The Macintosh project started in late 1978 with Jef Raskin, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. In September 1979, Raskin began looking for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of the Apple Lisa team, introduced Raskin to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year.
Apple's original concept for the Macintosh deliberately sought to minimize the user's conceptual awareness of the operating system. Many basic tasks that had required more operating system knowledge on other systems could then be accomplished by mouse gestures and graphic controls on a Macintosh. This would differentiate it from its contemporaries such as MS-DOS, which use a command-line interface consisting of tersely abbreviated textual commands.
In January 1981, Steve Jobs completely took over the Macintosh project. Jobs and a number of Apple engineers visited Xerox PARC in December 1979, three months after the Lisa and Macintosh projects had begun. After hearing about the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC from former Xerox employees like Raskin, Jobs negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The final Lisa and Macintosh operating systems use concepts from the Xerox Alto, but many elements of the graphical user interface were created by Apple including the menu bar, pull-down menus, and the concepts of drag and drop and direct manipulation.
Unlike the IBM PC, which uses 8 kB of system ROM for power-on self-test (POST) and basic input/output system (BIOS), the Mac ROM is significantly larger (64 kB) and holds key OS code. Much of the original Mac ROM was coded by Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Macintosh team. He was able to conserve precious ROM space by writing routines in assembly language code optimized with "hacks," or clever programming tricks. In addition to the ROM, he also coded the kernel, the Macintosh Toolbox, and some of the desktop accessories (DAs). The icons of the operating system, which represent folders and application software, were designed by Susan Kare, who later designed the icons for Microsoft Windows 3.0. Bruce Horn and Steve Capps wrote the Macintosh Finder, as well as a number of Macintosh system utilities.
Apple was very aggressive in advertising their new machine. After it was created, the company bought all 39 pages of advertisement space in the 1984 November/December edition of Newsweek magazine. Apple was so successful in its marketing for the Macintosh that it quickly outsold its more sophisticated predecessor, the Lisa. Apple quickly developed a product named MacWorks, which allowed the Lisa to emulate Macintosh system software through System 3, by which time it had been discontinued as the rebranded Macintosh XL. Many of Lisa's operating system advances would not appear in the Macintosh operating system until System 7 or later.