by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh
Held a week early in order to avoid conflicts with Thanksgiving, the
November meeting had conflicts of a different sort: the largest employer in
the area was in the middle of a massive shutdown. In theory, this should
have meant fewer scheduling conflicts, but in practice it meant a local
recession. Sales of everything were down in the Washington Metro area as
hundreds of thousands of federal workers, and private industry employees
dependent on providing food, clothing and shelter to those workers, stayed
home, worrying about bills.
So I hereby offer an updated list of Things Which Can Cause Problems For
A Pi General Meeting:
An air show at either Andrews or the Naval Academy featuring the Blue
Angels. (Maybe the Thunderbirds, too, though I haven't actually noticed a
A heavy snowfall ("heavy" for the DC Metro region seems to mean "a
light dusting which might partially cover up parts of the road.");
Switching General Meeting dates from the usual fourth Saturday;
Switching General Meeting sites;
Shock following a surprise upset of the Dallas Cowboys by the local
team (nah, probably never happen.);
A vendor failing to show up (see the kind comments on Fractal Design's
no-show at the July 1995 meeting.);
A massive job furlough of a large portion of the Washington Apple Pi
For the November 1995 General Meeting, we moved the date, moved the
meeting site, had to cope with people taking an early break for Thanksgiving
and had a massive job furlough in the DC Metro region (the Dallas upset came
later). Yet managed to draw a decent crowd, anyway.
User Group Disconnection
Ken Guy, a Manager for "Marketing Service" at Disney Interactive, wasn't
worried about the furlough, but about the weather. He'd heard about a
"massive" snowstorm "back East," and, like most Californians, knew that
Virginia was just a few inches from New York on the map. I assured him that,
while eastern states are Munchkin sized compared to the West, snow in
Manhattan doesn't normally present a problem for Northern Virginia Community
What did present problems: the User Group Connection. Once a division of
Apple, User Group Connection is now an independent company. For income, it
sells refurbished Apple computer equipment and discounted third-party
hardware and software. It also arranges, for a fee, promotional events, and
agreed to promote a "user group tour" for Disney Interactive.
This would all be fine except that User Group Connection doesn't appear
to know what it is doing. After an initial contact in the summer, they
failed to return any phone calls, E-mail messages or faxes sent to them
during the fall. They did send additional E-mail messages, but they didn't
address any of the issues under discussion; most of them simply said,
"everything is still on, details to follow."
Apparently this approach was used on Disney, too: Ken didn't hear he
would be doing a demo until two days before the meeting. At that point, he
was told he would be demonstrating one title, unaware that User Group
Connection had told the Pi he would be demonstrating three to four
So we compromised: he showed one program, plus early parts of a program
due next year.
Disney Interactive is a very new company. Though designed from the start
to be a computer company, it doesn't yet have a Web site (until then you can
tour the Disney Web site at http://www.disney.com/ or the Buena Vista
Web site at http://bvp.wdp.com/ or
the Toy Story Web site at http://toystory.com/), or even many
employees: Ken had been with the company two weeks.
What it does have, he took pains to point out, is familiarity. Virtually
everyone on the planet, including hermits on remote mountain peaks, have
either seen Disney's feature-length cartoons or seen enough commercials,
posters, books, clothing and whatnot to be familiar with the characters.
This familiarity has huge advantages for a software company: when Ken
booted TheLion King Activity Center CD-ROM, everyone in the
auditorium instantly knew what the main characters would look like, how they
would sound, and even what kind of personalities they'd have.
TheLion King Activity Center (TLKAC) is an interactive
educational program with a strong emphasis on memory, reading and
relationship skills. Designed (as a guess) for kids 5 to 10 years old, it
includes a number of games and puzzles, each with a strong Lion King
theme with Lion King characters. Graphics and sound are top notch;
all the drawings and animations look smooth and crisp, and the excellent
sound is entirely appropriate to the theme.
TLKAC also has good pacing. With one exception, the user interface is
cleverly designed to mask the inherent slow speed of a CD-ROM drive. When
the program slows to grab stuff from the disk, the screen is filled with
instructions or other displays that take time for the user to digest. By the
time the user is ready to do something, the program is ready, without any
The exception: one audience member noted that the screen goes briefly
black when shifting from one activity to another, and speculated that would
bother young users. Ken confessed that he'd never even noticed this before;
several children from the audience who went up on stage to try the package
didn't seem to notice, either.
Ken closed with a demo of some very, very preliminary work on a Buzz
Lightyear package, due sometime next year. Based on Toy Story,
the feature-length computer-generated film from Steve Job's Pixar Studios,
distributed by Walt Disney, Buzz Lightyear is another "activity"
package in which children can both play learning games and goof off. The
brief glimpse offered at the meeting suggests that much of the film's humor
will carry over to the CD-ROM-based game.
