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MacWorld Exposition: Boston 94
|Here are the cool things I saw at my eighth Boston MacWorld
But first the criteria. Stuff had to be: 1. New in Boston [if it's cool but it already showed at MacWorld San Francisco [January '94], you'll find it after the newest of the new]. B. Fun and affordable: the big mags will tell you about the $1000 stuff for which only the high tech companies and George Lucas will have a practical use. It's got to have a street price of under $200 to be here.... and have an everyday practical application. III. The uncool stuff is also here - at the end.
QuickCam from Connectix [Under $100]
Look, up in the sky [or on top of your Mac] - it's a movie camera, it's a still camera, it's an interoffice communications device -- yes, it all those things, it's QuickCam. This was pretty much the "gotta have it" product at the show.
Not only does this oversized golf ball make black & white movies but it takes still PICTs... probably a more everyday need than movies.
When not actually recording, you can view events in Connectix software window from your cam or anyone else's running over an ether talk network! The quality of all these operations at first glance is as good as the competition costing hundreds of dollars each: a video camera, Apple's QuickTake [my $600, please] camera, or one of those video telephones. Little home movies and still photos of all kinds will be popping up in documents and bulletin boards all over the place real soon. At $99, when the FCC gives final approval, any Butthead or Beavis can have one. So why not you?
selectPhone from [Under $200]
Gee, a marketing tool that's affordable, easy to use and fun, what a concept! At $159 for a five CD database of all the US phone listings why it's a steal. Cost effective for a business of any size, selectPhone makes a great family resource too, costing less than a good encyclopedia on CD. Oh, did I mention it sorts, marks, prints, and exports names, addresses and phone numbers 'til the cows come home with no restrictions?! Plus the damn thing works as a reverse phone book with the click of a button. All operations in selectPhone are controlled with one thin strip of color buttons - a very nice and easy interface - these folks did their MacHomework.
Combined with DeLorme Mapping's Street Atlas USA, you'll not only have a map of where you're going but you'll be calling ahead to let 'em know you're coming!
Dabbler from Fractal Design [Under $50]
| Have you or your kids outgrown KidPix? As Painter's
younger cousin, Dabbler presents a very creative atmosphere for drawing
or painting with a wide variety of artist's tools. It will remind you of
KidPix with its sounds but instead of little rubber stamps, it has
a variety of powerful tools to smudge, woodcut, watercolor, etc. your art
There's unlimited fun to be had here - on the one hand it's unstructured, no prefab art tools, on the other hand you can layer a piece of electronic tracing paper over a scanned image or clip art and then use the underlying art as a guide. Dabbler is your own private art instructor, too. It comes with prerecorded lessons and a recording mode for creating and playing back your drawing session. Art teachers take note!
For fortysomething dollars you'll also find Dabbler supports Photoshop plug-ins and PS' ability to acquire an image directly from a scanner.
Launch Pad from Berkeley Systems [Under $30]
On its elaborate surface Launch Pad will entertain your kids on the family Mac for a long, long time with dinosaurs, a haunted house, and more hosted by Bingo the dog and his rocket car [get some stereo speakers just for Bingo's rocket car sounds, I did] and that would make it a bargain. But a second pleasant surprise awaits the parental units...
Launch Pad is everything Apple's At Ease should have been. I didn't get that side of the program until I watched adult after adult rush the Berkeley Systems staff with the failures of At Ease. At every attack, Launch Pad's proud parents showed off the Pad's heavy-duty infrastructure: passwords for parents as well as age-specific, customized children's "accounts" to allow access to just the programs you specify. Each account [Billy, Suzie, et. al.] has its own file drawer making it impossible to lose a file [and easy to find them].
Like At Ease it can activate at startup or as a screen saver like AfterDark. A dream of computer user peaceful coexistence is a domestic reality at last.
With booths at Bayside and World Trade, Computer Town was the best place to quench your thirst to shop. They had the best deals on Macs and Mac software at the show. For RAM, the deals are always found at a RAM only dealer, like New England's own MemoryPlus.
Take them up on a great PowerBook modem deal - $297 for a Global Village Mercury 19.2 Duo modem or $97 for a GV basic internal- and CTown installs it at the show! Instant gratification. Is this a great country or what? The bargains started before the show and continued into September. For the hometown crowd that means plenty of time to savor the buying frenzy we all so enjoy around MacWorld time.
CTown has developed a new cutthroat sales attitude. You can find
their full-page ads in MacWeek and The Boston Globe.
These ads are 100% Macintosh because, as Tony Violanti, Sales VP says, "Our
focus is only Macintosh." These CTown people actually use Macs!
Del's Soft Frozen Lemonade
Food at the show is so boring and overpriced it's lost its appeal before you can dig in. You could be at a MacWorld anywhere and the menu wouldn't change. Del's Lemonade adds a strictly New England touch and unless you're a New Englander who frequents Rhode Island, you might not yet be hooked on this slushy sweetness. Del's Lemonade joins coffee milk and Ken Sargent [Mac repairman extraodinaire] as unique Rhode Island exports.
