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News and Reviews

The Story Behind “El Capitan”

Azazel June 8, 2015 4

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capToday Apple announced their new update to OS X entitled “EL Capitan.” And it has left many people crying out “Where did such a wonderful name come from?” and “WHO IS EL CAPITAN!?”

Well, friends.

I’m here to tell the story.

It begins with my being hired by the Apple creative team about 6 years ago. At the time, I was just a lowly toilet scrubber and I got paid in 1 GB iPod shuffles. But I was promised there would be room for advancement if my shit-cleaning skills were exceptional. And they were.

I soon got the nickname “Clean Dean” around the office after I cleaned an entire floor with my tongue and a bottle of Pine-Sol.

I’ll admit it wasn’t a glorious place to start. But when you work for a business super-giant like Apple, you have to start somewhere. And that was where I started.

After six months on the janitorial staff, I had proved that I had an unwavering devotion to the Apple brand not only through my insane bathroomstall-based work ethic, but also through using exclusively Apple products. If you’re an employee, they’ll even sell you iSocks. They’re just socks. But they’re Apple socks. So they are so much more than socks. So much more.

By this point I had also perfected the “You’re using a Windows computer? No wonder you have problems! I’ve had my Mac since 32,000 BC and it’s never crapped out on me!” conversation that is so essential to an Apple employee (and any consumer of Apple goods really).

So I was ready to move up in the ranks.

From there so much happened. I’ll spare you the details. But I will say it was a long, crazy journey filled with sweatshops, mountain-top battles, expensive ice-wine and underhanded black market deals.

By about 6 months ago I had finally made it to the top. I was on the crew for the development for the new OS announced today.

Now in the old days, creative and dev teams were to report to Steve Jobs for advice/approval. After his death, things became a little more complicated. Tim Cook became the CEO, of course. But he is merely a figurehead. He essentially is in the business to make money and doesn’t ultimately make any important decisions for the brand.

Another, more important figure took Jobs’ position as the ultimate decision maker for Apple. His name was Randy and he lived in the Himalayas with a small Chihuahua named Boris in a cave heated only by fire and love.

Teams were flown out to India to work closely with Randy and develop new Apple products and software throughout the last few years.

Randy was….eccentric. For one thing, his choice of location for his office was obviously somewhat unique. It certainly took some getting used to working there. But after awhile you barely notice that you’re wearing 3 layers of yak-skin. It becomes like a big, furry, several inch thick extension of your own body. His methods for developing software were also unique. He had no computers in his cave. He always said that “An OS should come from the heart. Right from the right ventricle. Where your blood comes out of. That’s where an OS comes from.” And while a lot of us were initially skeptical, he was right. It’s not about coding or streamlining user interfaces. It’s about the feeling an OS can give a person. You are building the architecture for a person’s interactions with something they deal with every day. It’s like building the bones of a relationship. And there should be love in it. There should always be love in it.

We all learned in that cave. We sat around in our fur, eating Musk Deer soup that Randy had taught us how to make, playing with Boris and really getting to know each other as real human beings. We shared stories of our divorces and our pain, and how our parents had fucked up or triumphed, and at the end of every day Randy would hug each one of us and tell us were awful and beautiful at the same time. It may not sound like software development. But you weren’t there. You didn’t see the things we saw.

I only knew Randy for a short time. I was put on the dev team for the new OS only 6 months ago and I did spend that whole time in India, but there was a lot of folks who were out there since the beginning back in 2011. Still, in that 6 months he changed almost everything about me. And I am forever in his debt.

Because I spent such a small time with him, it almost feels wrong to tell his story. Someone like Branco or Lucienna who were some of the first people to work with Randy should probably be writing this. But they’re busy with some important spiritual cleansing.

I regret to say that about a month ago Randy passed away. He was mauled by a black bear while showing some new recruits some of his favorite “listen to nothing and think” spots. For a while it looked like he might survive, but the bear ripped his scalp clean off and that can be hard to recover from. Even if you’re one of the most important and loving people in the world.

So that brings us to today.

We called Randy a lot of things. Dad, Yak Man, That Crazy Fucking Bastard Who Lives in The Mountains. And most often, we called him “El Capitan.” He was the leader of a great moving ship made of technology and empathy, so it fit him well.

So we thought it only appropriate to name the final work made under his careful instruction directly after El Capitan himself. So when you’re firing up your Mac after the update and you see the name “El Capitan” think for a second on Randy. He was a true miracle of a man.

We’ll miss you forever, bud. Show them how it’s done in the afterlife. They’re lucky to have you.

<3 Azazel









In loving memory of Randall Johnathan Mitmier (1952-2015).

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