Happy Birthday, Macintosh! We glance back at Apple’s view of its past through quotes from annual reports and then look forward at some of the intriguing new technologies Apple plans for the future. A few small comments, the embedded speech commands necessary to make your Mac sing Happy Birthday, and the issue rounds out with a review of a most interesting program, Meeting Space from World Benders, which creates virtual conference centers on any network.
Several people wrote to correct my inexact terminology in talking about URLs pointing at files available on the nets via FTP (and, at times in the future, Gopher or the World-Wide Web). URLs are not part of the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) as such, although they are somewhat related, given their joint usage on the World-Wide Web.
Dataproducts Damage — Mark Anbinder <[email protected]> writes:
A number of computer industry companies were affected by last Monday’s earthquake, centered near Northridge, California, just north of Los Angeles. Perhaps the most striking example is Dataproducts, a manufacturer of popular printers and other peripherals. The company’s main manufacturing plant apparently shifted two feet from its original location during the quake, causing serious damage to some of their equipment.
Auto Power Conflict — Pete Resnick <[email protected]> writes:
I thought I’d pass along this warning: Auto Power On/Off is violently incompatible with my MacTCP-based Network Time control panel, which synchronizes the Macintosh clock with a network time server on the Internet. The problem is due to a severe violation of the Apple specs by the Auto Power On/Off control panel. Auto Power On/Off puts in a patch to the system "SetDateTime" routine, which Network Time uses. Unfortunately, this patch calls the system PPCToolBox routines synchronously, which basically means that SetDateTime is not safe to be called from interrupt, as it is documented to be. Since Network Time does almost all of its work at interrupt time, to insure that the time being set is exact, the Auto Power On/Off patch will always hang the Mac dead. Apple has been notified of this problem and is working on a response. In the meantime, don’t mix this broken piece of software with Network Time.
Today’s the day, the day that the Macintosh was in some sense born. Apple introduced the Macintosh 128K on January 24th, 1984. Apple PR kindly sent me a slew of Apple propaganda about the event, including Apple’s Annual Reports over the last ten years. From those reports, I’ve pulled a few telling quotes, quotes that point at Apple’s conception of itself, perhaps accurate, perhaps not, and that show milestones in the evolution of the Macintosh and of Apple. I’ll let you make of them what you will.
1984 — "It’s difficult to get people to work so hard for so long. But the Macintosh group was inspired with a fervor, not just for the machine they were designing, or the brand new markets they would open up, but for the thrill of working with great people. This fervor even hid the clear fact that no sane person believed the design would ever be finished. The best people to do an impossible job are those who don’t know it’s impossible."
"The new challenge for the Macintosh group is to make the Macintosh the second standard in business."
1985 — "By any measure, Macintosh is one of the most successful new computers of this decade, with an installed base of more than 500,000 systems in just 20 months after its introduction."
"We believe desktop publishing will be important in companies all sizes, large and small."
1986 — "The Macintosh Plus computer and the LaserWriter Plus printer opened the door for Apple in business. In the early spring, we introduced the Macintosh 512K Enhanced, a more affordable version of the Macintosh Plus."
"Each of these products remains true to Apple’s design philosophy: No matter how powerful the system, keep it simple to set up and operate."
1987 — "1987 was a year of good news for Apple Computer. The best news of all for Apple and our shareholders is simply this: the idea works. The fundamental Apple idea that the individual, not the mainframe, belongs at the center of the computing universe."
"In August, at the Macworld trade show in Boston, we introduced two new system software products that are as important to the evolution of Macintosh technology as the hardware of the Macintosh SE and Macintosh II [introduced on 02-Mar-87]. Those products are MultiFinder and HyperCard."
"Early in 1987, we sold our one-millionth Macintosh – demonstrating that we’d succeeded in establishing Macintosh as a viable second standard in business, while maintaining our leadership in education."
1988 — "In 1988, what changed Apple’s world was the Macintosh II. Its global acceptance positioned Apple as a mainstream business computer company, and continued to strengthen our leadership position in education."
"Meanwhile, Apple desktop publishing moved into its third generation in 1988. The Macintosh II, with its ability to drive multiple big-screen monitors, supports up to 16 megabytes of RAM and runs professional publishing software from developers such as Quark and Aldus, bringing a new depth and power to desktop publishing."
