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Diminutive Developer Comments

Our articles about the situation for small Macintosh developers in TidBITS-230 provoked a flurry of additional comments and ideas, ranging from the viability of OpenDoc to why innovative software developers require innovation from Apple to the belief that Apple’s becoming ‘big business" (complete with dress codes and an unseemly emphasis on greed) is an inevitable result of doing business in a capitalist system. Most comments centered around what you need to develop on the Mac and what those necessities cost. Naturally, hobbyists have different concerns than do commercial developers, though several people pointed out that today’s hobbyists are tomorrow’s developers.

Ron Davis <[email protected]> wrote that the basic hobbyist only needs a few hundred dollars on top of the cost of a Macintosh. "To start developing all you need is a compiler, the Think Reference, and a Macintosh. You can get C/C++ and Pascal compilers, a class library, etc. from Metrowerks for under $200. The Think Reference can be purchased for $100, and if you get it on the MacTech CD-ROM you get tons of sample code and instructional documents as well. $300 is not too much for any serious computer hobbyist to invest."

Charles DeLauder <[email protected]> was disappointed at how hard it was for a teenager to get involved in Mac programming, after having figured out BASIC on an IBM and an Apple II. "I wanted to program in BASIC, just to start, on the Macintosh. But I couldn’t because Apple was too cheap to include any programming freebies like they did with the Apple II series and IBM did with their computers. I had at the time (and still do) HyperCard 2.1. And they tried to cripple it! I thought it was broken until I was installing a special stack that opened the doors for me. Anyhow, HyperCard wasn’t good enough at the time because I wanted to make my own double-clickable programs. There was SuperCard, but it was too expensive. Finally, I found a good freeware language called Yerk."

Scott Storkel <[email protected]> pointed out, "Apple has several programs which are billed as ‘everything you need for developing Mac software:’ the Apple Developer Mailing ($250/year) and their Essentials-Tools-Objects (ETO) CD-ROM ($1,295/year). Yet, if I purchase one of these products I still must to pay extra for information about new technology: AOCE – $195, Drag & Drop – $75, Easy Open – $150, QuickTime – $195, AppleSearch – $199, and AppleScript – $199."

David Dunham <[email protected]> felt that the cost of acquiring development tools and information isn’t the most important problem for the small developer. He wrote, "I suspect the real problem small developers face is not the technology, but the market. I have some ideas for a spreadsheet that have never been implemented, and I could write one. The problem isn’t how much it costs me to write, but whether I could hope to sell it. Who would back a spreadsheet that had to compete with Microsoft?"

Never content to merely carp, a number of readers offered solutions, ranging from alternative development environments to alternative distribution channels and alternative information sources. Sounds like an alternative development life-style might be the way to go for some small developers.

Jim Bailey <[email protected]> wrote, "The solution is higher level languages, languages that provide more functionality than the traditional C/C++ of today. A great example is the Newton development environment. NewtonScript and the NTK are serious productivity enhancers for software developers. If the NTK level of functionality was provided to Mac developers, application development time would be cut to a fraction of what it is in the C/C++ world. Application frameworks like MacApp can help, but you are still stuck with relatively low-level C++ coding.

Alex Metcalf <[email protected]> suggested a few ways that Apple could help, including better Apple support and documentation on the Internet and setting up a sponsorship program for student developers.

Scott Dickson <[email protected]> suggested: "Alternate distribution channels, such as demo CD-ROMs with encrypted software, and alternate information sources such as the Internet with newsletters such as TidBITS have a great potential to upset the status quo and give the nimble small developer with a good product and good service a chance."

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