Geek Of The Week: Bill Atkinson

Geek Of The Week: Bill Atkinson

Bill Atkinson was an engineer for Apple from 1978 until 1990. He worked with Burrell Smith, Jef Raskin, Joanna Hoffman, Chris Espinosa, Andy Hertzfeld, George Crow, and others on the original Macintosh project. Among Atkinson’s many contributions to the project were: MacPaint, QuickDraw, and HyperCard. These developments were instrumental in the Macintosh being used for digital graphics. He is also credited with the invention of the menu bar, something we all take for granted now.

A screehshot of MacPaint v1.0

When Atkinson left Apple in 1990, he and Hertzfeld started a software company called General Magic with colleague Marc Porat. The company’s theory was to take many user-oriented tasks and distribute them across multiple computers in a network, then allow the user to interact with the network via a hand-held device. General Magic went public in 1995 and had limited success, but eventually called it quits around 2002.

Atkinson with Steve Jobs, circa 1984

In addition to being a brilliant computer scientist, Atkinson is also a gifted photographer. He has been doing nature photography for many years and sells his photos through his website. Considering I used to be a professional photographer and now work in IT, it is safe to say I appreciate his contributions to both fields.

One of Atkinson’s landscape photos

About the Author

avatar KALE: A geek who works in the IT field and lives in Dallas, TX. He is also a music geek who has played in several local bands. Previous to his IT career, Kale worked as a photojournalist. He brings technical advice and artistic counterpoint to the podcast.