'Mac' Episodes

UMBCast 016 - Star Control


The time has come for episode 16 where I cover the great 1990 game series from Toys for Bob, Star Control.

Before I even get to the news, a small program note: From now on, the show will be releasing on Sundays instead of Thursday as it has been in the past.

Housekeeping aside, news time!

Hero-U, the new game project from Lori and Corey Cole, creators of Quest for Glory now has an active kickstarter! If you want to give to this project, go check out their page.

Big news over at GoG.com, they have released over 50 games with native mac support! OSX-ers rejoice! The developer of Boxer, who is working with them also posted a great article talking details of his work.

Finally, SimCity 5 now has a release date!

After an email, we get to the main topic, the great Star Control series. I cover all the usual suspects for the first two games in the set. We end off with an email and a cool look into the lego community with a set of Star Control ships competing to be made into a real licensed lego set! If you want to see these happen put in your vote.

Buy Star Control on GoG: http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/star_control_1_2/

Get the open source Ur-Quan Masters: http://sc2.sourceforge.net/

Check out Project 6014: http://code.google.com/p/project6014/

General Magic Was Almost Magical


General Magic Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us to innovate (and sometimes cope with) the future! Today’s episode is on a little-known company called General Magic who certainly had a substantial impact on the modern, mobile age of computing. Imagine if you had some of the best and brightest people in the world. And imagine if they were inspired by a revolutionary idea. The Mac changed the way people thought about computers when it was released in 1984. And very quickly thereafter they had left Apple. What happened to them? They got depressed and many moved on. The Personal Computer Revolution was upon us. And people who have changed the world can be hard to inspire. Especially at A big company like what Apple was becoming, where they can easily lose the ability to innovate. Mark Pratt had an idea. The mobile device was going to be the next big thing. The next wave. I mean, Steve Jobs has talked about mobile computing all the way back in 83. And it had been researched at PARC before that and philosophically the computer science research community had actually conceptualized ubiquitous computing. But Pratt knew they couldn’t build something at Apple. So in 1990 John Sculley, then CEO at Apple, worked with Pratt and they got The Apple board of directors to invest in the idea, which they built a company for, called General Magic. He kept his ideas in a book called Pocket Crystal. Two of the most important members of the original Mac team, Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld were inspired by the vision and joined on as well. Now legends, everyone wanted to work with them. It was an immediate draw for the best and brightest in the world. Megan Smith, Dan Winkler, amy Lindbergh, Joanna Hoffman, Scott Canaster, Darin Adler, Kevin Lynch, big names in software. They were ready to change the world. Again. They would build a small computer into a phone. A computer... in your pocket. It would be described as a telephone, a fax, and a computer. They went to Fry’s. A lot. USB didn’t exist yet. So they made it. ARPANET was a known quantity but The Internet hadn’t been born yet. Still, a pocket computer with the notes from your refrigerator, files from your computer, contacts , schedules, calculators. They had a vision. They wanted expressive icons, so they invented emoticons. And animated them. There was no data network to connect computers on phones with. So they reached out to AT&T and Go figure, they signed on. Sony, Phillips, Motorola, Mitsubishi gave them 6 million each. And they created an alliance of partners. Frank Canova built a device he showed off as “Angler” at COMDEX in 1992. Mobile devices were on the way. By 1993, the Apple Board of Directors was pressuring Sculley for the next Mac-type of visionary idea. So the Newton was announced in 1994, with the General Magic team feeling betrayed by Sculley. And General Magic got shoved out of the nest of stealth mode. After a great announcement they got a lot of press. They went public without having a product. The devices were trying to do a lot. Maybe too much. The devices were slow. Some aspects of the devices worked, for other aspects, They faked demos. The web showed up and They didn’t embrace it. In fact, Dean Omijar with Auctionweb was on the team. He thought the web was way cooler than the mobile device but the name needed work so it became eBay. The team didn’t embrace management or working together. They weren’t finishing projects. They were scope creeping the projects. The delays started. Some of the team had missed delays for the Mac and that worked. But other devices shipped. After 4 years, they shipped the Sony Magic Link in 1994. The devices were $800. People weren’t ready to be connected all the time. The network was buggy. They sold less than 3k. The stock tumbled and by 95 the Internet miss was huge. They were right. The future was in mobile computing. They needed the markets to be patient. They weren’t. They had inspired a revolution in computing and it slipped through their fingers. AT&T killed the devices, Marc was ousted as CEO, and after massive losses, they laid off nearly a quarter of the team and ultimately filed chapter 11. They weren’t the only ones. Sculley has invested so much into the Newton that he got sacked from Apple. But the vision and the press. They inspired a wave of technology. Rising like a Phoenix from the postPC, ubiquitous ashes CDMA would slowly come down in cost over the next decade and evolve connectivity through 3g and the upcoming 5g revolution. And out of their innovations came the Simon Personal Communicator by BellSouth and manufactured as the IBM Simon by Mitsubishi. The Palm, Symbian, and Pocket PC, or Windows CE would come out shortly thereafter and rise in popularity over the next few years. Tony Farrell repeated the excersize when helping invent the iPod as well and Steve Jobs even mentioned he had considered some of the tech from Magic Hat. He would later found Nest. And Andy Rubin, one of the creators of Android, also come from General Magic. Next time you read about the fact that Samsung and Apple combined control 98% of the mobile market or that Android overtook Windows for market share by double digits you can thank General Magic for at least part of the education that shaped those. The alumni include the head of speech recognition from Google, VPs from Google, Samsung, Apple, Blacberry, ebay, the CTOs of Twitter, LinkedIn, Adobe, and the United States. Alumni also include the lead engineers of the Safari browser and AI at Apple, cofounders of webtv, leaders from Pinterest, creator of dreamweaver. And now there’s a documentary about their journey called appropriately, General Magic. Their work and vision inspired the mobility industry. They touch nearly every aspect of mobile devices today and we owe them for bringing us forward into one of the most transparent and connected eras of humanity. Next time you see a racist slur recorded from a cell phone, next time a political gaffe goes viral, next time the black community finally shows proof of the police shootings they’ve complained about for decades, next time political dissenters show proof of mass killings, next time abuse at the hands of sports coaches is caught and next time all the other horrible injustices of humanity are forced upon us, thank them. Just as I owe you my thanks. I am sooooo lucky you chose to listen to this episode of the history of computing podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. Have a great day!