Del's was available all over the show both inside and out. While the prices for a taste of RI was typically inflated, a can of Coke at these events goes for $1.50, ounce for ounce it was still a deal. Here are some tips for enjoying a soft frozen Del's Lemonade:
Forget the concept of lemonade from any other source - Del's Soft
Frozen Lemonade is unlike anything else. Forget the straw. If you suck
the liquid away, you end up with a brick of dry ice that you'll have to
thaw [not a problem during MacWorld if you stand outside for a little while].
Instead, slurp it from a pinched cup corner and keep shaking it gently to
keep it softly frozen. In RI, you can get a special straw-spoon at most
Del's to eat it and carefully suck it from the straw. This strategy
worked only if walking around outdoors. A chunk of lemon rind is edible
as it's been curing in a sugar solution for some time. Its considered
a find and good luck. No, I don't have a clue why that is, but good luck
is good luck.
Upgrades are a whole marketplace unto themselves and we had a bushel basket of 'em in Boston: Microsoft's Word 6.0 & Excel 5.0, Adobe Photoshop 3.0, and AfterDark 3.0 were the biggies worth a special mention. The goal here is to have a stable version to show off and take orders, shipping the upgrades comes later.
While not new-new [because they debuted and I saw them first at MacWorld San Francisco] there were some very cool and affordable things making their first appearance in Boston...
TextBridge 2.0 from Xerox has me changing one of my rules of OCR [Optical Character Recognition]. I'm fond of saying bargain OCR programs are STUPID, that is, they do a poor job of deciphering pictures of text and turning them into text files. Well, TextBridge is cheap and really smart. At under $80, how does Xerox do it? First, they're Xerox. Second, TextBridge does one thing but it does that very well - it reads. Don't forget to buy a scanner.
And the best keeps getting better. Caere rolled out OmniPage Professional 5.0 the heavyweight champion of OCR. The champ now can beat even old, yellowed faxes into words.
Booth-side entertainers, hired to do card tricks or juggle, were all but gone from MacWorld Boston '94. The Global Village Players [not their real name] portrayed the life and times of the overfaxed. They were very entertaining as client Arnie Schwartz threatened to terminate you if 200 faxes didn't go out this afternoon while the SNL-like faxorama man hogged the old fashioned paper fax machine. Global Village fax modems to the rescue!
In the "you can't get there from here" category Route 66, from Route 66 Information Services B.V., is coming down the pike pretty soon. It will give you fastest/shortest/least expensive route for a trip. Then the cool part: drag the mouse over the written route [left on Main, right onto Route 1 south, etc.] and Route 66 traces that on a map!! Street Atlas USA has a DOS CD that does that but we never going to see it on a Mac, according to DeLorme Mapping of Freeport ME makers of Street Atlas USA, so you'll have to get your kicks from Route 66.
That's not to say that the current Mac version of Street Atlas USA is not way-Cool. It's a fabulous CD, a must-have disc for $99 displaying color road maps of the entire USA. You might still get lost but it won't be for lack of trying to find your way with Street Atlas USA and Route 66! When on your way to L.L. Bean some time watch for their "Map Store" sign on the way into Freeport, it's a great little shop for map lovers.
Peachpit Press of Berkeley CA, the Macintosh book company, just keeps on ticking off the new titles. Two from the Robin Williams [not that funny guy] were released in Boston - The Non-Designer's Design Book makes understanding good design easy and The PageMaker 5 Companion brings the best PageMaker learning guide up-to-date.
"Analysts" with their "The End of the Mac is at Hand" signs and The Boston Globe Business coverage of the show made the bottom of my show list.
Stephen Hawking makes a wonderful keynote at the show but the Globe has to finish its page one caption with a 'but some analysts says the Mac is dead.' Like Chicken Little and that wolf kid, you'd think no one would listen/publish them after a few wrong predictions. Remember these seers of software have been writing the Mac's obit since 1984. But the PCB's [P.C. boys] still don't get. Sure they now have an office with Windows but can they truly see?
Granted the Globe covered the show with an article everyday but
after four days of aimless, shallow coverage, I welcomed The Sunday Boston Globe [8/7/94] and Focus
staff writer D.C. Denison's clear focus on what the Mac and MacWorld "techno-circus"
are all about. From the Simpsons to digital video to Ancient Greece to teleconferencing
the simple question for the software computer company was, "How does
your product improve my life?" Fun, accessible answers followed. Three
cheers for D.C..
The Apple Room, like in SF, was set apart from the rest of the show behind a door, with guards... kinda like the [adolescent male] adult CD exhibit. In Boston, there was plenty of room for them to have a big open area on the Bayside Expo show floor and it would have been a drawing point for an otherwise under visited venue. World Trade Center was the "other building" many years ago until Apple and one large vendor were sent over to try and draw a little more business to the piers. But now things are turned completely around mostly, I think, because companies find WTC to be closer to their hotels and because it has the a decent selection of lunch food.
In SF, the Apple room was so crowded you couldn't even get close to something of interest. This was a problem in Boston for the first day or two, Apple fixed the problem by limiting the numbers inside. This created an endless line in 90° heat but it made a world of difference once you got inside. So basically you got one shot at the Apple booth. System 7.5 was showing along with some smaller companies without booths in the halls, but the presentations were a little too rosy and canned like a Disney TomorrowLand [especially eWorld]. Apple, join the rest of us next time.
Did I forget to mention the Power Mac and Newton? More or less.
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