P.O. Box 1307
Cambridge, MA 02238
7 Penguins out of a possible 10
Price and Availability: — Single copies of Storyspace cost $160. 10-packs for offices and labs are available for $495. Generous educational discounts are also available. Storyspace is available from a few dealers, but Eastgate is by far the best source. Contact Eastgate for more information.
Matt Neuburg — [email protected]
Adam C. Engst, [email protected]
MATT: Eastgate Systems has released its new version of Storyspace: when I started collaborating trans-Pacifically on this review with Adam my copy was called 1.07, though the "About" box read 1.0; now we are up to 1.1, and intriguing noises about the next version are coming from Eastgate. The program bids fair to bring hypertext into common use. Indeed, part of Eastgate’s business is the publication of new hypertext efforts, for which the manual includes an appeal. While the prospect of writing hyper-literature may not thrill everyone, users will find that Storyspace can fit a great variety of needs: notepad, personal information management (PIM), computer aided instruction (CAI) authoring, database work, and more. The program is addictive and encourages constant and creative use.
ADAM: So far, Storyspace seems primarily to have found a market in the Macintosh-savvy crowd in higher education. I suspect that is because the authors, Jay David Bolter, Michael Joyce, and John B. Smith all work at institutions of higher learning, if you will. All three have been active in the academic conferences and forums that focus on hypertext, especially those emphasizing the overlap between hypertext technology and creative use within the humanities. Mark Bernstein of Eastgate has relayed some of Storyspace’s more interesting uses, including ethnographic field notes and Australian parliamentary strategy, not to mention several extremely interesting pieces of hypertextual fiction, such as Michael Joyce’s "Afternoon" and others which should be available from Eastgate by now.
Storyspace has had a long history, and it is one of the few programs that I’ve followed for much of its development. Back in the fall of 1986 when I was a sophomore at Cornell, I was looking for interesting courses that I could take, having been accepted to a program (the College Scholar program) that waived all course requirements. I found a course in the Society for the Humanities (a department at Cornell that focuses on a different subject each year and is staffed primarily by visiting professors) taught by Jay Bolter. It was a seminar tracing the evolution of information dissemination from the oral tradition to the present electronic media. Only one other person took the course, a librarian at Cornell taking it extramurally, so when the time came to do the final paper, Jay introduced me to his program, Storyspace. I think it had been in development for a year or so at that point, and it had some problems, such as the one that caused me to lose my final project the day before it was due. Luckily it was easily recovered (this was back before I’d particularly used a Mac at all).
I continued on in my College Scholar program, but no more courses like Jay’s ever appeared. Instead, I worked on my own, starting the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.int-fiction, which was soon taken over by the people who were more interested in the simulated environment, artificial intelligence, and role-playing aspects of interactive fiction. Then, senior year, I had to complete an 8-credit, two semester senior honors project. Well, I didn’t have to, but I’m vaguely masochistic that way. Primarily during the winter of that year I wrote what was equivalent to several hundred pages of hypertextual fiction in a far more advanced and stable version of Storyspace.
MATT: Jay Bolter, by the way, is the author of "Turing’s Man," an excellent meditation on the way computers and the computer age have altered our vision of ourselves, and something our readers might do well to have a look at. Also, since we are waxing biographical, Bolter and I, though we have never met, have some things in common; we are both Classicists who are also very heavily computer literate, and we have both taught Adam in very small classes at Cornell! In fact, the reason I got into StorySpace was that I had just finished a HyperCard project, involving both CAI and authoring tools, whose purpose was to automate some of the exercises in the book I taught Adam Latin out of; having seen the value of this sort of thing in the classroom, I was looking for other possible tools. I also went to college with Mark Bernstein. So life is like Storyspace itself – full of links.
ADAM: The version that Eastgate Systems markets now is directly descended from the version I was using my senior year, although a number of interface items have become cleaner, and the entire program has become a bit more powerful. I haven’t had a chance to write a great deal in this latest version of Storyspace mostly because I keep wasting my time on some stupid thing called TidBITS :-). It also doesn’t help that Storyspace isn’t as responsive of a text entry environment as Nisus, so I have been doing a bit more with copy and paste out of Nisus.
The version of Storyspace that Matt has and that Eastgate sent me is System 7-compatible. However, the authors are hard at work on a System 7-savvy version that will be able to link text between files transparently, effectively erasing file boundaries. I’ll be extremely interested to see how they handle that, because few programs have taken advantage of System 7’s capabilities to that extent yet. In addition, although Storyspace has always been a primarily text editor, Jay added basic graphics support at some point several years ago (in the middle of my thesis work, but slightly too late for me to take significant advantage of it). Once Apple ships QuickTime to developers, you can bet that Storyspace will add support for it, making it even more powerful in dealing with all forms of expression.
MATT: Meanwhile I’ve been working pretty extensively with Storyspace, initially just building a hypertext version of the Greek verb paradigm for my students to use. This sounds like a pretty elementary exercise, and I suppose it is, really; but it is just the right kind of project to put Storyspace through its paces and check out its strengths and weaknesses. In a nutshell, its strength is its whole conception: a tool for building hypertext structures either for yourself to use interactively or to pass on to others as stand-alone documents. Its weakness is that the authors are not ironing out interface issues. To give one example now (there will be many more as we go), Adam said this version is System 7-savvy; but in some ways it isn’t even MultiFinder-friendly! It hogs the cursor in an illicit way; if the mouse is over its windows, Storyspace will force a change to its cursor, even if it is not the active application! [ADAM: I’ve just heard from Mark Bernstein that this bug has been fixed in 1.12. Eastgate is extremely responsive.] But let’s go on to describe what Storyspace does.