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Machack '94
Volume Number:10
Issue Number:9
Column Tag:The Editor’s Page

Machack ’94 - Number Nine

By Scott T Boyd, Editor

Machack ’94 - Number Nine

This year marks the ninth year of MacHack, The conference for Macintosh hackers. The conference started on a Wednesday night at midnight with a terrific keynote from an (the?) original Mac hacker, Andy Hertzfeld. Just on the off-chance you haven’t heard of Andy, he wrote vast portions of the OS and Toolbox (I know because Iread most of it while I was on the system software team!). At any rate, 72 hours later, the conference was over and I was surprised to find that Ihad slept a grand total of 12 hours, and I wasn’t alone in the sleep-deprivation category.

We were all too wrapped up in Andy’s talk to do any hacking during his keynote, but hacking started in earnest shortly afterwards, and continued until midnight two nights later just in time for the Hack Show. This year’s Hack Show (hosted by yours truly and Special Guest Host Bruce Oberg) lasted about three and a half hours. Stretching out this year’s show was an unusual entry which literally showed up about halfway through - seventy five pizzas, provided by James Plamondon of Microsoft. A Domino’s employee had come earlier and verified the pizza order in person. They had a hard time believing that anyone would order seventy five pizzas at two in the morning.

After the Hack Show each year, a few of us stay up the rest of the night and put together a ballot for voting a few hours later at lunch. After tabulation and the annual quick trip to Perry’s Drug Store to buy a passel of exotic (i.e. cheap) prizes, we hand out awards at an awards ceremony. This year’s ballot listed forty hacks. A number of hacks drew special mention, including Flying Aces!, PhoneBridge™ & PowerSecretary, Boom!, Poor Man’s Video Phone, SOS-Newt, and Time Lapse.

Extremely popular, Forever was written by Craig Prouse prior to and during MacHack, and is an Apple ][ emulator on the PowerMac. Forever faithfully reproduces Apple ][ behavior, all the way down to the hi-res graphics environment. During the Hack Show, Bryan Stearns recreated one of his originals in AppleSoft BASIC, much to the delight of the crowd.

The Awards

The Best Hack Contest originated in 1987 when Greg Marriott and I noted that it was silly to have so many of the industry’s best hackers in one place and not see any hacking going on. The MacHax™ Group (we were partners before joining Apple; I now run it as a consulting company) sponsors the contest every year. We’ve seen many of the winners go on to get (and quit) jobs at Apple and other leading companies.

Fifth place, written during MacHack, went to Metrowerks New & Improved, an addition to Metrowerks’ CodeWarrior development environment. The hack uses Apple Guide technology (from System 7.5) to improve CodeWarrior’s display of compile errors. The hack causes double-clicking to bring up the window with the error, then draws a coach mark (such as a hand-drawn circle around or an X through) the problem. It was written by Alex Rosenberg, Cheryl Laton, and Berardino Baratta.

Another emulator scored fourth place. Cameron Esfahani showed a Stargate emulator on the PowerMac. In order to avoid offending the copyright holder, Cam made a deal with a Stargate machine owner to remove the ROMs from his Stargate machine whenever the emulator was demo’ed (the old one-copy-it-must-be-alright approach). You probably won’t see this one in widespread distribution.

Third place went to NewtTablet. Bob Ebert and Jim Schram created the TouchPad for the rest of us. NewtTablet turns your Newton into a mouse replacement for your Macintosh, and it was written during MacHack.

Taking second place, POArk, the Pong Open Architecture, is more than just a Pong game. The Mac server supports any number of players and balls and many different client OSes. It was written during the conference. The demonstration included clients running on Macintosh, Windows, Newton, and Magic Cap (almost). Fred Huxham, Fred Monroe, Tim Dierks, Bryan Stearns, and some practically anonymous engineer (and former winner of Best Hack) from General Magic who had to fly back for a deadline, showed POArk, first on Macintosh, added in Windows, then Newton, and capped it with the native PowerMac version. I’m especially fond of how they tried to kiss up to me (the sponsor) by plastering my rotating head on the Pong balls. Now that’s marketing!

The winner of Best Hack scored a runaway success this year, surpassing the previous big winner by several votes, and more than doubling the number of votes for this year’s second place winner. Doug McKenna took home the coveted Victor A-Trap Best Hack Award with his hack, Fez. (Side note: so you can be in the know, that’s a Victor® rat trap; I scratch off the R and the T, and voila, an A-Trap). Written before and during MacHack, Fez demonstrates an advanced set of ZoomRect techniques. Fez (which stands for Frame-Evading ZoomRects) wowed the crowd with its amazing ability to convey positional information about hidden objects, but it really took the crowds’ breath away when it demonstrated the ability to fly around and avoid any windows which are in the way. While Doug’s showmanship threatened to make this look like a GlamHack™, Fez demonstrated the kind of keen insight which often finds its way into subsequent Apple system software.

Previous winners include NetBunny, RearWindow, VideoBeep, ColorFinder, IRMan, Oscar the Grouch, and Practical Joke Protocol. These have gone on to become products, features in products (including Apple system software), and targets of threats from various large organizations.

Many of the hacks will be on the MacHack ’94 conference CD. For CD and conference info, e-mail

You Mean IMissed It?!?

Never fear. We’re bringing you two essential pieces of this year’s conference in detail. The first is Tom Pittman’s paper on building a 68K emulator on the 601. The Technology of Emulation: 68Kon a PowerPC won Best Paper, beating out tough competition like The Dead C Scrolls, by Timothy Knox. Tom’s article includes an offer to send you free software!

