Creation myth: Xerox PARC, Apple, and the truth about innovation

Malcolm Gladwell writing for The New Yorker describes a visit by Steve Jobs to Xerox PARC in 1979. Xerox PARC was the innovation arm of the Xerox Corporation. In 1970, Xerox had assembled the world’s greatest computer engineers and programmers, and for the next ten years they had an unparalleled run of innovation and invention. By 1979, Apple was already one of the hottest tech firms in the country. So Jobs proposed a deal: he would allow Xerox to buy a hundred thousand shares of his company for a million dollars—its highly anticipated I.P.O. was just a year away—if PARC would “open its kimono.” Jobs was given a couple of tours, and he ended up standing in front of a Xerox Alto, PARC’s prized personal computer.

Galdwell considers whether Jobs “stole” the personal computer from Xerox, or whether it is more accurate to say that he and Apple adapted some of Xerox PARC’s ideas for a different audience.

Read more here.

MacDailyNews Note: Subscribers can read this article on The New Yorker iPad app or in their online archive. Others can pay for access to the full article.

For further reading about Apple and who really did what and when, we recommend, as always, Folklore.org.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dow C.” for the heads up.]

33 Comments

    1. Please excuse me, but you have no clue what you’re talking about.

      To begin with, the article in the New Yorker can’t possibly be a link bait, since you can only read it if you are ALREADY a subscriber.

      More importantly, the article is seven pages long and talks about innovation, innovators, evolution of ideas, and goes well beyond just Jobs’s visit to PARC and the birth of Mac.

  1. So, for $32 million, corrected for investment, time and inflation, Apple and Steve got a very brief look at possibilities for the future of computing.

    I’d say Apple paid for the look-see.

    1. Not only “look-see”: Jobs could just go to any of organizations having Xerox Alto systems installed and see them in the work.

      The visit was serious licensing deal. Xerox agreed to that because Jobs promised that he will never compete with Xerox in floortop workstations markets — and he kept his word.

      Apple’s Lisa was desktop PC and was way cheaper than Xerox Alto/Star (despite costing $10000).

    2. Bottom line is that AAPL paid not developed. They didn’t exactly steal it. They ah, paid to take it. Right that’s what they did, they paid for stuff. Just like Bill Gates developed DOS. Uhuh.

  2. Two flaws in this mornon’s story: First, the result of all of Apple’s innovation after Jobs sees the PARC project was Lisa, not MacIntosh. Second, Apple licensed parts of Xerox’s technology, which was under patent, for a token sum and in exchange for a stock swap.

  3. Geez. Do any of these so called journalist do any real research? Are they so lazy that they don’t bother checking folklore.org? Sadly YES! Pathetic!

    1. As I said above, the article is 7 (SEVEN!) pages long, and goes a lot deeper than what MDN quoted here.

      Unlike many newspapers of today, The New Yorker is one of the few that employs an army of fact checkers, who do a very painstaking and thorough job of checking facts; not to mention those who actually write articles are highly regarded journalists.

      1. Pedrag:

        Look at the title. It’s an obvious lure on this subject alone. Folklore.org and R X Cringley have covered and documented this thoroughly already. Nothing new here.

        1. Not really. In order to lure someone, they would have to make it accessible. You can only read the article if you are a SUBSCRIBER.

          The point of the article is NOT the PARC/Jobs/Mac story. It is the story of the process of innovation. The article spends much more time on Gary Starkweather and his work at PARC on laser printers.

          It is a very interesting article.

          1. Pedrag:

            The title is about PARC, Jobs and XEROX. u say the article is more about innovation in general. Therefore, the title is misleading. Period. End of story.

            1. The title is about what? PARC, Jobs and XEROX?

              Try hard as you want, you can’t change the title to fit your argument. You’ve been irrelevant since you came in here and now you’re just annoying.

  4. This is part of how propaganda works:

    You come up with a lie that hurts the object of your hatred. You make sure that the sheeple are ignorant enough about the facts to believe the lie. You repeat the lie over and over ad nauseam. Eventually the sheeple accept the lie as fact. Tada, you have successfully turned the sheeple against the object of your hatred.

    It happens in biznizz.
    It happens in politics.
    It’s nothing more than deceit.

  5. Interesting world we live in today, where lies and aspersions are abundant and free to read everywhere … but if you want truth … well, you’ll have to pay for that.

  6. I was at the dealer meeting in Seattle when the Mac was introduced and there was recognition of the fact that Xerox technologies were licensed and Apple paid 4 million dollars to use those technologies.

    There is no question Apple paid for what it got from Xerox.

  7. Apple also did with those technologies what Xerox either could not or would not do with them. Adobe was founded with the help of technology that Xerox had no interest in developing into products. To even suggest that Steve Jobs “stole” technology that ended up in Apple products is nothing but a shameless attempt at character assassination. I hope this issue blows up in his f*cking face.

  8. The interview on NPR is more about innovation as opposed to origination. Those that come second or third do the best innovating and bring the most to market. Did Apple invent the mp3 player? No, but they did it better and took over the market? Did Apple invent the smart phone? Absolutely not but they did redefine the category. See where I’m going? Was Facebook the first foray int social media? No. Stop being so defensive!

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