Bill Atkinson was part of the team that created the original Macintosh at Apple computers. In Part-2 of our conversation Atkinson shares what it was like to work with Steve Jobs on the Lisa project. He shares the backstory of how Quickdraw and MacPaint were created and what it was it like working for Apple when it was a young company.
Atkinson talks about his childhood and what it was like growing up in Los Gatos in Silicon Valley when it was known as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.” Both his parents were physicians. His mother was one of the early female students to study medicine at Cornell University. She nurtured Atkinson’s interest in science and helped him with his projects. He considers his mother his role model. He says his mother “instilled in me the belief that I could do anything that I set my heart to as long as I was willing to work really hard.”
Atkinson was interested in science at school and went on to study chemistry for his undergraduate and was doing his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Washington, Seattle when he got that call from his former teacher Jeff Raskin to come visit Apple Computers. He dropped out of his studies and came back to work at Apple in Silicon Valley.
Atkinson went on to co-founded General Magic that was spun off from Apple. The goal of General Magic was to create a personal communicator device. The company failed to succeed. Atkinson then pursued his interest in photography and has an app called PhotoCard. Besides photography Atkinson has a deep interest in neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Atkinson says, “I used to think what the earth needed was more wisdom. And now I think it needs more compassion and empathy. So sometimes the technologies that we unleash have unintended consequences.”
This conversation is part of Season 4 of our Silicon Valley Pioneers series that spotlights the role of “hidden figures” in Silicon Valley. This 5-part series featuring Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld is sponsored by Zoho.
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