Interview with Don Melton(@donmelton)

Happy New Year to all who may be reading! I know that 2016 is going to be an amazing year and I hope all of you are as excited as I am.

Part of the reason why I am so excited is because we have a great interview today with Don Melton, a self proclaimed "Web geek."

Don Melton, as described by his website bio, is best known as the person who started the Safari and WebKit projects at Apple." Nowadays, Don spends his time in sunny California, refining his skills, storytelling, and tinkering. And, like me, Don spends time walking his dogs...dogs rule.

When you were a senior in high school, and people asked you: "what do you want to be when you grow up,” what was your response?

"A comic book artist" was always my response in high school. And I believed it, too. Of course, that had evolved from "a comic strip artist," when I was in grammar school.

While blessed with a natural talent for drawing, I was never interested in portraits or landcapes. I wanted to tell stories like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, with pictures.

And by the time I was in high school, I drew underground comics. I even had a few of them published.

So, I was certain about what I wanted to be when I "grew up." Essentially, I wanted to get paid for what I was already doing for free.

What was it like working at Apple? When did you start? Any specific memories come to mind?

I started at Apple on June 25, 2001. Not coincidentally, the same day the Safari and WebKit projects started. Of course, we didn’t call them that yet.

Even though Steve Jobs returned in '97, nobody took Apple seriously back then. Financially or otherwise. I think my stock options were under water the week after they were granted.

So, at that time you joined Apple to change the world. Or you went somewhere else. Because the money, if that was your motivation, wasn't in Cupertino.

That filled the Fruit Company with crazy people on a mission. Which meant it was never boring there. And I loved that about the place.

But it could also be stressfull. Especially with so many strong personalities. And I don’t mean just Steve.

It was like working at a nuclear reactor. And if you didn’t develop a tolerance for the radiation from those luminaries — well, you died.

To say that I was fortunate to work at Apple during that time is undervaluing the word “fortunate." Sometimes it’s still hard to believe. We really did change the world, too. Me and all those crazy people. Well, mostly them.

And now that I'm retired, they’re who I miss. Not the work.

How did you get into writing or blogging or whatever you want to call it?

It started as a joke at my retirement party. My friends at Apple kept asking me, "Gramps, whatever will you do now with all your free time?"

And, to be flippant, I said, “Writing."

Nine months later, to my surprise, I followed through and created my eponymous website.

I really thought only my close friends and former colleagues might read what I was posting. But I was wrong about that.

When and why did your fascination with technology begin?

My first visit to Disneyland. At least, the first I remember, sometime in the early '60s.

Sure, I knew that Disneyland was all make believe. I just admired the skill and control it took to create it. And, like every other kid at the time, I wanted to live in Tomorrowland. I wanted to be part of it all. Everywhere I looked were possibilities.

Years later, around 1980, the same mind-expanding experience happened when I got my first computer. I was 24 at the time. Practically a fossil. But I taught myself to program anyway. I mean, why not? I could finally create my own little Disneyland.

When I don’t describe myself as a “storyteller," I use “tinkerer." This is why.

When not “working,” where could someone find you?

They can't. That's why I have two houses. Makes it much easier to hide.

Actually, I have no idea what “working" means anymore. And that was true before I retired. I just dive into whatever I’m passionate about at the time. Everything else is “chores."

But when I’m not occupied on the Internet I like to spend time with my family, walking my dog, and drinking a good glass of wine with a big meal. You know, prosaic stuff.

Of course, I’m still writing during all those times. And normally I can hide it, but it’s a dead giveaway to my wife when I stare into space for too long or get lost while driving. She always knows.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Another hundred years of virility I would hope, but that doesn’t seem likely.

So, more storytelling. For as long as I’m able. On my website, in a podcast, at a lectern, around the dinner table. Maybe even on the pages of a novel. Somewhere.

I do plan on more actual writing, but I’ve told that lie before. We’ll see. Motivation has never been my problem. It’s lack of focus. And I’m not ashamed since I share that curse with the rest of humanity.

Of course, I’ll still write code from time to time. But don’t expect me to develop apps, join startups, manage engineering teams, etc. That’s not happening. I’ve moved on.

You are trapped on a desert island, and can only bring your family and three things…what are these things?

Dog food, Netflix and a satellite phone. Sure, Buddy is only seven and half pounds, but he and his stomach don’t know that. My family can’t make it through the week without Netflix now. And the phone? That’s obvious.

Because, island or not, I grew up in a desert and I’m not spending anymore time in one. So it’ll be a quick call and then just waiting for an Uber.

But nobody my age ever gets trapped on a desert island. They either crash into one and die, or they have “people" to take care of that and other little annoyances. I’m far too boring and cautious to ever go anywhere near a desert island anyway. And I’m fine with that.

David Silverman