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Macworld SF Superlatives

Mark Anbinder started our tradition of an article awarding some tongue-in-cheek awards (and some serious ones) to various companies, products, and events at the show. Mark wasn’t able to make it to San Francisco, so we tried to pick up the slack.

Most Connected T-shirt — Outland gets this award for their t-shirt, which, aside from having a nice design, had a URL emblazoned on it. Next thing you know, URLs will be on cereal boxes.

Classic Microsoft — Microsoft gave "Windows 95 for Macintosh Developers" seminars and passed out t-shirts with the witty slogan, "Windows 95 Sucks Less." Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell them that Apple had "System 7.5 Sucks Less" t-shirts at Macworld Boston this past August, so once again, Microsoft had to settle for copying Apple after the fact. Plus, the t-shirts made one wonder if Microsoft was saying Windows 95 sucked less than the Mac, a distinctly unpopular sentiment at a Mac trade show.

Neatest Utility — Natural Intelligence enthusiastically demonstrated a utility, called DragStrip, that enables you to create sets of launcher tiles, much like the freeware Malph, but with numerous enhancements, such as the ability to attach recently used documents to an application launcher tile, and hotspots that bring your strips to the foreground. DragStrip takes the genre to its peak for the moment, and supports its own DragStrip Additions (for changing monitor depth, sound volume, and so on) and Control Strip modules, which were previously only accessible on a desktop Mac with Desktop Strip. DragStrip also comes with a separate Control Panel called Bail, (also released separately by Christopher Evans <[email protected]>) that lets you cancel the launch of an application, a useful capability if you keep both Word 5 and Word 6 on your hard disk. Check out the DragStrip demo if you’re interested.

Natural Intelligence — <[email protected]> — 617/876-4876 — 617/492-7425 (fax) malph-23.hqx desktop-strip-102.hqx bail-202.hqx drag-strip-10-demo.hqx

Fishiest Product — This award easily goes to Aquazone, an aquarium simulator that even had one of its developers stumped when we walked by (he couldn’t figure out why all of his fish were dying suddenly). Aquazone isn’t a game: you add, remove, and name your fish, feed them, take care of them, control the water temperature, clean the filter, and even tap on the glass. What’s more, you can watch your fish grow, lay eggs, and give birth to new fish. Of course, your fish can get sick (and Aquazone comes with a lot of information on piscine diseases!) or even die. You can control the rate at which time passes (typical is 50x normal time) to make things happen faster. Aquazone gives you digital pets, and wins kudos from aquarium owners and fish enthusiasts. In future versions, they plan to add environments and creatures, plus use artificial life techniques to give your ecosystems emergent behaviors and interactions.

Tecsys Computers — 714/955-4968 — 714/955-4963 (fax)

Best Booth Display — DriveSavers, a company that specializes in data recovery, had the most interesting booth display, titled "Museum of Bizarre Disk-asters." Museum-style glass cases displayed several seriously messed up Macs (from which they had recovered hard disk data) in simulations of the original accidents, which included a PowerBook 100 that spent two days in the Amazon river, a PowerBook 140 run over by a Boston Macworld shuttle bus, and a Macintosh that the booth representatives had trouble identifying, but which looked well-scorched.

Drive Savers — 415/883-4232 — 415/883-0780 (fax)

Best Deal — Deneba Software was offering a steep discount on a good bundle: Canvas 3.5, Pixar Typestry 2.0 and DeltaGraph Pro for $159. If you believed the signs on the booth, this was a $900 value, but in terms of street prices it still added up to about 50 percent off. Considering that the upgrade price for Canvas 3.5 alone was over $100, the deal amounted to quite a steal.

Deneba Software — <[email protected]> — 305/596-5644.

Most Frequent Buys — The two products that everyone rushed around trying to buy were Marathon, from Bungie Software, and Route 66, from Geographic Information Systems. We’ll look more closely at Route 66 in a future issue, but it looks like a promising application for people who need road maps and also want specific driving directions, complete with PowerPC native code, Apple Guide, and AppleScript abilities. Geographic Information Systems has some U.S. maps available, but they are a Dutch company, so they also have a number of European maps for sale.

Bungie Software — <[email protected]> — 312/563-6200 — 312/563-0545 (fax)
Geographic Information Systems — 415/957-0666 — 415/957-1644 (fax)

Best Tongue-in-Cheek Booth — Dell Computer, one of the main PC clone vendors, had a booth in the Developer Central section of the show floor. I never saw what they were demonstrating, but they had prepared for the worst by piling sandbags around their booth for protection. We’re not that mean of a crowd, are we?

Interesting Retreat — A few months ago, Mitch Hall Associates sent out a press release announcing they had banned all vendors of erotic software from future shows. I was surprised, then, to run into Penthouse Interactive and a couple of similar companies. Rumor had it that after that press release, Penthouse used the "speak softly and wave a big lawyer" technique, and Mitch Hall Associates rescinded the ban rather than fight it in court.

Coolest Gimmick — Touch-It Paper unveiled Living Paper, a line of heat-sensitive paper products, which come in six different colors in a paint wash look. The trick is that as they heat, they change from their original color to white, and then, relatively quickly, right back again as they cool off. You can print on the paper with a laser printer, and Touch-It’s president claimed the paper’s color-change capability was more or less permanent. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it’s fun, and the world needs more fun.

Touch-It Paper — 801/786-1000 — 801/786-1400 (fax)

Neatest Emulator — Digital Eclipse gets this award for their emulation software that enables them to license and run the code from original classic arcade games, including Defender, Joust, and Robotron, on a Power Mac. Their booth had the original game cabinets with the guts ripped out and replaced with Macs. As they say, the only thing missing is the sticky buttons.

Digital Eclipse — 510/450-1740 — 800/289-3374

Best New Hardware — Iomega and Visioneer share this award since we couldn’t decide whether Iomega’s purple Zip drives were neater than Visioneer’s PaperPort personal scanner. The Mac and DOS/Windows-compatible Zip drive costs about $200 and stores 100 MB on a single $20 Zip disk (it doesn’t read or write normal 1.4 MB floppies). The under-$400 PaperPort has OCR software, turns on when you insert a page (and off when it’s done), and can scan a page in about six seconds. In fact, we don’t have to decide which is best, since Iomega and Visioneer collaborated to create The Electronic Filing Cabinet, which includes a Zip drive and a PaperMax personal scanner (which, as far as I can tell is the same as the PaperPort).

Iomega — 800/777-6654 — 801/778-1000 — 801/778-3748 (fax)
Visioneer — 800/787-7007 — 415/812-6400 — 415/855-9750 (fax)

Best Bumper Sticker — Pentium Happens.

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