Apples are the oldest domesticated fruit, cultivated in southern Russia,
eastern Turkey and western Iran for thousands of years. They are also the
most widely cultivated tree fruit, grown on every continent but Antarctica.
But in terms of total fruit sales, they have just a fraction of the market,
and have never been able to completely eclipse oranges, bananas, figs,
watermelons, and all of their countless competitors.
Apple Computer has a similarly lengthy history: it is the oldest
personal computer company in the world. More Apple computers are in active
use than those of any competitor, yet they've never been able to completely
eclipse all of their countless competitors.
In the year just past, Apple Computer sold $11 billion dollars worth of
goods, but began 1996 with a $69 million dollar quarterly loss. How can they
possibly survive with losses exceeding 0.006 percent of their gross
I have no idea. But it doesn't sound all that difficult.
Look, Ma, No Cords
During a brief pause between blizzards, Washington Apple Pi had its
first General Meeting in ten weeks (not counting the December Computer
Show). For many, it was their first extended trip outside of their burrows
since the start of the winter storms and winter furloughs, with the streets
finally somewhat clear and Congress safely recessed.
This doesn't mean Pi members weren't active, however, as the TCS (the
Pi's computer bulletin board) did a booming business, as did the Pi's
Explorer Service (members-only Internet access). The region didn't suffer
any widespread electrical or phone outages, and Congress didn't try to cut
either off, so people reached out with their computers and modems to go
where neither they nor their cars could go: everywhere.
Megahertz, one of the General Meeting guests, demonstrated a new way to
reach out: the AllPoints Wireless PC Card. Aside from a name that is about
as catchy as PCMCIA, this is a neat gizmo in an industry filled with
neat gizmos, a small battery-operated, wireless, cordless modem that slips
into a PowerBook 190, 5300, or PCMCIA-equipped 520 or 540. Yes, Virginia,
there is a Santa Claus, he has a new toy, and you can go net-surfing
when the power and phones are out!
[Editorial aside: PCMCIA is the acronym for the credit card-sized
modems, disk drives and whatnot designed to slip into standard slots on
portable computers and a few desktop computers. It stands for either "People
Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms" or something else. Recently, the
industry has decided to rename these as PC Cards, a practice which this
article pointedly ignores.]
Karleen Broadwater (email@example.com) and Rebecca Krull
(firstname.lastname@example.org) offered personal
testimonials on the practicality and utility of this technology. Rebecca
flew into the DC area ahead of a major wind and rain storm to visit family,
while Karleen took a later flight. The flight, however, was blown to
Atlanta, so Karleen took her trusty PowerBook 5300, extended the telescoping
antenna on the AllPoints modem, and sent Rebecca both E-mail and voice mail
explaining her plight. (Meanwhile, her fellow passengers were rioting,
trying to mob the few available phones in the airport.) By the time she got
on stage for the General Meeting, Karleen had recovered neither her lost
sleep nor her lost luggage, but she had managed to coordinate her
presentation with Rebecca.
To demonstrate the wonders of wireless technology, they brought to the
meeting a cellular phone, a pager, a PowerBook 5300 and the AllPoints modem.
But they suffered a battery shortage: the AllPoints (powered by a standard
9-volt battery) was running a bit low, as was the pager, and the cellular
phone was essentially dead. In spite of this, they used the PowerBook to
call up the RAM Data Network and:
sent a page to the pager;
sent an E-mail message to themselves;
sent a voice mail message to themselves.
The voice mail, broadcast over the auditorium sound system, was faint
(telephones aren't designed to be picked up by microphones) but funny: the
robotic voice which speaks the message pronounced "Washington Apple Pie"
correctly, but the correct spelling of "Pi" came out as "pee." Except for
the telephone cord required for the phone, no wires were required, and
nobody even noticed their cell phone was dead.