The Evolution (and De-Evolution) of the Mac Server


Todays episode is on one of the topics I am probably the most intimate with that we’ll cover: the evolution of the Apple servers and then the rapid pivot towards a much more mobility-focused offering. Early Macs in 1984 shipped with AppleTalk. These could act as a server or workstation. But after a few years, engineers realized that Apple needed a dedicated server platform. Apple has had a server product starting in 1987 that lives on to today. At Ease had some file and print sharing options. But the old AppleShare (later called AppleShare IP server was primarily used to provide network resources to the Mac from 1986 to 2000, with file sharing being the main service offered. There were basically two options. At Ease, which ran on the early Mac operating systems and A/UX, or Apple Unix. This brought paged memory management and could run on the Macintosh II through the Centris Macs. Apple Unix shipped from 1988 to 1995 and had been based on System V. It was a solidly performing TCP/IP machine and introduced the world of POSIX. Apple Unix could emulate Mac apps and once you were under the hood, you could do pretty much anything you might do in another Unix environment. Apple also took a stab at early server hardware in the form of the Apple Network Server, which was announced in 1995 when Apple Unix went away, for the Quadra 950 and a PowerPC server sold from 1996 to 1997, although the name was used all the way until 2003. While these things were much more powerful and came with modern hardware, they didn’t run the Mac OS but ran another Unix type of operating system, AIX, which had begun life at about the same time as Apple Unix and was another System V variant, but had much more work done and given financial issues at Apple and the Taligent relationship between Apple and IBM to build a successor to Mac OS and OS/2, it made sense to work together on the project. Meanwhile, At Ease continued to evolve and Apple eventually shipped a new offering in the form of AppleShare IP, which worked up until 9.2.2. In an era before, as an example, you needed to require SMTP authentication, AppleShare IP was easily used for everything from file sharing services to mail services. An older Quadra made for a great mail server so your company could stop paying an ISP for some weird email address like that AOL address you got in college, and get your own domain in 1999! And if you needed more, you could easily slap some third party software on the hosts, like if you actually wanted SMTP authentication so your server didn’t get used to route this weird thing called spam, you could install Communigator or later Communigate Pro. Keep in mind that many of the engineers from NeXT after Steve Jobs left Apple had remained friends with engineers from Apple. Some still actually work at Apple. Serving services was a central need for NEXTSTEP and OPENSTEP systems. The UNIX underpinnings made it possible to compile a number of open source software packages and the first web server was hosted by Tim Berners Lee on a NeXTcube. During the transition over to Apple, AppleShare IP and services from NeXT were made to look and feel similarly and turned into Rhapsody from around 1999 and then Mac OS X Server from around 2000. The first few releases of Mac OS X Server, represented a learning curve for many classic Apple admins, and in fact caused a generational shift in who administered the systems. John Welch wrote books in 2000 and 2002 that helped administrators get up to speed. The Xserve was released in 2002 and the Xserve RAID was released in 2003. It took time, but a community began to form around these products. The Xserve would go from a G3 to a G4. The late Michael Bartosh compiled a seminal work in “Essential Mac OS X Panther Server Administration” for O’Reilly Media in 2005. I released my first book called The Mac Tiger Server Black Book in 2006. The server was enjoying a huge upswing in use. Schoun Regan and Kevin White wrote a Visual QuickStart for Panther Server. Schoun wrote one for Tiger Server. The platform was growing. People were interested. Small businesses, schools, universities, art departments in bigger companies. The Xserve would go from a G4 to an Intel processor and we would get cluster nodes to offload processing power from more expensive servers. Up until this point, Apple never publicly acknowledged that businesses or enterprises used their device so the rise of the Xserve advertising was the first time we saw that acknowledgement. Apple continued to improve the product with new services up until 2009 with Mac OS X Server 10.6. At this point, Apple included most services necessary for running a standard IT department for small and medium sized business in the product, including web (in the form of Apache), mail, groupware, DHCP, DNS, directory services, file sharing, and even web and wiki services. There were also edge case services such as Podcast Producer for automating video and content workflows, Xsan, a clustered file system, and in 2009 even purchased a company called Artbox, whose product was rebranded as Final Cut Server. Apple now had multiple awesome, stable products. Dozens of books and websites were helping built a community and growing knowledge of the platform. But that was a turning point. Around that same time Apple had been working towards the iPad, released in 2010 (although arguably the Knowledge Navigator was the first iteration, conceptualized in 1987). The skyrocketing sales of the iPhone led to some tough decisions. Apple no longer needed to control the whole ecosystem with their server product and instead began transitioning as many teams as possible to work on higher profit margin areas, reducing focus on areas that took attention away from valuable software developers who were trying to solve problems many other vendors had already solved better. In 2009 the Xserve RAID was discontinued and the Xserve went away the following year. By then, the Xserve RAID was lagging and for the use cases it served, there were other vendors whose sole focus was storage - and who Apple actively helped point customers towards. Namely the Promise array for Xsan. A few things that were happening around the same time. Apple could have bought Sun for less than 10% of their CASH reserves in 2010 but instead allowed Oracle to buy the tech giant. Instead, Apple released the iPad. Solid move. They also released the Mac Mini server, which while it lacked rack and stack options like an ipmi interface to remotely reboot the server and dual power supplies, was actually more powerful. The next few years saw services slowly pealed off the server. Today, the Mac OS X Server product has been migrated to just an app on the App Store. Today, macOS Server is meant to run Profile Manager and be run as a metadata controller for Xsan, Apple’s clustered file system. Products that used to compete with the platform are now embraced by most in the community. For the most part, this is because Apple let Microsoft or Linux-based systems own the market for providing features that are often unique to each enterprise and not about delighting end users. Today building server products that try to do everything for everyone seems like a distant memory for many at Apple. But there is still a keen eye towards making the lives of the humans that use Apple devices better, as has been the case since Steve Jobs mainstreamed the GUI and Apple made the great user experience advocate Larry Tesler their Chief Scientist. How services make a better experience for end users can be seen by the Caching service built into macOS (moved there from macOS Server) and how some products, such as Apple Remote Desktop, are still very much alive and kicking. But the focus on profile management and the desire to open up everything Profile Manager can do to third party developers who serve often niche markets or look more to scalability is certainly front and center. I think this story of the Apple Server offering is really much more about Apple branching into awesome areas that they needed to be at various points in time. Then having a constant focus on iterating to a better, newer offering. Growing with the market. Helping the market get to where they needed them to be. Serving the market and then when the needs of the market can be better served elsewhere, pulling back so other vendors could serve the market. Not looking to grow a billion dollar business unit in servers - but instead looking to provide them just until they didn’t need to. In many ways Apple paved the way for billion dollar businesses to host services. And the SaaS ecosystem is as vibrant for the Apple platform as ever. My perspective on this has changed a lot over the years. As someone who wrote a lot of books about the topic I might have been harsh at times. But that’s one great reason not to be judgmental. You don’t always know the full picture and it’s super-easy to miss big strategies like that when you’re in the middle of it. So thank you to Apple for putting user experience into servers as with everything you do. And thank you listeners for tuning into this episode of the History of Computing Podcast. We’re certainly lucky to have you and hope you join us next time!

