by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh
By the time you read this, summer 1995 will be but a distant memory. The
cold breath of winter, and the chill of 1996 general elections and their
accompanying advertisements, will be upon us. The computer world will be
awash with stories about Apple's inability to ship enough computers to meet
a billion dollar backlog, and how this threatens the company's survival.
Industry pundits will say that Apple will have to merge with some other
company ‹ IBM, Compaq, General Foods ‹ to survive, and you'll be
wondering: "How can a company with a hot product be in mortal danger?"
You'll also wonder just how low are the job requirements for stock
analysts, economists, and industry pundits.
[True, mildly relevant story: a reporter was referred to me to get the
"Macintosh perspective" on Windows 95. His story wasn't written yet, but he
already knew the title would be something like "Windows 95 Spells Doom for
Macintosh." He had a long list of questions he wanted to ask me, and I
suggested he send them to me via E-mail instead. "I can't do that," he
replied. "We haven't been able to get our E-mail system to work with Windows
June General Meeting: On Sale
Before the crisp days of autumn there was the O.J. Trial, but there was
no June General Meeting. Instead, there was the Washington Apple Pi
Summer Computer Garage Sale, an event both epic and inexplicable.
Hundreds of somewhat normal looking people gathered at a semi-abandoned mall
just outside the Beltway to swap lies, spread rumors, pick up hints and
suggestions, and mostly shop for new and used computer hardware, software,
parts, components, and little itty bitty pieces that might become components
with a bit of effort.
This event is not only economic, but also historical, and even
archeological. Most people are looking for that mythical person who
purchased a Power Mac 8100 and, for whatever reason, has decided to join a
Trappist monastery and sell the machine and all peripherals for, say, $50.
Some are former Trappist monks who, having emerged from years of seclusion,
are surprised to discover their $3,000 purchase from a decade before is now
worth, maybe, $50. Finally, a few are willing to spend $50 on almost
anything, provided it looks properly mysterious. Actual quote: "I just
picked this up for $50. Have any idea what it is?"
The Computer Check-up table, beta tested at the previous Garage Sale,
has now become an institution, with a steady stream of people bringing in
computers to have them checked in return for a donation to the Pi. Quite a
few were convinced their machines were dead, and were surprised to see that
a few simple tweaks restored them. One unfortunate couple had spent $400 on
"repairs" to their Centris 660AV, and were both pleased and dismayed to
learn that the computer was in perfect health ‹ and that their problems
were caused by faulty installation of a hard drive by the company that took
their $400. The Check-up table attracted a crowd of people interested in
seeing what was involved in a checkup, asking questions and usually
answering each other's questions.
The QuickTime SIG (Special Interest Group) had a table for demonstrating
home-grown (filmed?) QuickTime movies, and this table probably produced the
most interesting questions. A huge number of people appeared shocked to
discover that QuickTime is included with all new Macs, and can be freely
added to older Macs not so equipped. "You mean, I can do this at home,
Just wait until they see QuickTime VR at the Washington Apple Pi
Winter Computer Show and Sale, on December 9, 1995.
July General Meeting: That's Tough
July's General Meeting had great promise: Fractal Design asked to show
off their extraordinary graphics programs. To make it more interesting, I
asked Fractal to also talk about the Wacom graphic tablet, as most Fractal
software was created to take advantage of this award-winning device.
Fractal, through their local representative in New Jersey, said they'd be
delighted to do so, claiming a long-standing, positive relationship with
But then they failed to show up.
First, a bit of background on how monthly meetings are planned. In
addition to sorting out all the Pi business, there are usually vendor
demonstrations. The Pi rarely asks a vendor to do a demo; we usually get
several hundred requests every year, and there are only ten General Meetings
(not counting the two Garage Sales). To make it fair to all the vendors, we
require them to send us a written request for time before the group,
and to specify when they want to come, how much time they need, what they
intend to show, and provide the name, address, telephone number and E-mail
address of the person who will be doing the demo.
Fractal's representative called several times, and each time was
reminded that he needed to send us a letter. Each time he promised that
either he'd "get right on it" or "it was all ready to go." By the time I
left in mid-July for a trip to Washington State and British Columbia, not to
return until early August, no letter had arrived. Calls to Fractal's
headquarters in California (the local representative had not even left a
phone number) were met with assurances that their representative was
responsible and reliable and that he'd show up as promised. He didn't.
At MacWorld Boston, I went looking for this representative, and found
him at the Fractal Design booth. I told him how disappointed we were over
his failure to show up. His response was: "That's tough." Surprised, I
restated my distress, saying it Wasn't Nice to mess up a Washington Apple Pi
General Meeting. The representative repeated his previous comment: "That's
As the sheriff says in Silverado, "I'm not from these parts." By
his accent, the Fractal representative is clearly from the East Coast, and I
am not. In Washington state, if you respond to a question by saying "That's
tough," you are essentially asking for a confrontation, probably with a
baseball bat or small tactical nuclear device, depending on what is handy.
So maybe there is some local linguistic custom by which "That's tough"
actually means something positive rather than irresponsible. I doubt it, but
we'll give the Fractal Design representative the benefit of the doubt. Yes,
you didn't get to see Painter, Dabbler, Poser, and Wacom's wonderful
graphics tablets. But that's tough. Apparently.
Tom Witte, filling in for the absent Macintosh Vice President, spent
time discussing how to attend MacWorld Boston and get the most out of it, as
well as reviewing how to use certain diagnostic and preventive maintenance
tools. Stuart Bonwit demonstrated Claris' Amazing Animation package
(see his review in Washington Apple Pi Journal, July/August 1995, pp.
53-55). Stuart's demonstration sparked an extended discussion of "multimedia
for the rest of us," which eventually led to Stuart's showing of his work in
progress: a QuickTime version of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, with all
the visual elements composed entirely on a Mac.
At the end of the meeting, quite a few journeyed off to the Pi office to
paint walls and work on the office remodeling. Tom doesn't think too many of
them were excessively disappointed at missing Fractal's presentation.
I guess that's tough, Fractal: you lost out to real paint brushes.