Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

November (and December) 1995 General Meeting

by Lawrence I. Charters, Vice President, Macintosh

November Gloom

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:

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 College.

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 titles.

So we compromised: he showed one program, plus early parts of a program due next year.

Magic Kingdom

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 The Lion 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.

The Lion 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 apparent delay.

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 "garage sale."

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 approves.

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.

Coming Events

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).

Drawing Winners

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 Essick

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

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