The History of Symantec


Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Todays episode is on the History of Symantec. This is really more part one of a part two series. Broadcom announced they were acquiring Symantec in August of 2019, the day before we recorded this episode. Who is this Symantec and what do they do - and why does Broadcom want to buy them for 10.7 Billion dollars? For starters, by themselves Symantec is a Fortune 500 company with over $4 billion dollars in annual revenues so $10.7 Billion is a steal for an enterprise software company. Except they’re just selling the Enterprise software division and keeping Norton in the family. With just shy of 12,000 employees, Symantec has twisted and turned and bought and sold companies for a long time. But how did they become a Fortune 500 company? It all started with Eisenhower. ARPA or the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which would later add the word Defense to their name, become DARPA and build a series of tubes call the interweb. While originally commissioned so Ike could counter Sputnik, ARPA continued working to fund projects in computers and in the 1970s, this kid out of the University of Texas named Gary Hendrix saw that they were funding natural language understanding projects. This went back to Turing and DARPA wanted to give some AI-complete a leap forward, trying to make computers as intelligent as people. This was obviously before Terminator told us that was a bad idea (pro-tip, it’s a good idea). Our intrepid hero Gary saw that sweet, sweet grant money and got his PhD from the UT Austin Computational Linguistics Lab. He wrote some papers on robotics and the Stanford Research Institute, or SRI for short. Yes, that’s the same SRI that invented the hosts.txt file and is responsible for keeping DNS for the first decade or so of the internet. So our pal Hendrix joins SRI and chases that grant money, leaving SRI in 1980 with about 15 other Stanford researchers to start a company they called Machine Intelligence Corporation. That went bust and so he started Symantec Corporation in 1982 got a grant from the National Science foundation to build natural language processing software; it turns out syntax and semantics make for a pretty good mashup. So the new company Symantec built out a database and some advanced natural language code, but by 1984 the PC revolution was on and that code had been built for a DEC PDP so could not be run on the emerging PCs in the industry. Symantec was then acquired by C&E Software short for the names of its founders, Dennis Coleman and Gordon Eubanks. The Symantec name stayed and Eubanks became the chairman of the board for the new company. C&E had been working on PC software called Q&A, which the new team finished and then added natural language processing to make using the tools easier to use. They called that “The Intelligent Assistant” and they now had a tool that would take them through the 80s. People swapped rolls, and due to a sharp focus on sales they did well. During the early days of the PC, dealers - or small computer stores that were popping up all over the country, were critical to selling hardware and software. Every Symantec employee would go on the road for six days a week, visiting 6 dealers a day. It was grueling but kept them growing and building. They became what we now call a “portfolio” company in 1985 when they introduced NoteIt, a natural language processing tool used to annotate docs in Lotus 1-2-3. Lotus was in the midst of eating the lunch of previous tools. They added another devision and made SQZ a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet tool. This is important, they were a 3 product company with divisions when in 1987 they got even more aggressive and purchased Breakthrough Software who made an early project management tool called TimeLine. And this is when they did something unique for a PC software company: they split each product into groups that leveraged a shared pool of resources. Each product had a GM that was responsible for the P&L. The GM ran the development, Quality Assurance, Tech Support, and Product Market - those teams reported directly to the GM, who reported to then CEO Eubanks. But there was a shared sales, finance, and operations team. This laid the framework for massive growth, increased sales, and took Symantec to their IPO in 1989. Symantec purchased what was at the time the most popular CRM app called ACT! In 1993 Meanwhile, Peter Norton had a great suite of tools for working with DOS. Things that, well, maybe should have been built into operating systems (and mostly now are). Norton could compress files, do file recovery, etc. The cash Symantec raised allowed them to acquire The Peter Norton Company in 1999 which would completely change the face of the company. This gave them development tools for PC and Mac as Norton had been building those. This lead to the introduction of Symantec Antivirus for the Macintosh and called the anti-virus for PC Norton Antivirus because people already trusted that name. Within two years, with the added sales and marketing air cover that the Symantec sales machine provided, the Norton group was responsible for 82% of Symantecs total revenues. So much so that Symantec dropped building Q&A because Microsoft was winning in their market. I remember this moment pretty poignantly. Sure, there were other apps for the Mac like Virex, and other apps for Windows, like McAfee. But the Norton tools were the gold standard. At least until they later got bloated. The next decade was fast, from the outside looking in, except when Symantec acquired Veritas in 2004. This made sense as Symantec had become a solid player in the security space and before the cloud, backup seemed somewhat related. I’d used Backup Exec for a long time and watched Veritas products go from awesome to, well, not as awesome. John Thompson was the CEO through that decade and Symantec grew rapidly - purchasing systems management solution Altiris in 2007 and got a Data Loss Prevention solution that year in Vontu. Application Performance Management, or APM wasn’t very security focused so that business until was picked up by Vector Capital in 2008. They also picked up MessageLabs and AppStream in 2008. Enrique Salem replaced Thompson and Symantec bought Versign’s CA business in 2010. If you remember from our encryption episode, that was already spun off of RSA. Certificates are security-focused. Email encryption tool PGP and GuardianEdge were also picked up in 2010 providing key management tools for all those, um, keys the CA was issuing. These tools were never integrated properly though. They also picked up Rulespace in 2010 to get what’s now their content filtering solution. Symantec acquired LiveOffice in 2012 to get enterprise vault and instant messaging security - continuing to solidify the line of security products. They also acquired Odyssey Software for SCCM plugins to get better at managing embedded, mobile, and rugged devices. Then came Nukona to get a MAM product, also in 2012. During this time, Steve Bennett was hired as CEO and fired in 2014. Then Michael Brown, although in the interim Veritas was demerged in 2014 and as their products started getting better they were sold to The Carlyle Group in 2016 for $8B. Then Greg Clark became CEO in 2016, when Symantec purchased Blue Coat. Greg Clark then orchestrated the LifeLock acquisition for $2.3B of that $8B. Thoma Bravo then bought CA business to merge with DigiCert in 2017. Then in 2019 Rick Hill became CEO. Does this seem like a lot of buying and selling? It is. But it also isn’t. If you look at what Symantec has done, they have a lot of things they can sell customers for various needs in the information security space. At times, they’ve felt like a holding company. But ever since the Norton acquisition, they’ve had very specific moves that continue to solidify them as one of the top security vendors in the space. Their sales teams don’t spend six days a week on the road and go to six customers a day, but they have a sales machine. And the’ve managed to leverage that to get inside what we call the buying tornado of many emergent technologies and then sell the company before the tornado ends. They still have Norton, of course. Even though practically every other product in the portfolio has come and gone over the years. What does all of this mean? The Broadcom acquisition of the enterprise security division maybe tells us that Symantec is about to leverage that $10+ billion dollars to buy more software companies. And sell more companies after a little integration and incubation, then getting out of it before the ocean gets too red, the tech too stale, or before Microsoft sherlocks them. Because that’s what they do. And they do it profitably every single time. We often think of how an acquiring company gets a new product - but next time you see a company buying another one, think about this: that company probably had multiple offers. What did the team at the company being acquired get out of this deal? And we’ll work on that in the next episode, when we explore the history of Broadcom. Thank you for sticking with us through this episode of the History of Computing Podcast and have a great day!

