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Insider Describes Rise & Fall of Apple's Aperture Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

29 January 2020

Chris Hynes, a 20-year veteran of Apple, has described his experience working on the Aperture project in a post made last month in his blog Tech Reflect.

"This project is tricky to write about as there was so much positive and negative emotion involved -- a real roller coaster," he begins the story.

Hynes was working with Paul Marcos on Apple Mail when Marcos suddenly left the team. Marcos couldn't tell Hynes what project he was going to be working on but suggested he come along for the ride.

Hynes describes his interviews, during the last of which he guessed he would be working on a photos app when he observed the office wall was covered with beautiful images.

One of the unusual approaches the team took in designing Aperture was hiring two photographers. Hynes describes the arrangement:

Another wonderful thing was we hired two professional photographers -- top tier ones -- to work on the project. One had his photos on the cover of dozens of National Geographic magazines. They were to use Aperture with their professional workflow and then attend meetings and share their experiences. Excellent idea.

Despite a team of engineers he describes as "stellar," things started going sour in the early summer of 2005. "One of the best projects ever quickly turned into a nightmare," he writes.

Management cut features that were finished and working well, including his contribution.

I was in charge of printing and it worked amazingly well. It had unique features that probably don't exist even today in any other program. I had worked so hard on some of the nuked features.

When the feature cuts didn't produce a product that could ship, management started yelling at the developers. And when that failed, they worked everyone to death.

Then they decided to move engineers from other teams to help finish the project. Except none of those engineers had a clue what was going on. "Software engineers reading this are already laughing, I'm sure," Hynes notes.

The team disbanded after the product did eventually ship. "Given all that happened, we started looking around for jobs elsewhere right after the product shipped," Hynes explained.

It's a fascinating inside look at how Aperture came to be and what working in development at Apple was like.

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