Revealed preferences

The tale of how the original Mac take on a calculator program was designed is fascinating:

After playing around for a while, [Chris Espinosa] came up with a calculator that he thought looked pretty good. But the acid test was showing it to Steve Jobs, in his role as our esthetic compass, to see what he thought.

We all gathered around as Chris showed the calculator to Steve and then held his breath, waiting for Steve’s reaction. "Well, it’s a start", Steve said, "but basically, it stinks. The background color is too dark, some lines are the wrong thickness, and the buttons are too big." Chris told Steve he’ll keep changing it, until Steve thought he got it right. […]

So, as the conclusion of this story reveals the surest to get Steve Jobs to reveal his preferences for a calculator design was to give him access in development to a tool that let him use drop-down menus to set user preferences.

Given the way that Jobs-era Apple software was so opinionated, so averse to offering users options to set parameters according to their preferences, there’s a certain irony in that.

Executive summary: user preferences are a fine thing, but only if the user’s ID is sjobs@apple.com?

[Via Memex 1.1]