"In March, we introduced the AppleCD SC, a compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM) drive that can be used with either Macintosh or Apple II computers. CD-ROM is the next step in the information revolution."
1989 — "With a 30 percent increase in net sales, Apple grew large by more than $1 billion. We owe this dramatic growth to an array of successful new products. Early in the year, the Macintosh SE/30, the first compact Macintosh with Motorola’s advanced 68030 microprocessor, renewed users’ excitement with the classic Macintosh design."
"Shortly thereafter, we introduced the Macintosh IIcx, a powerful modular Macintosh with a smaller footprint, and it quickly won global acceptance. In the fourth quarter, we introduced the Macintosh IIci, an even higher-speed version of the IIcx. And we introduced a product the world had been weighting for [Oops, sorry! That’s "waiting for" -Adam]: the innovative Macintosh Portable."
"Our vision of personal computer has been validated by some of the best in our industry as they attempt to create ‘Mac-like’ computers and software."
1990 — "We recognized early in the year that to meet the needs of our customers, we had to expand our product line to include more affordable computers. The result, after months of tremendous effort, was the reaffirmation of Apple’s original vision of Macintosh as ‘the computer for the rest of us.’"
"1990 also saw increasing globalization in the computer industry. Worldwide product launches became commonplace, and the tailoring of system software to many languages, once rare, became a competitive necessity. Apple international sales grew to account for 42 percent of net revenues."
1991 — "We introduced the Macintosh PowerBook 100, 140, and 170. These small, lightweight, and powerful notebook computers make ‘anytime, anywhere’ computing a reality."
"In addition to expanding its line of Macintosh hardware in 1991, Apple extended its lead in system software, directly taking on the competition from graphics-based operating software such as Microsoft Windows 3.0. On May 13, at Apple’s worldwide developers’ conference, we introduced System 7, our next-generation system software for the Macintosh."
"On October 2, 1991, Apple forged a long-term alliance with the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) – a move that took many in the industry by surprise."
1992 — "Two words summarize Apple’s personal computing business in 1992: strong momentum. Unit shipments of Apple Macintosh personal computers grew by 20 percent, outpacing the industry. In 1992, Apple sold more than 2.5 million Macintosh personal computers."
"Sales of Macintosh PowerBook computers account for much of our growth. Apple sold more than 400,000 PowerBook computers in fiscal 1992, representing $1 billion in net sales."
"In 1992, we introduced more new Macintosh models – twelve in all – than in any other year in our history."
1993 — "We shipped more than 3.3 million Macintosh and PowerBook personal computers, brought to market the first product based on our Newton Intelligence technology, and shipped our first family of hardware and software server products."
"To keep pace with customer expectations, we cut prices on Apple Macintosh and PowerBook computers by up to 34 percent and introduced new models at – or in some cases below – the prices of competitive products."
"In 1993, we remained on schedule with the development of our first Macintosh systems based on the PowerPC architecture. The PowerPC 601 is the first microprocessor resulting from our sweeping technology alliance with IBM and Motorola. Apple plans to deliver its initial PowerPC processor-based Macintosh systems in the first half of calendar year 1994."
In honor of the Mac’s 10th birthday, Jon Kleiser <[email protected]> worked up this set of embedded speech commands (with some bits modified intentionally to sound better – hence "Mackintosh") for Apple’s Speech Manager. You must have the Speech Manager installed, and you need one of the many programs that can translate the text below into speech. I found Speaker 1.12 on my hard disk and it worked fine. You can find these on the nets as:
[[rset 0]] [[pmod 0; rate 110; pbas 45]] Happy [[pbas +2]]birth[[pbas -2]]day [[pbas +5]]to [[pbas -1]]you, [[pbas -4]]Happy [[pbas +2]]birth[[pbas -2]]day [[pbas +7]]to [[pbas -2]]you, [[pbas -5]]Happy [[pbas +12]]birth[[pbas -3]]day [[pbas -4]]to [[pbas -1]]Mackin[[pbas -2]]tosh, [[pbas +8]]You are [[pbas -1]]ten [[pbas -4]]years [[pbas +2]]to[[pbas -2]]day. [[rset 0]] [[pmod 0; rate 110; pbas 45]] Happy [[pbas +2]]birth[[pbas -2]]day [[pbas +5]]to [[pbas -1]]you, [[pbas -4]]Happy [[pbas +2]]birth[[pbas -2]]day [[pbas +7]]to [[pbas -2]]you, [[pbas -5]]Happy [[pbas +12]]birth[[pbas -3]]day [[pbas -4]]to [[pbas -1]]Mackin[[pbas -2]]tosh, [[pbas +8]]I have [[pbas -1]]heard [[pbas -4]]worse [[pbas +2]]than [[pbas -2]]this.
