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March 93 - MacWorld SF Report

MacWorld SF Report

Steve Mann

MacWorld keeps getting bigger all the time. The Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco is building a new wing that approximately doubles the existing space. It was not completely finished for this show, but the basement level was opened up for MacWorld exhibitors. My very rough estimate puts the show floor size at about 500,000 square feet of exhibits. The good news is that the whole show is in one location. No more shuttle buses like the Boston MacWorld or previous San Francisco shows.

In addition to the huge exhibit space, there were lots of meeting rooms and a full conference agenda as well. I spent most of my time at Apple Developer Central, a special room off the main show floor designed just for the the Apple Developer Community. In addition to representing MADA at the Developer User Group table for APDA (with the able assistance of Robert Lenoil), I spent the rest of the time talking to old and new MADA members, people I used to work with at Apple (I was in Evangelism), and tool developers. It was a pleasure meeting those of you that stopped by to say hello.

Macintosh Common LISP

The best part about Developer Central is that all the most interesting development tools and environments, both old and new, are usually collected in this one location. Apple was there showing Macintosh Common LISP (MCL), Apple Events and Scripting development, MPW, and of course MacApp. MCL seemed to be the most popular Apple station. There are a surprising number of programmers out there that have been exposed to LISP at one time or another, typically in an undergraduate course. After working with Think C or MacApp, MCL makes Mac programming look pretty easy by comparison.

Like Component Workshop, MCL is a dynamic compiler. You enter a function and it gets compiled into 680X0 machine language immediately. The turnaround time is remarkably fast. In addition, everything (all your code, all the objects from the development environment, all externals, everything) is kept in one big object space. This makes it possible to change the editor's behavior as you are editing code fragments. For instance, it's very easy to add new behavior and fields to the Find and Replace dialog, or steal the compiler's file menu, with all its behavior, and add it to your application through the ClipBoard. MCL takes care of memory management and garbage collection, has coherent error handling, a symbolic debugger, full System 7 support, and much more. The development environment takes about 4M RAM and runtime requirements are usually smaller. If you are used to doing things the hard way, you owe it to yourself to see a demo of MCL (like Microsoft's OLE 2.0 demo).

IcePick and SmalltalkAgents

You could see a raft of other developer tools at Developer Central-the Debugger, ObjectMaster, DeeMaker, Prograph, Resorcerer, and the Symantec product line. The most popular table probably belonged to Component Software. They were showing the shipping version of Component Workshop (which will be old news by the time you read this).

Sierra Software was also at Apple Developer Central. In addition to Inside Out and p2c, the object Pascal to C++ conversion utility, they were showing an alpha version of IcePick 3.0. In addition to having all the IcePick 1.x features with support for 3.0 views, the new version lets you work with 2.0 and 3.0 views simultaneously. It also allows immediate conversion between the two formats (of course you might lose some view information demoting from a 3.0 view to the 2.0 format). As soon as IcePick is ready we will let you know (Sierra has promised it sometime in the first quarter).

One of the most interesting new products, announced at the show and being shown in the tools exhibit, was Smalltalk-Agents from Quaser Knowledge Systems (QKS) in Bethesda, Maryland. SmalltalkAgents is based on a superset of Smalltalk, with extensions patterned after LISP and C. In addition to a completely dynamic environment like MCL, full toolbox support, modest development and runtime hardware requirements (68020 or greater with 5M RAM), and a very graphical development environment, SmalltalkAgents also provides support for dynamic linking, preemptive interrupt-driven threads, transparent memory management, international character sets, and a rich class library. This product, which is scheduled to ship in April, looked so good that I tried to convince QKS to come to MADACON [Note-they made it].

After looking at MCL and SmalltalkAgents in the same context as Component Workshop, it seems clear that dynamic language environments have a very good chance of becoming the development tools of the future. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.


Finally, we were able to find space for a MADA meeting at this MacWorld. Component Software, Emergent Behavior, Sierra Software, and Electron Mining all showed up to talk about their products. Unfortunately, there was an Ingram-Micro D party that same evening. Their notorious parties are tough competition, so our attendence was modest but enthusiastic, about 40-50 people. One thing we did have over Ingram-Micro D was the inimitable master-of-ceremony stylings by Carl Nelson, MADA founder and luminary.

Component Software had the first spot on the agenda, showing (surprise!) Component Workshop. As usual, the demo received a strong ovation and lots of questions. Gary Odom of Electron Mining then talked about OOPC, a robust class library and application framework built from ANSI standard C. You can use OOPC with either Think C or MPW C. Compared to Component's robust hardware requirements (20 MBytes RAM, Quadra-class machine), OOPC looks pretty mean and lean.

Emergent Behavior, our third presenter, is run by Dave and Steve Wilson. Dave, a long-time MADA member and MacApp/OO guru, works for Taligent most of the time. Steve, his son, handles the day-to-day development and business aspects of Emergent. They both talked about some of the work they are doing building cross-platform, application-specific frameworks and a minimalist framework called QuickApp. We'll continue to provide coverage of their adventures in FrameWorks.

Finally, to round out the evening, Chris Arbogast showed off the new IcePick, and Curt Faith, Sierra's president, demonstrated p2C, Sierra's object Pascal to C++ translator. All in all, it was a good meeting. It would have been better if the hired audio-visual person had shown up, but then it's always something.

Look for us again at Boston MacWorld. We'll try to let you know well in advance about that meeting location and time, but sometimes it's tough to pin down a room until the last minute. We send out announcements on MacApp2Tech$ and MacApp3Tech$. If you don't subscribe to either of those addresses, but want to find out if we have any activities planned around any major conference, contact us at or give us a call at 408/253-2765.


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