Hacker News

The Graphing Calculator Story (2004)(pacifict.com)

66 pointskristianp posted 3 days ago15 Comments
shubhamjain said 2 days ago:

This is a my favorite internet story so far. I have read it at least a dozen times and I will keep revisiting it in the future. This is a perfect example of raw passion for 'creating' and how powerful that force can be - when you're not driven by the money, but the fact that millions will benefit from your work.

My favorite part:

"Why did Greg and I do something so ludicrous as sneaking into an eight-billion-dollar corporation to do volunteer work? Apple was having financial troubles then, so we joked that we were volunteering for a nonprofit organization. In reality, our motivation was complex. Partly, the PowerPC was an awesome machine, and we wanted to show off what could be done with it; in the Spinal Tap idiom, we said, "OK, this one goes to eleven." Partly, we were thinking of the storytelling value. Partly, it was a macho computer guy thing - we had never shipped a million copies of software before. Mostly, Greg and I felt that creating quality educational software was a public service. We were doing it to help kids learn math. Public schools are too poor to buy software, so the most effective way to deliver it is to install it at the factory.

Beyond this lies another set of questions, both psychological and political. Was I doing this out of bitterness that my project had been canceled? Was I subversively coopting the resources of a multinational corporation for my own ends? Or was I naive, manipulated by the system into working incredibly hard for its benefit? Was I a loose cannon, driven by arrogance and ego, or was I just devoted to furthering the cause of education?

I view the events as an experiment in subverting power structures. I had none of the traditional power over others that is inherent to the structure of corporations and bureaucracies. I had neither budget nor headcount. I answered to no one, and no one had to do anything I asked. Dozens of people collaborated spontaneously, motivated by loyalty, friendship, or the love of craftsmanship. We were hackers, creating something for the sheer joy of making it work."

wishysgb said 2 days ago:

For anyone that says people need a material incentive to do work. No we don't. Humans will do what is right and what is good for goods sake, when you steel away their humanity and their dignity then they will have the material incentive as the only motivator to do work.

avitzur said 2 days ago:
billforsternz said 2 days ago:

Kudos, for the original work, the great write up in 2004 and really for the whole journey as it continues.

hakcermani said a day ago:

Amazing Ron! This AR stuff looks really neat.

mkl said 2 days ago:

While this has been on HN many times before [1][2], surprisingly few of them have generated big discussions. The biggest seem to be https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1584501 (2010) and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16780276 (2018).

[1] https://hn.algolia.com/?q=the+graphing+calculator+story

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=nucalc.com

dang said 2 days ago:

Thanks! HN sarch tip for those who don't know: you can also do "comments>N" (and/or "points>N") to filter the search, like this:


billforsternz said 2 days ago:

Amusingly, these old discussions include a New York Times link to show the picture of the two engineers; https://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/11/business/chip-makers-comp... The article itself is about CISC v RISC, Intel v PowerPC (because Apple were about to transition to PowerPC). Since then of course Apple Mac transitioned to Intel but is now transitioning back to a different CISC architecture and you could write a similar article all over again.

thaumasiotes said 2 days ago:

> The secret to programming is not intelligence, though of course that helps.

> The secret to programming is having smart friends.

Didn't take long for it to turn out that the secret to programming is intelligence after all.

dboreham said 2 days ago:

Also lack of a social life and family commitments helps tremendously.

mch82 said 2 days ago:

Ended up getting their iPhone app after reading this. “Graphing Calculator AR”, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/graphing-calculator-ar/id11354...

kristianp said 2 days ago:

The two developers got a "a sum in the low five figures" (1) when Apple licensed the program, and they went on to form a company around the software.

(1) https://www.newsweek.com/they-hacked-real-good-free-117023

a_c said 2 days ago:

> On March 11, 1994, the front page of the Times business section contained an article on the alliance among Apple, IBM, and Motorola, picturing Greg and me in my front yard with a view of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I wonder if that photo is still around

rvba said 2 days ago:

Some time ago some engineer posted another story where NSA (?) made them help to create a bugged product. The 2 NSA guys were also shadow people - not officially registered anywhere, but coming into the office every day.

Sadly I cannot find the story, not sure if it was Apple, or something else.

pronoiac said 2 days ago:

You're thinking of "The Case of the Top Secret iPod" - https://tidbits.com/2020/08/17/the-case-of-the-top-secret-ip... - discussed here at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24188791