Susan Kare, The Happy Mac, And The Trash Can


Susan Kare Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because by understanding the past, we’re able to be prepared for the innovations of the future! Today we’ll talk about a great innovator, Susan Kare. Can you imagine life without a Trash Can icon? What about the Mac if there had never been a happy Mac icon. What would writing documents be like if you always used Courier and didn’t have all those fonts named after cities? They didn’t just show up out of nowhere. And the originals were 8 bit. But they were were painstakingly designed, reviewed, reviewed again, argued over, obsessed over. Can you imagine arguing with Steve Jobs? He’s famous for being a hard person to deal with. But one person brought us all of these things. One pioneer. One wizard. She cast her spell over the world. And that spell was to bring to an arcane concept called the desktop metaphor into everyday computers. Primitive versions had shipped in Douglas Engelbart’s NLS, in Alan Kay’s Smalltalk. In Magic Desk on the Commodore 64. But her class was not an illusionist as those who came before her were, but a mage, putting hexadecimal text derived from graph paper so the bits would render on the screen the same, for decades to come. And we still use her visionary symbols, burned into the spell books of all visual designers from then to today. She was a true innovator. She sat in a room full of computer wizards that were the original Mac team, none was more important than Susan Kare. Born in 1954 in Ithaca, New York this wizard got her training in the form of a PhD from New York University and then moved off to San Francisco in the late 1970s, feeling the draw of a generation’s finest to spend her mage apprenticeship as a curator at a Fine Arts Museum. But like Gandalph, Raistlin, Dumbledoor, Merlin, Glinda the good witch and many others, she had a destiny to put a dent in the universe. To wield the spells of the infant user interface design art to reshape the universe, 8-bits at a time. She’d gone to high school with a different kind of wizard. His name was Andy Hertzfeld and he was working at a great temple called Apple Computer. And his new team team would build a new kind of computer called the Macintosh. They needed some graphics and fonts help. Susan had used an Apple II but had never done computer graphics. She had never even dabbled in typography. But then, Dr Strange took the mantle with no experience. She ended up taking the job and joining Apple as employee badge number 3978. She was one of two women on the original Macintosh team. She had done sculpture and some freelance work as a designer. But not this weird new art form. Almost no one had. Like any young magician, she bought some books and studied up on design, equating bitmap graphics to needlepoint. She would design the iconic fonts, the graphics for many of the applications, and the icons that went into the first Mac. She would conjure up the hex (that’s hexadecimal) for graphics and fonts. She would then manually type them in to design icons and fonts. Going through every letter of every font manually. Experimenting. Testing. At the time, fonts were reserved for high end marketing and industrial designers. Apple considered licensing existing fonts but decided to go their own route. She painstakingly created new fonts and gave them the names of towns along train stops around Philadelphia where she grew up. Steve Jobs went for the city approach but insisted they be cool cities. And so the Chicago, Monaco, New York, Cairo, Toronto, Venice, Geneva, and Los Angeles fonts were born - with her personally developing Geneva, Chicago, and Cairo. And she did it in 9 x 7. I can still remember the magic of sitting down at a computer with a graphical interface for the first time. I remember opening MacPaint and changing between the fonts, marveling at the typefaces. I’d certainly seen different fonts in books. But never had I made a document and been able to set my own typeface! Not only that they could be in italics, outline, and bold. Those were all her. And she painstakingly created them out of pixels. The love and care and detail in 8-bit had never been seen before. And she did it with a world class wizard: someone with a renowned attention to detail and design sense like Steve Jobs looking over her shoulder and pressuring her to keep making it better. They brought the desktop metaphor into the office. Some of it pre-existed her involvement. The trash can had been a part