Along with the PowerPC, Apple showed in its Macworld Apple Pavilion a number of upcoming future technologies that promise to add to the power and the complexity of the Macintosh experience. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, some will add to the overall enjoyment of that experience as well.
Scriptable Finder — I suspect that one of the technologies that we’ll see soon is the Scriptable Finder. Those who have used Frontier and AppleScript know that the Finder is not particularly scriptable and does not support script recording. People have hacked around some of the Finder’s scripting limitations in AppleScript, and Frontier has long been able to bend the Finder to its will. Still, the Scriptable Finder (which, if I remember my rumors right, may appear this spring), will be welcome, and for scripting weenies like me, the recordability will make it easier to get started. Much of my problem with scripting the Finder is that unlike a rigid DOS system in which there are relatively few directories due to the difficulty in navigating and managing them, a complex Macintosh file hierarchy doesn’t play by as many rules, making it harder to discover patterns that cry out for a script.
QuickDraw GX — I’m not a printing fiend – it took me over three years to finish off the toner cartridge that came with my laser printer. So, I have less enthusiasm for QuickDraw GX than I’m sure many people do. In brief, QuickDraw GX is a long-awaited rewrite of how the Macintosh handles device-independent display of fonts and graphics along with a more powerful printing architecture. Those who print constantly will appreciate queue control and a completely-redesigned print dialog box. QuickDraw GX has improved color management technology to ensure that colors are consistent across different output devices and other Macs. Along with improved low-level graphics functionality for developers, QuickDraw GX includes more advanced typographical capabilities, automating the process of dealing with line spacing, kerning, ligatures, and the like.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature in QuickDraw GX, which I had not heard about before Macworld, is the capability to create portable documents. As far as I can tell, you can essentially print to a special file that QuickDraw GX can then display properly on any QuickDraw GX-equipped Mac. This sounds exactly like what Adobe, No Hands Software, and Farallon have done with Acrobat, Common Ground, and Replica, respectively, except for the fact that it would be built into the system software. I haven’t heard anything about cross-platform capabilities for the portable documents, but Apple would be foolish not to create some sort of limited reader for DOS and Windows. Of course, they may avoid doing that purely to avoid the competition with the existing portable document architectures, not that any of them have wowed the market.
Apple Interactive Help — Of all of the new technologies features, Apple Interactive Help has the most promise in terms of helping the most Macintosh users. At the same time though, it is the least impressive and seemed to be more highly touted than its capabilities warranted. Admittedly the Apple person gave a lame demo, but perhaps there wasn’t anything cool to show.
As far as I could tell, Apple Interactive Help is a system level text browser offering "how do I?"-oriented questions and answers. You can search or browse through it, and if you wish, create your own help databases. However, I saw no indication of interactivity other than the fact that the user could search in it, and I saw no indication of context-sensitivity that would allow it to suggest answers to your unspoken questions. I don’t want it making suggestions without being asked, since there’s no accounting for personal methods of working, but it seems that we’ve advanced sufficiently that we can go beyond balloon help and little help browsers.
I may have suggested this before, but I’d like to see the concept of user level in help. Balloon help bugs me because it’s so stinking persistent – listen to it and you’d think that I didn’t know that I was pointing at an inactive window after years of using a Macintosh (and yes, I know how to remove those messages). If only we could code help balloons, and now sections of the Apple Interactive Help database, such that they would appear once no matter what level, but then only appear if they were judged to be of interest. So, for instance, I would see the balloon telling what Open does once, but never again. However, the balloon informing me what the modifier keys go with an obscure menu item would continue to pop up until I explicitly dismissed it.