For massive file transfers, the AllPoints is not the best choice; the
initial cost of the modem is quite low, but, like a cellular telephone,
usage charges can get quite hefty if you spend lots of time on it. On the
other hand, for keeping mobile managers in touch with their troops, or
executives in touch with the home office, it is quite seductive: no wires,
no connectors, no funny hotel phone bills or service fees, and a radio
network that covers 92 percent of the urban U.S. and a huge chunk of the
Interstate highway system. The other attraction is the "one size fits all"
nature of the modem and service: you can send and receive E-mail (to any
Internet address), voice mail, pages or faxes, all from your PowerBook, all
from just one application.
While they didn't demonstrate it, they did show a CruiseCard, Megahertz'
nifty 28,800 bps V.34 data and fax modem. What distinguishes the CruiseCard
from other PCMCIA modems is the XJack, a spring-loaded pop-out telephone
connector. Every other card modem requires some sort of custom, detachable
cable to connect the card to a telephone line, and these custom cables are
easy to put down and forget. The XJack, on the other hand, is part of the
card: pop it out to connect, push it back in when not in use. Megahertz also
has a version of the CruiseCard with an additional connection designed for
use with a cellular telephone, as well as a 14,400 bps version (presumably
for PC owners) for those who like life in the slow lane.
It was a near-perfect Washington-area demonstration: Karleen in jeans,
looking the part of a computer nerd, and Rebecca in high fashion, looking
like a business executive. They even revealed a couple secrets: Megahertz
started out life in a garage, manufacturing a part for a refrigerator, but
is now a part of U.S. Robotics, the world's leading modem manufacturer. (But
do either of them know that U.S. Robotics got its name from Isaac Asimov's
short stories, or that it was founded to build -- robots?) For more
information, write Megahertz at 605 North 5600 West, Salt Lake City, UT
84116, or check them out on the World Wide Web at http://www.megahertz.com.
Data, Data EveryWare
The second guest presentation was by EveryWare Development, a Canadian
software development with big -- really big -- ambitions. One of the largest
software companies in the world, Oracle, is famed for one thing: its SQL
database of the same name. EveryWare has decided to compete with Oracle by
creating its own SQL database, Butler SQL, but with some interesting
differences: it runs on a Mac, it can be used with a Mac-based Web server to
put information on the World Wide Web, and all of this can be done through a
non-technical interface called Tango. EveryWare also claims (though
it doesn't recommend) that you can even use a Macintosh Classic as a
Ross Leonard, EveryWare's manager of Online Marketing (email@example.com), had an easier time
getting to the meeting than the Megahertz representatives; Toronto is "just
a short flight" from DC, and neither rain nor snow are strangers. But while
the fates cleared away transportation obstacles, the demo gremlins attacked
in force: he struggled mightily to get his equipment to operate properly.
What he was trying to do was challenging:
he wanted to demonstrate a client-server database to an audience
which was probably not too familiar with the terms "client-server" or
he wanted to demonstrate dynamic Web pages, created without personally
writing any HTML code, to an audience probably not too familiar with
"dynamic" versus "static" Web pages, or possibly even the Web itself, or
he wanted to do all this by setting up a live WebStar Web site
on one PowerBook, which also was running Butler SQL, talking via
TCP/IP to another PowerBook running Netscape.
Unfortunately, the two PowerBooks (a 540 and a 5300) apparently weren't
on speaking terms. Netscape insisted it couldn't find the other
PowerBook, located just inches away, which prevented it from asking
WebStar to snatch data out of the Butler SQL database. The
main selling point of Butler -- its seamless integration with other
programs and other computers (and the computers don't even have to be Macs)
-- was lost when the two PowerBooks refused to, ah, integrate.
How it was supposed to work: say you are in San Francisco, and need the
phone number of an associate who works in your Denver office, but your main
office in Washington, DC, is closed. Using the World Wide Web, you have two
ways of providing this data:
create Web pages listing every employee, their office address,
phone number and whatever else you wish to look up, and in case of need
connect with your Web site and manually sort through all this looking for
what you need. Or,
create a Butler database of every employee and, in case of need,
connect with your Web site and have Butler sort through the data for
just the people in Denver, or the data on the exact person you need to
contact, and create a custom Web page "on the fly" with just this
The second technique, in addition to being easier to use, is also easier to
maintain: it is much more efficient (and accurate) to update one database
than it is to edit a mass of Web pages.
Ross did get the two machines to cooperate enough to give a brief
demonstration of Tango, the tool that allows you to create custom Web
pages without knowing either SQL (structured query language) or HTML
(HyperText Markup Language). He created a simple form that listed housing
characteristics, then used Netscape to contact his Web server and ask
Butler for all properties which met certain conditions. He wasn't
entirely pleased with the result (some information didn't transfer properly)
but I was impressed: I've spent months, instead of minutes, trying to do the
same thing using traditional tools.
If you attend an Apple seminar on the Internet, you'll almost always
hear mention of Butler and Tango. With these tools, a Mac and
one person can do things on the Internet that used to require millions of
dollars of equipment and large staffs, when they could be done at all, and
do it within a familiar, graphical, not at all "technical" environment. For
further information, contact EveryWare Development by mail (7145 West Credit
Ave., Bldg. 1, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5N 6J7) or check out their
interactive demo on the Web at http://www.everyware.com.
There are some things you should remember about the drawing. First, you
must be present to win, so don't bother to write your phone number and
address on a drawing slip (unless we are conducting a survey, in which case
we won't accept the slip unless you fill it out completely). Next,
only one entry per person; if we find more than one, we throw them all away.
Next, print your name in something that at least resembles the Roman
alphabet; if we can't read the name, we throw the slip away. (Business cards
are great for drawings since they almost invariably are easier to read than
handwriting.) In January, two names were drawn of people who left early, two
were drawn that were illegible, and two were drawn that were repeat entries;
none of these people won anything.
Which is a shame; we had a great crop of prizes to give away. Megahertz
brought some wonderful long-sleeve denim shirts in addition to two of their
CruiseCard modems, and EveryWare gave away a full copy of Butler SQL.
As an unexpected bonus, Casady & Greene sent five copies of their
award-winning Conflict Catcher 3 utility which arrived just before
Mac Head T-shirt (Microsoft): Bob Fetterolf
EveryWare T-shirt (EveryWare): Pat Garvey
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Don Franklin
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): John Kelemen
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Donald Reilly
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Glenda Finley
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Eileen Powers
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Lorin Evans
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Elmer Keene
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Mike Briggs
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Don Erickson
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Beth Medlin
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Diana Epstein
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Robert Ketchel
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Ron Evry Visual QuickStart Guide to Photoshop (Peachpit Press): Jan Bailey Visual QuickStart Guide to FileMaker Pro (Peachpit Press): John
McDonnell Visual QuickStart Guide to Illustrator 5 (Peachpit Press): Darla
Lee The Macintosh Font Book, 3rd Ed. (Peachpit Press): Ed Kelty Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Barb Reilly Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Joe Morey Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Bill Wydro Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Jason Morenz Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Hal Lee CruiseCard 28.8 (Megahertz): Donald Eckstein CruiseCard 28.8 (Megahertz): Andy Werthmann Butler SQL (EveryWare): Frank Potter
Yes, Apple Will Survive
For one thing, my Macintosh II (purchased in 1987) is due for
replacement this year. I figure a new computer per decade isn't too
extravagant, is it?
My Mac II started life with 4-bit "color" on a 12-inch black and white
monitor, with one megabyte of RAM, and a 40 megabyte drive; now it has 8-bit
color on a 16-inch monitor, 20 megabytes of RAM and 2.5 billion bytes of
drive space, plus stereo speakers, a CD-ROM drive, and a 28,800 bps
I can't wait to see what my next Macintosh will do...