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Jul 95 Viewpoint
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:7
Column Tag:Viewpoint


By Scott T Boyd, Editor-at-Large

The story begins in a far-away place, a place of legend and lore

An ever-present pale mist hangs low in the sky, shrouding memories of sun-drenched days long since gone. So distant are those memories that most inhabitants of this place have relegated them to the stuff of mythology. Some even deny that the sun ever shone on this forsaken place.

Deep inside a forest works a craftsman, working alongside many others, doing the bidding of others. This one craftsman, toiling away quietly, had heard tales of days when the sun shone brightly in the sky, piercing through the gloom. In fact, as these legends went, although the world was overcast in most places, there was a special place where bright blue skies and sunshine were almost taken for granted.

Inspired by these tales, he took note of stories from the more recent history where others had conjured up ways to drive the clouds from the sky. While none of these tales offered hope as glorious as the distant past, he learned from those who had gone before. He pondered these as he whiled away the hours working at his assigned tasks.

Drawing upon what he had learned from the lore of the past, and acting where others had only retold stories, he set a new task for himself. This task was different. On the surface, it bore some resemblance to other tasks he had undertaken. Yet, this one defied explanation. Although his skills in his craft often yielded products which would draw a fair price in the marketplace, this craftwork offered no hope of earning anything for his masters. Was he surprised to learn that this did not draw him praise? While some speculate on this, it certainly didn’t deter him from the mission.

Now, it should be understood that he knew that his labor would not bring him glory. Yet, the overcast skies, long accepted by the citizens of this domain as normal, gave him cause to keep at the task. And, lo, after many late nights and sidewise glances from those who didn’t understand his mission, he brought forth the results of his work. Quietly and without fanfare, he reproduced the item, and sent it to the farthest corners of the land.

Even though the item was free, and even though it hailed from the forest where many wonderful things seemed to come from, few noticed the gift. Nevertheless, one by one, kindred spirits took note of the gift, and brought it into their places of work. Holding it in their hands, they would turn it over and over, and wonder whether this was a tool they might use in their crafts. Some decided not. Some decided so. These put the tool to use, and something strange happened.

It took a few minutes as each person sorted out what was different. As they did, a smile appeared on each face. Still overcast, the sky was taking on a new look. It happened so infrequently that some had trouble remembering what it looked like when a ray of sunshine peeked through the clouds. Not only did the gift make their work easier, it lifted their spirits.

Back in the forest, the craftsman returned to his assigned tasks. On occasion, word would get back to him from someone who had used his gift. Some would send words of encouragement. Others would send words of criticism, sometimes constructive, sometimes not. Those who directed his work breathed a sigh of relief, for now he could get back to his real work with his full attention.

The moral of the story? Here are several:

• Gifts make people feel better.

• For-profit businesses don’t like to build things to give away.

• It’s not easy to remember the glory days, and it’s tempting to think that it’s always been this way. The glory days were probably just legend, anyway.

• Those who build gifts do so at some personal risk.

Gift-builders deserve our praise. Why? Because many things which get labeled as gifts are, in actuality, things which people need. Unfortunately, they also tend to be the kinds of things that no one wants to make because they don’t clearly contribute to the bottom line. We can’t count on bottom-line watchers to praise their workers, so we’ll do it here.

This particular craftsman has a name - Bill Knott. He’s an engineer at Apple, and he built a piece of software you may not yet know about - the Debugging Modern Memory Manager for Power Macintosh.

Other worthy tool and gift builders have created tools which retrofit existing memory managers to offer some of the functionality that Bill has simply built in. Many had talked about how good a debugging memory manager would be, and Bill’s the guy who built it. While Bill is not alone as a hero to the developer community, his recent gift deserves something special. I’m tempted to bestow an Unsung Hero award on Bill, but he’s no longer unsung. Instead, I’ll award him the medal for Bravery in Relentlessly Pursuing the Right Thing, as well as the medal for getting it into developer’s hands The Right Way. Thank you Bill, and please keep up the fine work!

Check out his work on the latest Developer CD or at

Once you’ve had a chance to check it out, drop him a note of thanks, and let Apple management know that we’d like to see more gifts like this. It’s good for Apple to have happy. developers. mailto:

While you’re at it, we’d love it if you CC: us on what you send to Bill. mailto:


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