For those of you who couldn’t attend, and as a recap for those of you who could, here are some of the high points – and a few low points – from Macworld San Francisco ’91. There seemed to be no overriding theme at the Expo this time around, which is just as well; most of us are tired of the Mac buzz-words of the eighties. In any case, there were some noteworthy items.
- Slickest Display: SuperMac Technology’s booth featured a wall covered with video displays, showing a fast-paced series of still photographs accompanying Billy Joel’s song, "We Didn’t Start the Fire," to promote their SuperSqueeze still-image compression technology. If you were curious, they weren’t decompressing all that material on the fly, as they did with the full-motion video compression display last August; it was a canned demo being run using XCMDs under HyperCard 1.2.5, and the multiple monitors were being handled by a Dynair video image amplifier and splitter. This wall almost, but not quite, managed to overshadow SuperMac’s new dual-mode monitors.
- Best T-Shirt: Much more creative than Apple’s shirts, with their inspirational Sculley quotes on the back, are CE Software’s "Connecting people and productivity" shirts. No doubt it’s better in person, but the back of the shirt is a two-by-two matrix, with "Productive" and "Unproductive" across the top, and "Fun" and "Not so fun" down the side, like so:
Productive Unproductive (a whole bunch Fun of CE product icons) Tetris Not so Fun Tupperware Tetanus
- Deepest Sigh of Relief: WordPerfect Corporation finally shipped WordPerfect 2.0 for the Macintosh on the first day of the Expo. This long-awaited upgrade offers a far-more-Maclike user interface than the company’s first Mac offering, but still has optional interface features for those who really DID like the original WordPerfect Mac (all two of them). A $100 price hike for the new version, and some drastic changes for the worse to the way WordPerfect handles educational sales (more on this later perhaps), may put this product out of the reach of some, but it is certainly a strong contender in the diverse Macintosh word processing market.
- It’s About Time: Just a few weeks before the show, Rodime Systems introduced a new version of its driver software for the Cobra series of hard drives. This driver is finally compatible with the free Disinfectant antivirus utility. The new software is available to Cobra drive owners, directly from Rodime, or from Rodime dealers.
- Neatest Product: The WristMac, from Ex Machina (published by Microseeds Publishing), is a Seiko wristwatch that stores up to 80 two-line "screens" of data, such as phone numbers, appointments, and to-do lists, complete with an interface cable that connects to a Mac serial ports, so you can use the included HyperCard 2.0 stack to enter and manipulate the data. You can even have the watch’s alarm function alert you of the appointments that you’ve entered into the database.
- Smartest Acquisition: Connectix Corporation – the brash bunch that has brought us Virtual, Optima, and Maxima (an assortment of system-enhancing memory utilities for the Mac) and has laughed at System 7.0’s virtual memory for the last two years – announced the purchase of Fred Hollander’s HandOff II the day before the show. HandOff II, which received an Honorable Mention in this year’s MacUser awards in the Best Utility category, offers an application-launching menu like that provided by OnCue, but also document-grouping "briefcases" and application categories, as well as application substitution (assigning a specific application to handle specific file formats, such as having SuperPaint launched when a MacPaint document is double-clicked). It’s especially useful for all those MacWrite documentation files for those of us who don’t have MacWrite around.
- Best Upcoming Innovation: CE Software introduces yet another invaluable extension to the Macintosh interface, with their "Tiles" product, to be released sometime this year. Tiles product manager John Pence started writing the utility three years ago, but only started actively developing it as a product last year. This handy gizmo can best be described as an extension of both the NeXT icon dock and HandOff II. It allows launching of applications or opening of documents simply by clicking on "tiles," which are basically labelled pictures. Tiles can also hold "projects," or groups of documents created by any number of applications, that can all be launched together; as well as any kind of QuicKey action or sequence.
- Biggest No-Shows: The Mac rumour mill isn’t always right, of course, and this year’s Expo proved that at least twice. One product that didn’t make it under the wire is Apple’s revised Macintosh Portable. The improved machine is rumoured to offer a backlit LCD screen, and a lighter battery assembly. The release has been postponed indefinitely; it’s not clear what effect that may have on the upcoming joint Apple-Sony project. Not to be underdone, Radius has refrained from introducing a color version of its flippable Pivot monitor. Instead, they are offering a new Pivot that works with the built-in video circuitry in the Mac IIsi and IIci.
- I-wouldn’t-do-this-to-MY-drive category: Iomega drew people to its storage-products display booth by attaching a Bernoulli Transportable removable cartridge drive to a rotating machine that lifted it up and thumped it back down about once a second. All the while, an attached IIfx was reading large color images from the drive, without interruption. This shocking demo, which prompted one viewer to wonder, "If they don’t want the thing, why don’t they just give it to me?!" was intended to illustrate the drive’s ability to withstand shock forces of 1000 G.
- Cutest Give-away: Visitors to the Bay Area might not understand, but the "Have a drink on Mainstay" promotion actually provides a service. Mainstay, the publishers of such things as MarkUp, MarcoPolo, and a prime candidate for biggest non-product of the industry, AntiToxin, handed out Coast Guard-approved foil pouches of emergency drinking water. These 125 ml pouches (of which you need four per person per day) might be handy in the event of another earthquake (or a San Francisco Water Department four-hour shutoff that affects your hotel late one night during the Expo…).
- Biggest Non-Product: What the heck, I might as well explain that. Mainstay’s AntiToxin is an antivirus utility with two parts: an application that repairs files infected with known viruses, and an INIT that notes the presence of known viruses and prevents infected files from being opened. Sounds good, except that when I asked how it compared to John Norstad’s free Disinfectant utility, the Mainstay rep I spoke to agreed with my assessment that the product didn’t quite live up in terms of features, and added that it is not updated as quickly as Disinfectant. Oh well, thanks for the water, Mainstay.
CE Software, Inc. — 515/224-1995
Mainstay Products, Inc. — 818/991-6540
Iomega — 801/778-4494 — 800/456-5522
Radius Inc. — 408/434-1010
Microseeds Publishing, Inc. — 813/882-8635
Connectix Corp. — 415/324-0727
Dynair Electronics, Inc. — 619/263-7711 — 800/854-2831
SuperMac Technology — 408 245-2202
Rodime Systems, Inc. — 407/994-5585