Macintosh Drag & Drop — One of the most interesting features in Word 5.0 was drag & drop editing. I was an initial skeptic but now admit that it works well. (I use it all the time in Nisus.) I believe some high-end graphics and layout programs enable you to drag and drop graphics and text blocks from one document to another rather than forcing you to use copy & paste or the Scrapbook. Macintosh Drag & Drop takes these ideas and implements them to the hilt, so you can drag & drop text and graphics from one application to another. Of course, for those of you who have yet to convert to the religion of multiple monitors, it may be difficult to view both documents on screen at once. Apple helps you with this by letting you drop a selection on the Finder, to create a Clippings file which you can later drag into a different document window. Barring the problem of screen real estate for many people, I have high hopes for Macintosh Drag & Drop.
OpenDoc — Last, but most certainly not least, Apple showed OpenDoc. I cannot hope to do OpenDoc justice in this small space, but the idea is that it provides a document-centric interface with applications appearing only as tools (think ClarisWorks). As it initially stands, you can create a document in any OpenDoc-savvy application (being a container is the easiest level of savvyness and theoretically requires almost no code changes, whereas later levels may require almost complete rewrites) and then use any other application or part of another application that knows about OpenDoc as a tool within the first.
At a basic level, OpenDoc works much as Microsoft’s OLE does today, where you can embed an Excel spreadsheet in a Word document, and clicking on that spreadsheet launches Excel, as though you opened an Excel worksheet from the Finder. However, instead of a behemoth like Excel, eventually we’ll see tiny applications, or tools, that do specific tasks. The big issue here is that programs must be rewritten to work in this fashion, and in theory large companies with big programs (WordPerfect, as one of the early OpenDoc supporters, will probably face this soon) will break programs into different tools that the user can use in any OpenDoc application.
What difference will OpenDoc make to us users? WordPerfect and friends (although I seriously doubt that Microsoft will support OpenDoc, since they see it as competition for OLE) will probably continue to sell large, expensive packages of many modules that combine to offer the same features as the behemoth programs of today. My hope is that these programs will instead be split up so that you can purchase a set of the necessary modules and fill out your collection with modules from other vendors that work better for you. If priced properly, this technique should lead to cheaper or similarly priced complete solutions, but the solutions will be customized and better suited to specific tasks. In an equally ideal world, small developers will sell modules that are highly tuned for specific tasks, in contrast to the checklist-pleasing modules that the large companies ship. I hope that small developers stay in business in this way, but frankly, I’m concerned since the tasks of marketing, selling, and supporting a module may be too great for a small developer to bear, even if she can produce a tremendously cool module. The only hope for such developers might be to go completely electronic, since the Internet amplifies the individual and enables a single person to do the marketing and tech support work of many.
In any event, I’m rambling slightly, because even though Apple showed some OpenDoc code running, it’s still difficult to get a sense of how well it will all be implemented in the end, or if the market will change to accept OpenDoc. Sure, IBM, Novell, Taligent, Oracle, and Xerox are also OpenDoc supporters, but since when has an industry alliance meant squat for creating something that works, and that works for a large number of real users?
If you wish to stay up on what’s happening with OpenDoc, Component Integration Laboratories has several low-volume mailing lists that talk about OpenDoc. To subscribe or to get more information, send email to:
with one or more of these lines in the body of the letter:
Tired of doing lunch? Don’t want to wake up for a power breakfast? A small company called World Benders has a program for you. Called Meeting Space, the program creates a virtual conference center in which you can interact with your online colleagues. The idea behind Meeting Space is to make it easier and more efficient to meet with people, especially those who are, as my mother would say, geographically unsuitable. If you’re spending more time or money getting to a meeting than it’s worth, holding the meeting in the virtual conference center of Meeting Space can save time and money (and since time is money, I suppose that means it saves both money and money, always a popular feature).
Meeting Space has a number of other advantages over physical meetings. Since everything takes place on your Mac, it’s trivial to record the complete minutes of the meeting, or to transfer information from the meeting record to other applications (I hate transcribing). Unlike physical meetings, you can be in more than one place at once, and if the meeting gets slow, you can do something more productive than doodling on a pad (like switching out to your word processor). Finally, if you’ve ever been in a meeting with someone you don’t know, it can be awkward to find out who they are and what they do, whereas in Meeting Space you can just click on that person’s icon to display personal information, including phone number, job title, duties, and so on.
