Washington Apple Pi

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June, July General Meetings

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 95."]

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, too?"

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 Wacom.

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 tough."

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.

Send meeting comments to: lcharters@tcs.wap.org.

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