Frequent Flyer

William Parkhurst doesn't seem to have much trouble with stress. As the team leader of what may prove to be NeXT's most important product ever NeXTSTEP '486 his hands are full, but his calm manner and constant tan suggest the essence of control. Of course these qualities may have something to do with the fact that Parkhurst lives in Hawaii, and only visits NeXT headquarters in Redwood City, California, when his work requires it.

Parkhurst didn't always have such a long, sunny commute. He was right down the road at Living Videotext in Mountain View before joining NeXT in 1986. Although Parkhurst was, in his own words, "NeXT's first non-Apple employee," he was quite familiar with Macs (and particularly their faults), having been founder of the first Macintosh developer association at Silicon Valley's Software Entrepre-neurs' Forum.

"The Mac brought ease-of-use to users, but it did nothing for programmers," says Parkhurst, who had become "highly sensitized to programming environments" while writing the best-selling Macintosh application Click Art Effects. When he heard through the grapevine that Steve Jobs had started a new company, Parkhurst was immediately interested. "I thought maybe NeXT would give me the opportunity to do some things that I couldn't do on my own."

He thought right. When Park-hurst arrived, NeXT was about to license an existing toolbox that ran on top of UNIX System 5. Before committing to it, however, NeXT wanted to test it, so Parkhurst began porting its toolbox routines.

Early on in the project Parkhurst realized the system was "junk": "The programming model was even less friendly than the Mac's." He suggested a completely new development of the toolbox run-time environment, from the ground up. The result was a godsend for programmers. The AppKit he created is responsible for one of NeXT's greatest competitive advantages: faster application development.

Not long after NeXT shipped its first NeXTSTEP release, Parkhurst decided to take a Hawaiian vacation. Before he departed, Jobs asked him to think about what NeXT should be doing over the next few years. Indeed, Hawaii made such an impression on Parkhurst that it allowed him to "think more deeply." After the trip and another meeting with Jobs, Parkhurst was a man with a new mission: "To make sure applications on our machine are really great." He left the software division and joined NeXT's developer partners group as resident application-design guru.

The new job often put him on the road or more specifically, in the air. In addition to the registered NeXT developers needing his help all over this country, Canon engineers working in Japan on the Kanji version of NeXTSTEP wanted use of Park-hurst's skills. As he regularly bounced between Redwood City and Japan, Parkhurst often stopped over in Hawaii for long weekends of sun and surfing. "I was living on a plane so much that it didn't really matter where I lived on the ground," he remembers. So he moved his home to Hawaii.

Parkhurst sees the latest change in his life as yet another improvement. In his role as jet-setter, he spends lots of time listening to developers, and they tell him this: If NeXTSTEP is to gain wide acceptance, it needs broader hardware support. So, since last August, he has managed the engineering of NeXTSTEP '486, which he calls "an important piece in the chain of events."

Looking back at his time with NeXT and at the oceans and states he's crisscrossed, Parkhurst is characteristically cool and upbeat. At the very least, he points out, "it proves you can get a lot of business done using NeXTmail."

by Joe Hutsko