of the Lisa graphics already. She made it better. The documents icon pre-dated her. She added a hand holding a pencil to liven it up, making it clear which files were applications and which were documents. She made the painting brush icon for MacPaint that, while modernized, is still in use in practically every drawing app today. In fact when Bill Atkinson was writing MacSketch and saw her icon, the name was quickly changed to MacPaint. She also made the little tool that you use to draw shapes and remove them called the lasso, with Bill Atkinson. Before her, there were elevators to scroll around in a window. After her, they were called scroll bars. After her, the places you dropped your images was called the Scrapbook. After her the icon of a floppy disk meant save. She gave us the dreaded bomb. The stop watch. The hand you drag to move objects. The image of a speaker making sound. The command key, still on the keyboard of every Mac made. You can see that symbol on Nordic maps and it denotes an “area of interest” or more poignant for the need: “Interesting Feature”. To be clear, I never stole one of those signs while trampsing around Europe. But that symbol is a great example of what a scholarly mage can pull out of ancient tomes, as it is called a Gorgon knot or Saint John Arm’s and dates back over fifteen hundred years - and you can see that in other hieroglyphs she borrowed from obscure historical references. And almost as though those images are burned into our DNA, we identified with them. She worked with the traditionally acclaimed wizards of the Macintosh: Andy Hertzfeld, Bill Atkinson, Bruce Horn, Bud Tribble, Donn Denman, Jerome Coonen, Larry Kenos, and Steve Capps. She helped Chris Espinosa, Clement Mok, Ellen Romana, and Tom Hughes out with graphics for manuals, and often on how to talk about a feature. But there was always Steve Jobs. Some icons took hours; others took days. And Jobs would stroll in and have her recast her spell if it wasn’t just right. Never acknowledging the effort. If it wasn’t right, it wasn’t right. The further the team pushed on the constantly delayed release of the Mac the more frantic the wizards worked. The less they slept. But somehow they knew. It wasn’t just Jobs’ reality distortion field as Steven Levy famously phrased it. They knew that what they were building would put a dent in the Universe. And when they all look back, her designs on “Clarus the Dogcow” were just the beginning of her amazing contributions. The Mac launched. And it did not turn out to be a commercial success, leading to the ouster of Steve Jobs - Sauron’s eye was firmly upon him. Kare left with Jobs to become the tenth employee at NeXT computer. But she introduced Jobs to Paul Rand, who had helped design the IBM logo, to design their logo. When IBM, the Voldemort of the time, was designing OS/2, she helped with their graphics. When Bill Gates, the Jafar of the computer industry called, she designed the now classic solitaire for Windows. And she gave them Notepad and Control Panels. And her contributions have continued. When Facebook needed images for the virtual gifts feature. They called Kare. You know that spinning button when you refresh Pinterest. That’s Kare. And she still does work all the time. The Museum of Modern Art showed her original Sketches in a 2015 Exhibit called “This is for everyone.” She brought us every day metaphors to usher in the and ease the transition into a world of graphical user interfaces. Not a line of the original code remains. But it’s amazing how surrounded by all the young wizards, one that got very little attention in all the books and articles about the Mac was the biggest wizard of them all. Without her iconic designs, the other wizards would likely be forgotten. She is still building one of the best legacies in all of the technology industry. By simply putting users into user interface. When I transitioned from the Apple II to the Mac, she made it easy for me with those spot-on visual cues. And she did it in only 8 bits. She gave the Mac style and personality. She made it fun, but not so much fun that it would be perceived as a toy. She made the Mac smile. Who knew that computers could smile?!?! The Mac Finder still smiles at me every day. Truly Magical. Thanks for that, Susan Kare. And thanks to you inquisitive and amazing listeners. For my next trick. I’ll disappear. But thank you for tuning in to yet another episode of the History of Computing Podcast. We’re so lucky to have you. Have a great day!

