer exists. The pair eventually recovered the data, but then had to convince Apple to let it go.

At first, Apple was cool with the idea, but unrelated problems impeded the donation. Finally in January, Hertzfeld spoke to Steve Jobs. The next day, it was approved. Today, the files are live. Further, Apple also released the source to QuickDraw, which Hertzfeld, also a cyberculturalist, called "the single most important component of the original Macintosh technology." According to Hertzfeld, QuickDraw comprises about 1/3 of the original Macintosh architecture.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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