The story behind the Apple Graphing Calculator

I used to be a contractor for Apple, working on a secret project. Unfortunately, the computer we were building never saw the light of day. The project was so plagued by politics and ego that when the engineers requested technical oversight, our manager hired a psychologist instead. In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.

I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple’s doors, so I just kept showing up.


I asked my friend Greg Robbins to help me. His contract in another division at Apple had just ended, so he told his manager that he would start reporting to me. She didn’t ask who I was and let him keep his office and badge. In turn, I told people that I was reporting to him. Since that left no managers in the loop, we had no meetings and could be extremely productive. We worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week.

This is one way to make great software. Graphing Calculator shipped initialy on more than 20 million machines and is part of the OS X till this very day (in classic mode). Yet the project never officialy existed. Sounds like a fairy tale? It sure does. This is an exceptional story, that reminded me of Milton from Office Space.

via 37Signals / Wired

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Paweł Gościcki

Ruby/Rails programmer.

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