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Save Our Screens

Some time ago a letter to the editor of MacWEEK complained about the amount of attention that was being paid to screen savers. The author of the letter felt that screen savers were a patent waste of time and MacWEEK should put its energies into more productive pursuits. "All work and no play..." seems to apply here, Jack. Screen savers are the perfect example of a necessary utility that can be interesting and fun as well. Computer screens that are left on the same picture (such as the Finder) for long periods of time will burn that image into the phosphor leaving a ghost image behind. It takes some time for this to happen, but it is disconcerting to work with once the phosphor has burned. I experience it mostly in my work with PC-clones that have lived through too much Lotus 1-2-3, so no matter what you do, the spirit of 1-2-3 lurks in the background reminding you of the machine's ethereal past. (Gives me the creeps!)

John Lim's Moire was the first screen saver to put interesting patterns on the screen, although Mac screen savers from the very beginning had been able to display pictures at random spots on the screen. Moire was the first addictive screen saver, though. We knew people in college who would become entranced by the Moire patterns and stare blankly at the screen for up to half an hour before realizing a problem set was due. A professor friend even had to remove it from his machine because he would watch it instead of paying attention to a phone conversation, much to the consternation of his colleagues.

Since then Berkeley Systems has come out with After Dark and Fifth Generation responded with Pyro!, and Advanced Software should be releasing an as-yet-unnamed utility package from Andrew Welch (of FlashWrite and Black Box fame) soon, which includes a similar screen saver. All three are relatively similar in that they are screen saver shells and can thus accept any appropriate module. As of last count, After Dark sported 24 modules with Pyro! and Andrew Welch's package outfitted similarly.

Berkeley Systems is escalating the screen saver wars with version 2.0 of After Dark, due out at Macworld Expo. Version 2.0 will include sound, so thunder can accompany the lightning bolts, increased password protection, support for the Notification Manager, on-line help for each module, and SystemIQ, which monitors the system activity, slowing down or speeding up After Dark to match the system load. The new modules will be the main difference though. From Tom & Ed's Bogus Software comes Fish!, and it will be accompanied by Flying Toasters (we suspect it's something in the drinking water that inspires these), MultiModule for displaying more than one module at a time (I like the worms eating Starry Skyline personally), a PICS Player for playing animations made with multimedia packages, and Satori, from Ben Haller of Solarian II fame. The upgrade will be $5 for recent purchasers (after June 1) and $14.95 for others and people upgrading from another package. The list price is still $39.95.

We have heard nothing from the Pyro! folks, but we recently saw a beta version of Andrew Welch's new utility package. It includes a screen saver with at least as many modules as After Dark along with 7 other mostly cdev-based utilities. Included are a cdev to provide command key equivalents to the buttons in dialog boxes, much like CE Software's DialogKeys and a NeXT-like icon dock along with the others.

Berkeley Systems -- 415/540-5536
Advanced Software -- 800/346-5392 (Jeff or Larry)
Fifth Generation -- 800/873-4384 -- 504/291-7221

Information from:
Bruce Burkhalter -- bruce@sim.uucp
Josh Hodas -- hodas@saul.cis.upenn.edu
Frank Malczewski -- fdm@wlv.imsd.contel.com
Bob S. -- rjs@trwrb.dsd.trw.COM
Dennis Cohen -- claris!drc@ames.arc.nasa.GOV
Leonard Rosenthol -- leonardr@svc.portal.COM

Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 31-Jul-90, Vol. 4, #26, pg. 35


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