How Did The Blue Meanies Come To Be?

The "Blue Meanies" was the name of a group of generalists in the system software group at Apple. I was a member of the group for three and half years. We were experts at Mac programming and debugging, and we guided the architecture of Mac system software for several years.

People often ask how the Blue Meanies got started. The truth was pretty mundane, so I made up this story a few years ago. By the way, we had a hamster mascot named Gibbly.


The stooped figure in the bloodstained lab coat scurried around the lab, checking his instruments. All was in readiness. Tonight, finally, he would silence the skeptics. He would show them his theories weren't those of a crack-pot, but those of a genius!

He turned and surveyed the eleven tiny figures strapped on the tables in the center of the cavernous laboratory. The frightened rodents twisted and squirmed, but could not break free. Their sharp teeth had no effect on the stainless steel straps holding them in place. A twelfth hamster in a cage, marked with a nameplate that said "Gibbly," watched in horror as her brothers and sisters were subjected to this unthinkable torture.

Their wide frightened eyes beheld their tormentor as he performed some last minute adjustments on the huge panel filling the far wall of the lab. Had they any intelligence at all they would have recognized the eleven identical sets of medical monitors. Gauges, meters, and dials reflected respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure. Eleven long streamers of paper inched their way out of the EEGs, leaving twisted little piles on the floor.

The mad scientist paused and remembered the laughter of his peers when he presented his ideas to them. His face hardened as he recalled their ridicule when he proposed his "Theory of Transfiguration." His carefully documented research clearly showed that one mammal could be turned into another, yet they jeered and hooted until he was forced off stage, humiliated. He decided then to continue with his plan to prove his theories by turning rodents into monkeys.

The old man smiled grimly and faced his subjects. He crossed the room and sat before his Macintosh. The desk was covered with documentation, leaving barely enough room to move the mouse. He shoved TechNotes and volumes of Inside Macintosh out of the way to make more room. He briefly checked that his control program was ready, reaching for the mouse. A couple of clicks later, relays closed deep inside the complex machines and the process began.

Right at that moment, lightning struck the power lines just outside the lab windows. The Mac exploded in a shower of sparks. The blast propelled the old man backwards, his wheeled chair racing across the lab floor. He crashed into the panels and slid out of the chair onto the shiny floor. The piles of loose paper and manuals vaporized filling the air with a fine mist.

At the same time enormous amounts of power surged through the machines, the tables, and the poor helpless hamsters. Automatic safety devices failed, fused by the jolt of electricity. The transformation raced out of control. The straps holding the hamsters snapped open, but the stunned animals still could not move. A puslating aura surrounded them, permeated their tiny bodies, growing stronger and stronger. As the acrid smoke from the Mac and the remnants of the manuals swirled through the aura it began to shimmer violently.

The transformation continued. The eleven rodents began to shudder uncontrollably as the immense energy surrounding them intensified further. Had the scientist been conscious, he would have noted their change in size and form. They grew longer and wider and their fur (mostly) disappeared, replaced by Reeboks, Levis and t-shirts.

Critical components in the complicated machinery finally succumbed to the outrageous current. Sparks flew from the panels and tiny lights winked out as the transformation process ground to a halt. The aura subsided and suddenly the air was very still. The old man stirred and groaned as his abused bones protested their treatment. He shook his head to clear it and was immediately forced to wonder why anyone would do such a thing after being slammed into a wall. He rose and looked at the stainless steel tables, expecting to see years of research blown to bits. He gasped in astonishment at the scene his eyes beheld.

Eleven pairs of human eyes looked back at him. Unfortunately, the shock of such an overwhelming success was too much for him. His aging heart stopped beating and he fell heavily to the floor. Equally unfortunate was the intense paranoia which caused him to encrypt all of his notes.

The eleven Blue Meanies [the way they got their name is another story... -ed.] looked at each other and smiled. The knowledge fused into their very structure by the aura made them giddy with excitement. They desperately wanted to use this newfound information in some way but didn't quite know what to do. They milled around the lab in confusion, looking for some clue that would tell them what to do next. One of them noticed a charred scrap of paper on the floor and picked it up. He showed it to the others, and soon they decided what to do. They grabbed Gibbly and filed out of the lab, not looking back, and set out on a long journey to Apple Computer, Inc., 20525 Mariani Ave, Cupertino, CA 95014.


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