Mac Expo reports due - SMUG members return with news
Author: Jack Russell
Date: February, 1989
Keywords: Mac World Expo Macworld
Text: MacWorld Expo (1989 San Francisco edition) is over. I've just finished driving home after three days of hoopla and hyperbole, and my head is still whirling. (Try driving that way some time.) It was the largest MacWorld ever, and although I never did hear what the total attendance was -- 40,000 to 60,000 were expected. Actually, the density of Macmaniacs in the exhibit area of the cavernous Moscone Conference Center was lower than it was last year, probably due to the fact that the huge underground Brooks Hall (about a mile and a half from Moscone) was filled with almost as many exhibitors and vendors as was Moscone. So people were spread out a bit thinly, making it a little less hectic when maneuvering around the booths. The Civic Auditorium connects with Brooks Hall and was used for speeches, seminars, and the like, as were a number of rooms in Moscone. Free bus transportation was provided between the two locations. I attended the kick-off speech on Friday (Jan. 20) given by John Sculley (Apple's prez). His very appearance surprised most of us; the normally pin-striped Sculley was attired in faded, wrinkled corduroys and an Apple sweat shirt. (Shades of Steve Jobs. I'll bet he doesn't dress that way for Apple's stockholders, just ''for the rest of us.'') Sculley's talk was far from dull. In his introductory remarks a year ago he had shown a short video which introduced Apple's vision of the computer of tomorrow, the Knowledge Navigator . This year, he showed that the vision is more than a flight of fancy by demonstrating a piece of the new technology that has been developed for it: Hyper-TV. On a 30-foot screen we saw Sculley open a color (!) HyperCard stack and then from its cards present a number of videos which depicted key events in the history of the Macintosh. These included the (in)famous TV commercial, ''1984,'' in which America was given first warning that the Mac was coming (how many of you saw that?), and also a clip showing how the commercial was made. Sculley's presentation was very elegant and made use of a 12-inch, interactive laser disk, a Mac IIx, and a lot of supporting electronics. Those of us who realized how much technology must have been developed in order to show TV in HyperCard gave Sculley a rousing applause. At the end of his presentation he topped himself by showing a real-time, color image of Jean-Louis Gass*e (another Apple honcho) in a window in HyperCard . He then proceeded to have a live conversation with J-L, who was backstage, facing a TV camera. The crowd really roared when Sculley grabbed one corner of the window with the mouse and shrank Gass*e down to nothingness. It was a good show. Sculley said that Hyper-TV will be released before the end of the year. For the rest of the Expo, which lasted until late Sunday afternoon, I attended a modest number of seminars, round-tables, conferences, and panel discussions and roamed the floors of Moscone and Brooks, talking mostly to salespeople, but occasionally to developers, programmers, and other interesting types. Microsoft demonstrated Word 4.0. (It looked very good, better than 3.0, but still, for my money, somewhat cumbersome.) Silicon Beach gave a preview of Supercard, which goes a step beyond regular HyperCard with color and a host of other capabilities. The WingZ people were again giving trips in their Time Shuttle (they did it a year ago, too) to promote their incredible, but as-yet unreleased spreadsheet. As before, every ''passenger'' received a fabric shoulder-bag at the completion of the journey. I wonder how much money the publisher has spent on marketing and development of this program, which is still in the vaporware category. An unusual new bit of software is a program called Voice Navigator. With it, one can talk to the Mac and verbally instruct it to ''Save,'' ''Print,'' ''Start a new page,'' ''Close,'' ''Shut down,'' etc. It appears to work with most programs and should be a boon to many handicapped users. In order to use it you must first ''teach'' it the expressions you will use; it seems to be a fast learner, however. On the other hand, if a second person uses it, it must be retaught so that it can recognize the new voice. There are two versions: one can remember 200 commands, the other, 1,000. Impressive! At SMUG we will soon be able to use the Kodak Datashow, a unit which sits on an overhead projector and produces a black-and-white Mac screen image on a projection screen. Kodak again showed this unit, which seems to be the best of this type of device. (Of similar units shown by other companies one year ago, only one is apparently still in production.) Kodak has also announced a three-color projector. This is a complete unit, about half the size of a carousel slide projector, which projects a full-color image of the Mac II screen and which is suitable for use in smaller rooms. It will be released in April and will cost about $3,400. Of the meeting sessions I attended, two stand out. The first was a discussion and demonstration of the use of CD-ROM. This technology uses a compact disk, essentially the same as the audio CD, to store information. You can only read from the disk, not write to it. One such disk can hold about 600 megabytes. One program, ''Manhole,'' is a new and very much larger version of a previously released interactive adventure program. In addition, numerous more serious uses for the technology are also emerging. I saw one program which purports to be an encyclopedic history of science and technology. It seemed adequate for use at the upper high school level. Another interesting program I went to was titled, ''Meet the Programmers.'' The panel included Don Brown of CE Software (MacBillboard, MockPackage, QuickKeys, and others). Don is the author of the freeware, Vaccine. Also present were a couple of programmers from Ashton-Tate (FullWrite, Full Impact, and others), Scott Watson (Red Ryder), and the author of Microphone, whose name I unfortunately cannot recall. One of the people from Ashton-Tate was Randy Wigginton, who, as a high school student, was one of those enlisted by the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) to write software for the Apple I. He later wrote MacWrite for the Macintosh, and is one of those whose signatures are on the inside of the case of every pre-SE Macintosh. Randy still looks like a teenager. The discussion was interesting and ranged from the programming languages to hardware configurations. Listen to this, you power-hungry users: The Ashton-Tate programmers use Mac IIxs, each equipped with a custom accelerator board running at 33 mHz and with 24 mbytes (no, that's not a misprint!) of RAM.
For you telecommunications freaks: Scott Watson said that Red Ryder, v.11, will be released before the end of the year. My most pleasant experience was meeting Mike Glover of the British company Icon Technology. Mike is one of the coauthors of MacAuthor II, a word processor that I think is one of the best. He has just started distributing a new (for the U.S.) mathematical expression processor called Formulator. The American company ICOM Simulations will do the distribution, and Mike was at its booth to demonstrate the program. I had previously talked to him on the phone, and so it was nice to meet him in person. He asked me if I would like to beta test his company's latest program, and of course I said yes. Is going to MacWorld really worth the time, energy, and money? I don't know, but I, for one, sure had fun. MacWorld is an extravaganza, and every year it gets larger and glitzier. I don't know whether that's good or bad, but if you've never gone to one, you really should, at least once, preferably before they have to hold it in Candlestick Park.
Copyright © february, 1989 by Jack Russell