Miner Thoughts

I was going to use my column this month to explain the meaning of life to anyone who might be a little fuzzy on the subject. But then I asked myself, “What does the meaning of life have to do with the Macintosh computer?” I hear some of you out there saying “What the hell is he talking about — Macintosh ‘is’ the meaning of life!” Maybe it is, maybe it ain’t! In either case, it would take someone far more capable than me to rationally tie the two together. In case you haven’t noticed, I am not a very rational person.

Instead, I’ll share with you some of what I learned in my exhaustive search to uncover the reason for the creation of that all enjoyable, cute as a button, (ugly as a slug, to some) hard working, house broken, guardian of all Apple printers, Macintosh’s most favored mascot, the dogcow. I say exhaustive search but to be honest, all I did was go to “Yahoo” and selected “Computers” from the hirearchy menu, then I selected Macintosh, and then typed in the search criteria “dogcow.” Bingo! All the information I ever wanted to know about this little critter was right there under the heading, “dogcow lore.” This is what I discovered.

According to Mark (The Red) Harlan, who used to work in Apple’s Developer
Technical Support (DTS) group in 1987, the dogcow was originally a character in the Cairo font that used to ship with the Macintosh; it was designed by Susan Kare.

To Mark it showed perfection in human interface design. With one picture it was very easy to explain concepts like an inverted image or larger print area that otherwise would be nearly impossible to communicate.

Interest became an obsession when one day Mark was talking to Scott (“ZZ”) Zimmerman about the funny looking critter and suddenly thought, “Just what is that animal supposed to be, anyway?” Since ZZ was the Printing Guy in DTS at the time, and Mark’s favorite pastime was to bother him endlessly anyway, he started pressing him on whether the animal was a dog or a cow.

In an act of desperation ZZ said, “It’s both, OK? It’s called a ‘dogcow.’ Now will you get out of my office?” The date was October 15, 1987, and Mark considers this to be the first use of the term.

ZZ’s ploy to get Mark out of his office was futile, however, because Mark then stood around and postulated that the dogcow’s genes would have a radical effect on its behavior, and it must not bark or moo, but rather utter a combination like “Boo-woo!” or “Moof!”

Mark and ZZ both thought it was funny enough that they decided to press it into everyday usage, and Mark started circulating the dogcow with “Moof!” on internal memos. The idea caught on, and at the 1988 Worldwide Developers Conference they gave away dogcow buttons in the debugging lab. Response to the buttons was huge, and no one was smiling more than the DTS folks when John Sculley wore one for his keynote speech. It was a major-league coup.

One gentleman in the developer community took offense saying that “dogcow” was too close to “Dachau” and tried to show how dogcow had underpinnings of anti-Semitism. (Mark showed this one to his Jewish father-in-law, who had to be resuscitated, he was laughing so hard.)

Bootleg T-shirts started appearing. There was an apartment near Apple headquarters that started flying a dogcow flag. Several developers were nearly thrown out of a movie theater at MacHack for “Moofing” before a movie.

Somewhere along the line Mark baptized the dogcow “Clarus.” Of course she’s a female, as are all cows; males would be referred to as dogbulls, but none exist because there are already bulldogs, and God doesn’t like to have naming problems.

In a recent interview, Mark was asked if he had any words of wisdom on the dogcow. “Yeah. Warn everyone that both the dogcow logo and ‘Moof!’ are trademarks of Apple Computer. You don’t ever want to be in the position of having to answer the question, ‘What are you in for?’ with the answer, ‘Bootleg T-shirts.'”

So there you have it, some of the skinny on dogcow‘s creation.

Turns out there was no real reason for its creation. It was just a case of Macintosh developers and programmers doing what they do best, which is making the Macintosh computer a fun machine to use and the only way they can do this is by having fun themselves while programming and developing the Mac. Keep in mind developers and programmers have a very bizarre sense of humor. Just click the dogcow below and see what I mean.


I’ll talk with you next month. (that is if they let me!)

Next month read about my free speed upgrade and how you too can jump in the hammer lane with your 680×0 Mac.

Leave a Reply