First, a small disclaimer. We both grew up in the country and usually get sick when we visit large cities for more than three days. Boston is no exception to this rule. That put a damper on things, and the 95% humidity and occasional downpours didn’t help in the damp category either. But we still enjoyed ourselves.
It was a good show, although only a few products were introduced, which cut down on the surprise value a bit. Some who had been to the San Francisco Macworld said there was no reason to have gone to both this year. Most major Macintosh companies were there, though there were some notable absences, such as Quark, Letraset, and Symantec, and several other firms such as Pinnacle Micro and PCPC canceled at the last minute. We were especially distraught about the last two, since we had wanted to see Pinnacle Micro’s 130 megabyte erasable optical drive and PCPC’s Flipper monitor
The companies having the most fun were clearly Delta Tao Software and Baseline Publishing. Delta Tao showed off its inexpensive 32-bit paint program, Color MacCheese, and a utility called Polly MacBeep, which allows you to assign weights to different beep sounds so the Mac will pick a semi-random (biased by the weightings) sound for each beep. Polly MacBeep was $10 and we bought it, partly to support the company, which has a refreshing view on the software market (make software fun and cheap and give the workers titles like "Foundling" and "Girl Friday.") Delta Tao was also giving away demo disks and t-shirts to anyone who could make a basket with Nerf basketballs, an endeavour which a surprising number of people were good at. Baseline Publishing (which also sells Color MacCheese) was staffed by people who were having trouble taking things seriously because its main product is the latest incarnation of the Talking Moose, that Bullwinkle-clone who pops up and tells you things you may or may not wish to hear during periods of inactivity. Baseline had Moose t-shirts as well but weren’t giving them away for feats of athletic prowess.
WordPerfect won the prize for best demo, as they managed to garner the enthusiasm of a high school pep rally without resorting to peer pressure. They appealed to a much baser instinct, greed, by giving watchers M&Ms and passing out freebies like WordPerfect mugs, pens, and shoulder bags during the demo. We recommend the M&M trick for giving a demos since it keeps audience members happy, raises their blood sugar to keep them awake, and lets them do something with their hands while watching. Extremely effective. Worst try goes to Microsoft with its Network News-style demos that had two announcers and lots of glitz on multiple monitors. It probably didn’t help that Microsoft didn’t have any new Mac products and couldn’t get away with showing Windows.
The most satisfying companies to talk to were Paragon Concepts, Software Ventures, and Delta Tao. The satisfaction level increases with the importance of the person you talk to, which made the hour-long discussion we had with the president of Paragon, Jerzy Lewak, about the features of Nisus 3.0 and the things which he hadn’t gotten to fixing yet, a good way to solidify product loyalty. We enjoyed talking to Leonard Rosenthol, the programmer of MicroPhone II, about the new interface to CompuServe that will be included with the next version of MicroPhone II (from what we saw, it will be better than the dedicated interface that CompuServe is pushing to compete with America Online). Delta Tao was fun too, since the only staff they had there were people who worked on Color MacCheese and Polly MacBeep. Nothing like talking to a programmer in a t-shirt as opposed to a suited-up salesthing.
LaCie won the award for best prize with the bright red Mazda Miata it was giving away, but the more realistic prizes were better at the LaserMax booth, where we each received a copy of Guy Kawasaki’s "The Macintosh Way" after listening to a demo. Unfortunately, the salesthing there didn’t know the first thing about printer controllers and engines, so we felt a bad about getting free hardcover books for two minutes of asking unanswerable questions. GCC was giving away lots of sun glasses and frisbees and beach balls if you scratched off the three circles on its game card, but we won a Polaroid One-Step Flash camera that way. The person at the booth was surprised, but gladly gave it to us.
Perhaps the most coveted freebie of the show was Apple Developer Technical Support’s Moof! buttons, which are small green buttons with a dogcow and the word Moof! underneath. We received buttons for doing TidBITS (thanks to Mark Johnson!) and while we were there another Apple employee came to get another button because someone had ripped hers off of her blouse the day before. Some people will stop at nothing for a dogcow :-).
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor