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Apr 96 Viewpoint
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:4
Column Tag:Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Scott T Boyd, Editor Emeritus

While everyone else takes pot-shots at Apple, I’ve got to think that developers face a tremendous set of challenges. We’ve all got plenty on our plates just trying to build cool stuff for the Macintosh. The last thing we need is an entire media machine nay-saying the platform, especially when developers have rarely faced such a wide array of opportunities.

The Macintosh developer has long had to deal with people who question the merit of developing for the Mac’s smaller market share. In fact, each of us probably has a sophisticated litany of justifications, good for dealing with friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, and people we bump into in computer stores. Well, I don’t know about you, but my real reason for doing Macintosh development is simple - Macintosh is cool. I still remember the mind-boggling paradigm shift I felt the first time I saw the interface. My notion of computing changed forever.

As I learned to build Macintosh software, I came to know not only the machine, but also the Macintosh Way. Guy Kawasaki popularized the phrase and offered cogent lessons for developers, but the Macintosh Way was evident even to those who didn’t benefit from his writings.

Boldness to innovate

The Macintosh screamed, “My inventors went way out on a limb when they built me!” While the rest of the world was clamoring for a faster, cheaper IBM PC-clone with more RAM and disk, a team of upstarts built what they thought a computer should really be. A graphical interface, a mouse, a synergistic blending of hardware/software, and even a large set of standardized routine libraries for programmers (complete with late-binding for those routines).

Insistence on excellence

Feature after feature, Macintosh pushed the limits of technology to benefit users. No one offered a CRT with square pixels, but Macintosh had them. And they were at a 1:1 ratio, making life for developers much sweeter.

Auto-inject/auto-eject floppies. What can I say? It was cool, and users learned to love them.

Documentation, well written and designed to serve the needs of real programmers.

Confidence they’d come

When they built Macintosh, the total market size was zero. There was absolutely no market whatsoever for it. Nevertheless, they pressed ahead, built it, and then did everything it took to build a market for it. Many of those efforts worked less well than others, but twenty-two million machines later, I must say, I’m impressed.

Thinking back to the early days, Apple wooed developers vigorously. Documentation was early, cheap, and plentiful. The developer program was free, and developers got excellent prices on equipment. Frankly, without those prices, I don’t know that I would ever have been able to afford to join in the fun. Developers formed a sense of community and camaraderie, and some energetic souls at Apple found lots of ways to encourage us along the way. Some even went way out of their way to seed young, unproven college kids with an alpha version of MPW (thanks Technostud!), building a sense of excitement that led to me losing so much sleep that I started having those dreams where I find myself realizing that I have a final exam and I forgot to attend any of the classes (oh, come on now, admit it - you’ve had these, too, right?).

The Macintosh Way

Coolness. That’s what drew me to the Macintosh. The product, the company, the community, and the vast possibilities, all built up coolness.

OK, so that’s how many of us got into this business. Now we’re surrounded by “realists”, nay-sayers who would tell us that we’re wasting our time on the Macintosh. Now, you might suspect that I’d say one of two things. For one, I might say, “Defend the Macintosh at all costs. We’re too deeply vested to turn back now.” On the other hand, I might say, “Look, Windows has won, Apple has lost, and the Macintosh can’t ever catch up, so why fight it. Go where the market is.”

Well, I won’t say either one of those things. Remember why I got into this business? Coolness. I trusted my gut instincts and went where the action was. While I’ve never believed that Apple had an exclusive on coolness (in fact, they lately seem to have discovered a wellspring of “interesting” behavior that challenges their innate coolness), I’ve taken Apple’s coolness for granted for years.

What’s my take on all this then? Simple. Go for the coolness. Macintosh offers lots of it, and a whole host of Macintosh developers couldn’t ever exhaust the possibilities. By the same token, coolness lurks in other places, too.

“Going to the coolness” suggests that coolness always comes from somewhere else. Let me suggest this - in the quest for coolness, sometimes you may simply have to take the coolness with you, and that applies whether you’re exploring a new platform, or unearthing new treasures on an old favorite. That’s the Macintosh Way.

 

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