The Greatest Program Ever Written


Today, the source code to MacPaint was officially donated to the Computer History Museum and made available to the public. MacPaint was declared as “the best program ever written” at an event celebrating the Macintosh’s 20th anniversary, by Stanford University computer science professor Don Knuth.

Written by Bill Atkinson, MacPaint was beautifully simple, like much early Mac software — but also full of innovations. Features like the lasso (with the marching ants), and its ability to share graphics with other applications, were new on personal computers. Businessweek has a great article about the process of getting the software donated by Apple. And the Computer History Museum’s MacPaint and QuickDraw page has, not only the source code, but a interesting history about the development of the program.

It’s great to see software history preserved, especially something as influential as MacPaint.

MacSketch, an early version of MacPaint.
KidPix - influenced by MacPaint
Photoshop 1.0 - Influenced by MacPaint

Click the Photoshop & KidPics images to see a slideshow of screens from each. Images are from The Vintage Mac Museum.