Designing Interactions

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Bill Atkinson

Bill Atkinson is interviewed in Chapter 2 – My PC. His partner for the design of much of the Apple software was Larry Tesler. More recent versions of the Macintosh operating system were designed by Cordell Ratzlaff.

In 1978 Bill was a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Washington when he got a call from Apple, suggesting that he visit. Steve Jobs persuaded him to join, saying, “If you want to make a dent in the world, you have to come to the place where it’s happening!” He was hired as the “Application Software Department,” and went on to lead the development of the software for Lisa and Macintosh, and to design MacPaint and HyperCard. He was a leader and inspirational designer at Apple for twelve years, during which time Apple grew from thirty people to fifteen thousand. Bill Atkinson designed several of the interactions that define the desktop.

Bill describes his contribution during the early years at Apple, illustrated by the Polaroid photographs that he kept of his prototypes. He talks about inventing pull-down menus, and the value for designers of watching people as they try to use prototypes of new designs.

Bill Atkinson photographing for his book Within the Stone.