What The Macintosh Took Away

Update: I found a copy of the essay here but it appears to be a reprint with a different title, “Time To Liberate The Web”. Same content though, so it doesn’t matter.

I found an essay by Ted Nelson titled “Way Out Of The Box”, and it’s about limitations imposed by technical-minded people on everyone else. It’s about the assumptions made when programs and computers are designed.

Here is a particularly good passage that tells us what we sacrifice when we force users to become distinct from programmers,

Suppose they gave you MTV, and in return took away your right to vote? Would you care? Some of us would. That’s how I think of today’s computer world, beginning with the Macintosh. The Macintosh gave us Fonts, pretty fonts to play with, and graphic arts tools that previously were out of reach, except in the most high-budget realms of advertising and coffeetable book production. Those fonts and graphic arts tools were a great gift.

But nobody seems to have noticed what the Macintosh took away.


If you bought an Apple II, you could begin programming it right out of the box. I have friends who bought the Apple II without knowing what programming was, and became professional programmers almost overnight. The system was clean and simple and allowed you to do graphics.

But the Macintosh (and now the Windows PC) are another story. And the story is simple: PROGRAMMING IS ONLY FOR OFFICIAL REGISTERED “DEVELOPERS”.

(Emphasis mine)

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