Videogames are beset with rumors and speculation about what secret mysteries developers are holding back. The process of keeping secrets, and determining what should and shouldn’t be a part of public record, is murky and haphazard. Writing in a Quora thread about how Apple keeps its secrets from slipping out into the world, Kim Scheinberg writes about the time her husband John Kullmann, an engineer at Apple, helped translate OSX to Intel-based computers in 2001.
Kullmann had originally started work on the project as a way to transition to telecommuting in hopes that Apple would allow him to move back to the East Coast so his son could be nearer his grandparents. Kullmann showed his supervisor version of OSX running on Intel PCs that he’d been able to program and the project was quickly transformed from a home office experiment into a highly classified piece of corporate property.
They would assign two more engineers to the project in January 2002. In August 2002, another dozen started working on it. That’s when the first rumors started to appear. But for 18 months, only six people had any idea that the project even existed.
The best part? After Steve goes to Japan, Bertrand sits JK down and has a talk with him about how no one can know about this. No one. Suddenly, the home office has to be reconfigured to meet Apple security standards.
JK points out to Bertrand that I know about the project. In fact, not only do I know about it, I am the person who named it.
Bertrand tells JK that I am to forget everything I know, and he will not be allowed to speak to me about it again until it is publicly announced.
I guess he had some kind of ‘Total Recall’ memory wipe in mind.
Scehinberg’s story is a reminder that secrets often need to be protected not because their innate value is so powerful but because public openness could erode a company’s ability to make a profit from an idea that, in any other setting, would seem like common sense.