Jef Raskin


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Jef Raskin was an American human-computer interface expert best known for starting the Macintosh project for Apple Computer in the late 1970s. Jef Raskin was born in New York City to a secular Jewish family whose surname is a matronymic from "Raske," a Yiddish nickname for Rachel. He received a BA in mathematics and a BS in physics with minors in philosophy and music from Stony Brook University. 

In 1967, he received a master's degree in computer science from Pennsylvania State University after having switched from mathematical logic due to differences of opinion with his advisor. Even though he had completed work for his Ph.D., the university was not accredited for a Ph.D. in computer science. The first original computer application he wrote was a music application as part of his master's thesis.

Raskin later enrolled in a graduate music program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), but stopped to teach art, photography, and computer science there. He worked as an assistant professor in the Visual Arts department from 1968 until 1974. There, he did a show toys as works of art. 

Raskin announced his resignation from the assistant professorship by flying over the Chancellor's house in a hot air balloon. He was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to establish a Computer and Humanities center which used several 16-bit Data General Nova computers and glass terminals rather than the teletypes which were more common at that time.

Along with his undergraduate student Jonathan (Jon) Collins, Raskin developed the FLOW programming language for use in teaching programming to art and humanities students. The language was first used at the Humanities Summer Training Institute held in 1970 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. The language has only seven statements (COMMENT, GET IT, PRINT IT, PRINT "text," JUMP TO, IF IT IS " " JUMP TO, and STOP) and can not manipulate numbers. 

The language was first implemented in Fortran by Collins in under a week. Later versions of the language utilized "typing amplification," in which only the first letter is typed, and the computer provides the balance of the instruction eliminating typing errors. It was also the basis for programming classes taught by Raskin and Collins in the UCSD Visual Arts Department.

Raskin curated several art shows, including one featuring his collection of unusual toys and presenting toys as works of art. During this period, he changed the spelling of his name from "Jeff" to "Jef" after having met Jon Collins and liking the lack of extraneous letters.

Raskin occasionally wrote for computer publications, such as Dr. Dobb's Journal. He formed a company named Bannister and Crun, which was named for two characters playing in the BBC radio comedy The Goon Show.

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