The Blue Meanies of Apple, IBM, and the Pinks


Apple Lore: The Pinks Versus The Blue Meanies Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Today we’re going to cover two engineering groups at Apple: The Pinks and the Blue Meanies. The Mac OS System 6 had been the sixth operating system released in five years. By 1988, Apple was keeping up an unrealistic release cadence, especially given that the operating system had come along at an interesting time when a lot of transitions were happening in IT, and there were lot of increasingly complex problems trying to code around earlier learning opportunities. After sweeping the joint for bugs, Apple held an offsite engineering meeting in Pescadero and split the ideas for the next operating system into two colors of cards: pink, red, green, and blue. The most important of these for this episode were pink, or future release stuff and blue, or next release, stuff. The notecards were blue. The architects of blue were horrible, arrogant self-proclaimed bastards. They’d all seen Yellow Submarine and so they went with the evil Pepperland Blue Meanies. As architects, they were the ones who often said no to things. The Blue Meanies ended up writing much of the core of System 7. They called this OS, which took 3 years to complete, The Big Bang. It would last on the market for 6 years. Longer than any operating system from Apple did prior or since. System 7 gave us CDs, File Sharing, began the migration to a 32-bit OS, replaced MacroMaker with AppleScript and Apple Events and the Extensions Manager, which we’re likely to see a return of given the pace Apple’s going these days. System 7.0.1 came with an Easter egg. If you typed in Help! Help! We're being held prisoner in a system software factory! You got a list of names: Darin Adler Scott Boyd Chris Derossi Cynthia Jasper Brian McGhie Greg Marriott Beatrice Sochor Dean Yu The later iterations of the file ended “Who dares wins” Pink was meant to get more than incremental gains. They wanted coorperative multitasking. The people who really pushed for this were senior engineers Bayles Holt, David Goldsmith, Gene Pope, Erich Ringewald, and Gerard Schutten, referred to as the Gang of Five. They had their pink cards and knew that what was on them was critical, or Apple might have to go out and buy some other company to get the next really operating system. They insisted that they be given the time to build this new operating system and traded their managers to the blue meanies for the chance to build the preemptive multitasking and a more component-based, or object-oriented applications esgn. They got Mike Potel as their manager. They worked in a separate location looking to launch their new operating system in two years. The code named as Defiant, given that Pink just wasn’t awesome. They shared space with the Newton geeks. Given that they had two years and they saw the technical debt in System 6 as considerable, they had to decide if they were going to build a new OS from the ground up, or build on top of the System 6. They pulled in the Advanced Technology Group, another team at Apple, and got up to 11 people. They ended up starting over with a new microkernel they called Opus. Big words. The Pink staff ended up pulling in ideas from other cards and got up to about 25 people. From there, it went a little off the rail and turf wars set in. It kept growing. 100 engineers. They were secretive. They eventually grew to 150 people by 1990. Remember, two years. And the further out they got the less likely that the code would ever be backwards compatible. The Pink GUI used isometric icons, rounded windows, drop shadows, beveling, was fully internationalized, and were huge influences in Mac OS 8 and Copland. Even IBM was impressed by the work being done on Pink and in 1991 they entered an alliance with Apple to help take on what was quickly becoming a Microsoft Monopoly. They planned to bring this new OS to the market as a new company called Taligent in the mid-90s. Just two more years. In 1992, Taligent moved out of Apple with 170 employees, and Joe Guglielmi, who had once led the OS/2 team and had been a marketing exec at IBM for 30 years. By then, this one one of 5 partnerships between Apple and IBM, something that starts and stops every now and