I should note up front that Meeting Space is text and graphics-based – it doesn’t attempt to do video or sound since few people have the necessary equipment and few networks can handle the traffic. However, you can appear as any one of a large set of icons (or make your own) and in fact you can clone yourself to appear in multiple places at the same time, and each clone can have a different icon to indicate its role or mood (I recommend a Clint Eastwood icon for the Monday morning hours before the first cup of coffee to properly warn your coworkers).
Meeting Space provides tools for structuring meetings and keeping them moving, including agendas, automatic recorders, and presentation screens. Planned for future releases are tokens for speaking, moderator gavels, white boards, voting, and various privacy enhancements like digital signatures, encrypted network connections, and digital envelopes. You can create presentations in any application that can print or export data through copy & paste to the Scrapbook, and if you’ve ever had a bunch of people crowding around a small screen, you can see that a virtual presentation could work a lot better than a physical one.
Should you wish to modify your virtual conference center, it’s easy to do – you could recreate your physical offices or create your ideal offices. Either way, you don’t have to worry about physical rooms being free or being large enough – Meeting Space can handle up to about 50 simultaneous connections, although that’s somewhat dependent on the server hardware and the network load (a IIci can easily support about 20 people). World Benders is working with one company to create an online tech support center, and they’re also working with a number of educational sites on things like language-learning centers, negotiation-skills centers, virtual classrooms for the gifted, and so on.
Meeting Space requires a 68020 or better Macintosh along with System 7 and at least 1 MB of RAM and 1 MB of disk space (for either the client or the server). Meeting Space works over AppleTalk networks such as standard LocalTalk and modems connected via ARA, and over TCP/IP networks like the Internet with MacTCP and an appropriate connection (via a network or SLIP or PPP). The client software may be freely distributed, but the server software is a bit steep at $1,750 for a five-user license ($350 per user on a scale that drops the per-user cost to $200 for twenty users). World Benders offers discounts for site licenses, educational uses, and resellers. In general, they’re aiming at the business market that can compare the cost of Meeting Space to a plane ticket, or even a dozen time-wasting trips across town, and quickly recoup the cost. In an especially clever move, the server allows more than the specified number of users to connect, but if you’re over the limit (and this applies to everyone who connects after the limit is reached), it lets you connect for only 10 minutes, enough time to get on, find someone, talk briefly, and get off. If someone else disconnects while you’re on borrowed time, so to speak, you become a full user with no time limit. The client software is currently only available for the Macintosh, but World Benders plans to create Windows and Unix clients later this year.
If you’ve been on the Internet for a while, you’ll realize that what I’ve described is essentially a MUD, or Multi-User Dimension. I walked up to the booth at Macworld, and since I had never heard of Meeting Space or World Benders before, I asked Jon Callas, World Benders’ Director, what Meeting Space was. Luckily he recognized my TidBITS card and instead of trying to describe the program in generalities, simply said, "It’s a business MUD." That describes it perfectly, a MUD with a slick Macintosh interface devoted to making it easier to do business over long distances. MUDs have developed a bad reputation because of users becoming addicted to them, but I’m sure any business or organization would be thrilled to have its employees devote the same kind of time and attention to what goes on in Meeting Space as the less-productive MUDs on the Internet.
Of course, with anything like this, the best way to check it out is to try it. World Benders doesn’t yet have a high-speed link to the Internet, but would like to create a public Meeting Space on the Internet. If anyone would like to volunteer a Macintosh with an Ethernet link to the Internet as a public Meeting Space server, the World Benders folk have said they will donate a server and are interested in working the volunteer to create a useful and interesting Meeting Space that will serve as a demo of Meeting Space, a pleasant meeting place for Macintosh Internet users, and as a feedback mechanism for World Benders so they can find out what users think of Meeting Space. To reiterate, they want to help set up and run the demo area, not to just donate a server and go away. So, if you’re interested in helping demo Meeting Space and providing a virtual meeting place for Macintosh Internet users, send World Benders email so they can pick someone. I will announce the site name when it comes up, and by that time World Benders should have posted the necessary client software to the nets. Extremely interesting!
World Benders — 603/881-5432 (voice & fax)