Fifteen Crazy Years: a Toast to Life

Jan Van Boghout
3 min readMay 15, 2018


As I start writing this piece on my iPhone, I’m on a train to a new city, a new job and a new life. Seems fitting. When I started MacRabbit more than fifteen years ago, smartphones didn’t exist, nor did fast wireless internet on a high speed train. I was a high school kid drowning in boredom and wanted the world to be a more beautiful place.

It was an exciting time. Aqua set the trend for all design, so everything was shiny, glowing and bright. I had worked to earn a white iBook 500 and was hugely excited to play with Mac OS X after lusting over it for so long. Communities like MacNN were teeming with talent, and I could only hope to one day produce the art that made the rounds on those forums. MacRabbit was essentially my personal blog back then, an outlet to post icon packs and desktop pictures. A simple website with a cute logo that said “hello”.

The fog of time makes it tricky to reconstruct exactly how I went from there to cobbling together my first app. Programming was a dirty word because nerds were the epitome of uncool, but something about ASS (the appropriately acronymed AppleScript Studio) allowed me (with my oldest internet friend Mike handling all the Cocoa parts) to hack together DeskShade, a freeware app that covered your desktop icons so you didn’t have to clean up. At one point with an update around my birthday, I asked everyone who loved DeskShade to send a card. Two people did, and one included a jar of jam. Later it would dawn on me that these were the most amazing humans in existence, but at the time kid-me focused on the discrepancy between downloads and birthday cards. I concluded that postal mail was not an accurate measure of interest, that I wasn’t all that altruistic in keeping DeskShade free and that a price had to be paid for the incident — literally. Before school started again, I learned Cocoa to release my first commercial software: DeskShade Plus. Turns out charging money actually serves as a promise of utility, and many more gave it a try. MacRabbit the Big Business was born, at least doubling my allowance.

Detailing the 15 years afterwards would read like an autobiography, so I’ll be brief. Half your life shouldn’t fit into a blog post, anyway. I left for university in a city where I could discover who I was, while my virtual life kept the creative juices flowing. I was considered part of the Delicious Generation, a term that still makes me laugh. I won an Apple Design Award, which would have been a mind-blowing experience if I had actually gone to accept it (they didn’t explicitly say I’d win and it meant taking two extra exams over the summer). I fell in love. There were tears, there was laughter. The Mac conquered the design world far and wide, and MacRabbit grew with it. I burned out writing my master’s thesis. I got back up, but became too dependent on work to define myself as a person. Success and tailwinds, failure and a tiny bit of horrible luck, personal reflection — it all flew by. Now I’ve arrived here, where I am ready to say goodbye to my baby. MacRabbit was a kid’s dream, but today it becomes a man’s fond memory.

There are many people I would like to thank, and some I should but won’t. Thank you for helping me make beauty, and for being a team, and for teaching me hard and painful lessons, and for changing the sheets when the cat shat the bed. Thank you for telling me it’s okay to lick your wounds. Thank you for the patience and the endless chats. Thank you for making amazing things with the tools I built. Thank you for giving a boy purpose, and letting him realize there’s a fire deep inside him. Here’s to life, the non-stop train it is, and the places it takes us.