then up to today. It was an era of turf wars and empire building. But it was the era of Object orientation. Since Smalltalk, this had been a key aspect in higher level languages such as Java and in the AS/400. IBM had already done it with OS/2 and AIX. By 1993 there was suspicion. Again they grow, now to over 250 people, but they really just needed two more years, guys. Apple actually released an object-oriented SDK called Bedrock to migrate from System 7 to Pink, which could work also work with Windows 3.1, NT, and OS/2. Before you know it they were building a development environment on AIX and porting frameworks to HP-UX, OS/2, Windows. By 1994 the apps could finally run on an IBM RS/6000 running AIX. The buzz continued. Ish. 1994 saw HP take on 15% of the company and add Smalltalk into the mix. HP brought new compilers into the portfolio, and needed native functionality. The development environment was renamed to cq professional and the User Interface builder was changed to cqconstructor. TalAE became CommonPoint. TalOS was scheduled to ship in 1996. Just two more years. The world wanted to switch away from monolithic apps and definitely away from procedural apps. It still does. Every attempt to do so just takes two more years. Then and now. That’s what we call “Enterprise Software” and as with anyone who’s ok with such pace, Joe Guglielmi left Taligent in 1995. Let’s review where we are. There’s no real shipping OS. There’s an IDE but C++ programmers would need 3 months training to get up to speed on Taligent. Most needed a week or two class to learn Java, if that. Steve Jobs had aligned with Sun in OpenStep. So Apple was getting closer and closer to IBM. But System 7 was too big a dog to run Taligent. Debbie Coutant became CEO towards the end of the year. HP and Apple sold their stake in the company which was then up to 375 employees. Over half were laid off and the organization was wrapped into IBM as would be focusing on… Java. Commonpoint would be distributed across IBM products where possible. Taligent themselves would be key to the Java work done at IBM. By then IBM was a services first organization anyways, so it kinda’ all makes sense. TalOS was demoed in 1996 but never released. It was unique. It was object oriented from the ground up. It was an inspiration of a new era of interfaces. It was special. But it never shipped. Mac OS 8 was released in 1997. Better late than never. But it was clear that there was no more runway left in the code that had been getting bigger and meaner. They needed a strategy. The final Taligent employees got sucked into IBM that year, ending a fascinating drama in operating systems and frameworks. Whatever the behind baseball story, Apple decided to bring Steve Jobs back in, in 1997. And he brought NeXT, which gave the Mac all the object-oriented neediness they wanted. They got Objective-C, Mach (through Avie Tevanian of Carnegie Mellon), Property Lists, AppWrappers (.app), Workspace Manager (which begat the Finder), The Dock, and NetInfo. And they finally retired the Apple Bonkers server. But as importantly as anything else, they got Bertrand Serlet and Craig Federighi - who as the next major VPs of Software were able to keep the ship in the right direction and by 2001 they gave us 10.0: Cheetah * Darwin (kinda’ like Unix) with Terminal * Mail, Address Book, iTunes * AppleScript survived, AppleTalk didn’t * Aqua UI, Carbon and Cocoa APIs * AFP over TCP/IP, HTTP, SSH, and FTP server/client * Native PDF Support It began a nearly 20 year journey that we are still on. So in the end, the Pinks never shipped an operating system, despite their best intentions. And the Blues never paid down their technical debt. Despite their best intentions. As engineers, we need a plan. We need to ship incrementally. We need good, sane cultures that can work together. We need to pay down technical debt - but we don’t need to run amuck building technology that’s a little ahead of our time. Even if it’s always just two more years ahead of our time. And I think we’re at time gentle listeners. And I hope it doesn’t take me two years to ship this, gentle listeners. But if it does or doesn’t, thanks for tuning into another episode of the History of Computing Podcast. We’re lucky to have you. Have a great day!

