Xerox and Lisa

Chapter 8 of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson on the myth of Apple stealing from Xerox:

Xerox’s venture capital division wanted to be part of the second round of Apple financing during the summer of 1979. Jobs made an offer: “I will let you invest a million dollars in Apple if you will open the kimono at PARC.” Xerox accepted. It agreed to show Apple its new technology and in return got to buy 100,000 shares at about $10 each.

So much for the stealing. Better call it fair trade.


As he once said, “Picasso had a saying—‘good artists copy, great artists steal’—and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Jobs was a romantic. He liked to exaggerate things. However, he was a good executioner:

Jobs and his engineers significantly improved the graphical interface ideas they saw at Xerox PARC, and then were able to implement them in ways that Xerox never could accomplish. For example, the Xerox mouse had three buttons, was complicated, cost $300 apiece, and didn’t roll around smoothly; a few days after his second Xerox PARC visit, Jobs went to a local industrial design firm, IDEO, and told one of its founders, Dean Hovey, that he wanted a simple single-button model that cost $15, “and I want to be able to use it on Formica and my blue jeans.” Hovey complied.

and ..

Apple’s engineers devised an interface so you could not only drag windows and files around, you could even drop them into folders.

He had a good team as well:

One of Atkinson’s amazing feats (which we are so accustomed to nowadays that we rarely marvel at it) was to allow the windows on a screen to overlap so that the “top” one clipped into the ones “below” it. … Atkinson pushed himself to make this trick work because he thought he had seen this capability during his visit to Xerox PARC. In fact the folks at PARC had never accomplished it, and they later told him they were amazed that he had done so.

So Jobs and team not only got a piece of technology for a price, but they also improved the hell out of it. Impressive.



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