Computer Sale and Snow
December featured another Pi event in lieu of a General Meeting, the
Winter Computer Sale and Show, held just three weeks after the November
General Meeting. "Computer Sale and Show" translates as "the Pi Winter
Garage Sale;" Northern Virginia Community College objected to hosting a
Attendees report that the crowd was somewhat smaller than in the past
due to a snowstorm in the late evening and early morning hours. On the other
hand, those that did venture out in the "winter wonderland" were hailed as
"exceptional" buyers and sellers. What does it take to be exceptional?
Apparently the buyers were quite knowledgeable, and the sellers had quality
goodies ‹ a winning combination.
There was one interesting story about someone selling speakers to a deaf
user for use on a multimedia system. Though intrigued, I couldn't muster the
courage to ask for details.
I will be retiring as Vice President, Macintosh, as soon as possible.
Immediately, if a volunteer steps forward and the Pi Board of Directors
For details, see the article on the October 1995 meeting.
Volunteer now and you, too, will have a chance to meet the rich and
famous. You might even become rich and famous: Charlie Jackson
founded the San Diego Macintosh User Group, and from there went on to found
Silicon Beach Software, which he later sold to Aldus for millions. Steve
Wozniak created the original Apple I and II computers to show to people in
his user group. I found my current job via a message posted to the TCS, the
Pi's computer bulletin board system.
No, I'm not wealthy yet, but I'm not opposed to the idea, either.
The first meeting of the new year on January 27, 1996, will feature
Megahertz, a PCMCIA modem manufacturer. Their new CruiseCard is just the
thing for your PCMCIA PowerBook 190, 520, 540 or 5300. Another vendor will
also be there, but we still need to check on a few things before
making an announcement.
Clones will be the topic at the February 24, 1996 meeting as Power
Computing comes to the Pi to show off their Power Mac-compatible line.
Prolific author Bob LeVitus, Power Computing's evangelist, will be the main
speaker. Before getting to Clones, however, we'll hold the Second Annual
Washington Apple Pi QuickTime Festival, showing off the creations of the
Pi's highly enthusiastic QuickTime SIG (Special Interest Group).
The drawing is always interesting, both for what is being offered as
well as for what people contribute in the way of drawing "tickets." I was
really impressed with the Lion King Koosh Ball toy Disney brought;
I'd never seen a Koosh Ball with four legs and a lion's head before. No, I
didn't want it for my daughter, I wanted it for me.
As for "tickets," a slight majority were business cards (with the most
impressive being those which were obviously custom-designed by Mac
enthusiasts), followed by business-card-sized scraps of paper, followed by
"other." The "other" category included a receipt from a computerized fuel
pump at a Shell station, several check register deposit slips, an automated
teller deposit slip, an expired form for a prescription drug, several
shopping lists, what appeared to be part of a hand-written love poem, and a
Metro fare card with ten cents left on it. There's a doctoral dissertation
in sociology here, begging for studyŠ
Ballcap (Cyberflix): Kim Stark In Touch demo set (Prairie Group): Diana Epstein
Adobe Graphics Sampler CD-ROM (Adobe): Pat Garvey
Adobe Acrobat Sampler CD-ROM (Adobe): Glenda Adams
Guide to Color Printers CD-ROM (Tektronix): Stuart Bonwit
Real Life Software CD-ROM (Claris): John Rector
Real Life Software CD-ROM (Claris): Frank Koczot
Real Life Software CD-ROM (Claris): Jack Shearer
Mouse Ears (Disney): Susan Reilly Winnie the Pooh mouse pad (Disney): Ken Clare Winnie the Pooh mouse pad (Disney): John Hyland Pocahontas mouse pad (Disney): Grace Gallager Pocahontas mouse pad (Disney): N.J. McDonald Ultimate Disney Trivia Book (Disney): Cynthia Hay Pocahontas plush-toy canoe (Disney): Gregory Resch Pocahontas plush-toy canoe (Disney): Russell Strange Lion King Koosh ball (Disney): William MacBeath Lion King Koosh ball (Disney): Dennis Dimick Disney & Crew T-shirt (Disney): Shirley McBeath Disney & Crew T-shirt (Disney): Dennis Kruse Mickey & Crew T-shirt (Disney): Katie Hay Pocahontas T-shirt (Disney): John E. Christensen Beauty & the Beast T-shirt (Disney): Robert O'Brien Lion King T-shirt (Disney): Nathan Farb Aladdin Activity Center CD-ROM (Disney Interactive): Elmer Keene Aladdin Activity Center CD-ROM (Disney Interactive): Melvin J.
Mason Lion King Activity Center CD-ROM (Disney Interactive): Barb
Reilly Lion King Activity Center CD-ROM (Disney Interactive): Peter Day Lion King Activity Center CD-ROM (Disney Interactive): Marcella Iris
Fruchter Lion King Activity Center CD-ROM (Disney Interactive): David