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MacTech Spotlight: Peter N. Lewis, Stairways Software Pty Ltd.

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight: Peter N. Lewis

Stairways Software Pty Ltd.

Peter N. Lewis (left), with son Robert

What do you do?

CEO, CFO, CTO, Programmer, Tech Support, etc

How long have you been doing what you do?

I started program on the Mac and releasing Freeware and then Shareware on the Internet in 1990, and formed Stairways in 1994 when my revenues began to exceed my day job's salary. So have been writing Mac Software, mostly Internet related and all Internet distributed, for 17 years now. Early this year I sold our flagship program, Interarchy, to out lead developer, Matthew Drayton, who formed Nolobe to continue it, so currently it is just me working on Keyboard Maestro which is a macro program we acquired a few years ago.

Your first computer:

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2 with 16K of RAM and a Tape Drive. Which means my current computer is a thousand times faster and approaching a million times more memory than my first. After that, I had an Amstrad 6128 and then a Mac Plus, and then a succession of many different Mac models (the Mac LC 475 still holds fond memories as an early elegant Apple computer).

What attracts you to working on the Mac?

The attention to detail. You can't get away with anything less that checking every pixel on the Mac. Every button needs to be lined up just right, every icon placed in just the right position. It forces you to think very clearly about what the customers will see.

What's the coolest thing about the Mac?

The discernment of the customer base and the consequences that has for the software I get to use. Pretty much all the software I use on the Mac is elegantly done because it simply would not survive otherwise.

If I could change one thing about Apple/OS X, I'd:

I would like to see Apple tone back a bit on dictating to the customers what they can and can't do, especially where there is no good reason except some idea of "Interface Purity". I'm not talking about allowing iPhone applications, there may be good reasons for that sort of choice. More things like not allowing customers to override the Command-Tab key, or delete the Movies folder. The things where there is no good reason to stop the customers from making changes.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

Probably Internet Config. Every time you click a URL in Mail or BBEdit and it opens a browser window in Safari, you're using the remnants of Internet Config which was originally written by Quinn, Marcus and I back in 1994. We released it into the Public Domain to ensure widespread adoption, and it was eventually incorporated into the Mac OS system software as well as supported by innumerable applications.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

At you can download or read about Keyboard Maestro.

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

Currently I am working on the next major version of Keyboard Maestro which will extend the ways you can control your Mac in some quite new directions. After that, I do have an idea for a program I'd like to write, but it is too far off to discuss just yet.


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