The second piece from the conference for your consumption is Fez, Doug McKenna’s winning entry. It’s even better than at the conference because you get to see all of his recently annotated and expanded code.

Missing In Action

We’ve got a couple of regular features missing this month. Due to unforeseen and technical circumstances beyond our control, we don’t have the Think Top 10 in this issue. Powering Up is powered down temporarily while Richard recovers from carpal tunnel syndrome, something which has affected a number of our compatriots lately.


It’s bad enough to goof, but on how to connect to our own ftp site? We’re chagrined. Here’s the right stuff; Iactually tried these. Anonymous ftp to and look in directory /pub/xplain. In URLlingo, that’s:

A First Look At Dylan!

I’ve been going on about Dylan for a while now, and many readers insisted that we get on with the technical material. Well, we’ve been working to get something for you. It’s challenging when Dylan’s still not a product, and the team members eat, sleep, and breathe finishing it up. Nevertheless, we managed to snag someone to write up a quick first look at building a Dylan application, complete with source. We’ll have more articles later, but this one has enough material to get a sense of what it is and how it works.

Here are highlights from the June 2nd Dylan FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). The latest version of the FAQ(along with many other files) is available by anonymous ftp from in the directory /pub/dylan/.

Dylan is a new Object Oriented Dynamic Language (OODL), combining features of static and dynamic languages. Its goal? To support programmer productivity as well as efficient delivery of applications and libraries. Consistently object-oriented, Dylan isn’t a procedural language with an object-oriented extension.

The target audience for Dylan is developers of commercial application software, most of whom are currently using static languages such as C and C++. Dylan will likely appeal to many other groups of programmers as well, such as educational users who want a very clean object-oriented language design, or in-house developers who need a high-level, very productive language.

Dylan is designed to allow the powerful and flexible programming techniques and development environments associated with OODLs, while also allowing the delivery of small, fast applications currently associated with static languages. Unlike many dynamic languages, Dylan’s design consciously lets the runtime environment execute without the development environment present. Dylan will also let you selectively ‘turn off’ dynamic capabilities when they are no longer needed, allowing more efficient compilation.

The first book on the Dylan language was published in 1992. Since then, the language has undergone a great deal of change in response to feedback from potential users and implementors. Throughout this process, changes to the language design have been published electronically in the form of design notes. The current round of language design is now essentially complete except for the macro system.

A new Dylan language reference will be published in early 1995. This will be the definitive specification of the Dylan language, and will apply equally to all Dylan implementations.

You can get a copy of the interim book by anonymous ftp, in the file /pub/dylan/interim-book.rtf It’s a combination of the original Dylan book, the previously published design notes, and additional previously unpublished design decisions. The document is called “interim” not because the language design is unfinished, but because it’s a rough document intended for use until the new book is ready.

The info-dylan mailing list is a forum for discussing all Dylan subjects. Each day’s messages are gathered into a digest and sent as a single compound message to the list info-dylan-digest. The list is linked to the newsgroup comp.lang.dylan. The announce-dylan mailing list is a moderated list for major announcements about Dylan. All its messages are also sent to info-dylan.

To subscribe to info-dylan or announce-dylan, send mail to Make the body of the message:

 subscribe info-dylan 


 subscribe announce-dylan 

If you would like to subscribe an address different from the return address of the message, include the address after the list name. For complete majordomo instructions, send a message with the body “help”. Please do not send administrative requests to the mailing lists. If you have trouble with info-dylan, e-mail

The Gwydion Project at Carnegie Mellon University maintains a WorldWide Web (WWW) page of general information on Dylan, accessible using Mosaic or other web-browsing software. This page contains the interim book. This web page also contains the current FAQ from Apple and other general information of interest to the Dylan community. The URL is

Apple recently announced plans to release an implementation of Dylan. The following description of Apple’s implementation was taken from an Apple data sheet.

The Apple Dylan development environment is designed to let you create complex, commercial-quality projects with all the advantages of a rapid-prototyping environment.

Projects are stored in a database, unlike traditional, file-based systems. Apple Dylan’s customizable browsers will offer a new way to look at and manipulate your application as it executes. You can browse class hierarchies graphically, find all references to a given routine or variable, and inspect objects in your program while it’s running.

With Apple Dylan’s incremental compiler, you will be able to actually change code in a running program and see the results right away. No more waiting for a long edit, compile, link, execute, debug cycle. This gives you freedom as a programmer to explore various options and rapidly improve your product. Apple Dylan will include a Dylan compiler and runtime, an integrated development environment (incremental development, configurable code browsing/viewing), the Dylan application framework, a Dylan user-interface design & prototyping tool, and cross-language support for seamless access to existing C and C++ code and APIs.

The first release of Apple Dylan is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of 1995. This release will support native 68K stand alone applications. Six to nine months after the first release, Apple will release a version of Dylan which supports native PowerPC code and OpenDoc parts (components).

To see about getting an early copy of Dylan, send a message to the AppleLink address DYLAN, or the Internet address Include your name, address, phone number, and a brief description of how you plan on using Apple Dylan.

Several third-parties have expressed interest in implementing Dylan. Check the ftp sites for more details.

The FAQcovers more ground than we have space for here, but here’s a good thing to know - Dylan functions can return multiple values. When a function returns multiple values, the return values are not stored in a wrapper object; they are returned directly. For example, if a function returns “the values 4 and 5”, it returns two integers. It does not return a data structure which contains two integers. Returning multiple values is similar to calling a function with more than one argument. When passing multiple objects as arguments to a function, the objects do not have to be stored in a single data structure before they are passed.

Food For Thought

Thanks to Stephan Somogyi for forwarding this timely thought: Objects in calendar are closer than they appear.


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