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing


Mavis Beacon Welcome to the History of Computing Podcast, where we explore the history of information technology. Because understanding the past prepares us for the innovations of the future! Today we’re going to give thanks to a wonderful lady. A saint. The woman that taught me to type. Mavis Beacon. Over the years I often wondered what Mavis was like. She took me from a kid that was filled with wonder about these weird computers we had floating around school to someone that could type over a hundred words a minute. She always smiled. I never saw her frown once. I thought she must be a teacher somewhere. She must be a kind lady whose only goal in the world was to teach young people how to type. And indeed, she’s taught over a million people to type in her days as a teacher. In fact she’d been teaching for years by the time I first encountered her. Mavis Beacon was initially written for MS-DOS in 1987 and released by The Software Toolworks. Norm Worthington, Mike Duffy joined Walt Bilofsky started the company out of Sherman Oaks, California in 1980 and also made Chessmaster in 1986. They started with HDOS, a health app for the Osborne 1. They worked on Small C and Grogramma, releasing a conversation simulation tool from Joseph Weizenbaum in 1981. They wrote Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing in 1987 for IBM PCs. It took "Three guys, three computers, three beds, in four months”. It was an instant success. They went public in 1988 and were acquired by Pearson in 1994 for around half a billion dollars, becoming Mindscape in 1994. By 1998 she’d taught over 6,000,000 kids to type. Today, Encore Software produces the software and Software MacKiev distributes a version for the Mac. The software integrates with iTunes, supports competitive typing games, and still tracks words-per-minute. But who was Mavis? What inspired her to teach generations of children to type? Why hasn’t she aged? Mavis was named after Mavis Staples but she was a beacon to anyone looking to learn to type, thus Mavis Beacon. Mavis was initially portrayed by Haitian-born Renée L'Espérance, who was discovered working behind the perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills by talk-show host Les Crane in 1985. He then brought her in to be the model. Featuring an African-American woman regrettably caused some marketing problems but didn’t impact the success of the release. So until the next episode, think about this: Mavis Beacon, real or not, taught me and probably another 10 million kids to type. She opened the door for us to do more with computers. I could never write code or books or even these episodes at a rate if it hadn’t been for her. So I owe her my sincerest of gratitude. And Norm Worthington, for having the idea in the first place. And I owe you my gratitude, for tuning into another episode of the History of Computing Podcast. We’re lucky to have you. Have a great day!

(OldComputerPods) ©Sean Haas, 2020