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San Francisco 95
Tom Carrolan and Joe Kelley
|What was hot at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco? Hot always
means the same thing for your roving Best of Show reporters. Affordable.
Useful. Stuff for the rest of us.
As of MacWorld Expo San Francisco 1995, multimedia and the Internet are finally here. Until now most of us have been spectators. We're now ready to get on board the multimedia/Internet express because the convergence of easy to use interfaces and affordable equipment has met with the user, that's us. Let's take a tour...
Multimedia has arrived... for most of us
Now that there's a large installed base of CD-ROM drives out here, CD's are the coin of the realm. The price of a good CD disc has dropped from hundreds of dollars to a top end of fifty bucks for most with lots of choices for twentysomething dollars. You'll find some favorites amongst the award winners further along in this article.
We're creating multimedia more and more. We're putting our own pictures of friends, family and vacation onto PhotoCD's and many of us -- video cameras already in hand -- are exploring multimedia as it has, until now, been the territory of the professional using Macromedia Director and Adobe Premiere.
Avid Videoshop 3.0 is that new kind of program for creating your own multimedia presentations. What's that anyway? A TV commercial is easiest example of a multimedia presentation-you got your video clips, your voice over, superimposed titles, some special effects to move between segments. What makes Avid Videoshop a clear winner for most of us is it's Mac-like. Like all the great ones before to wear that title--FileMaker and PageMaker, for example--Videoshop does not hide the essentials. Subtly, when you need an effect or a control, that tool is right in front of you. Not a menu choice away or buried in a dialog box but you'll find yourself saying, "Oh, there it is... let's try this." No guessing what you're getting, you can preview it anytime as you go.
Attractively show-priced at $99, you'd think that's the best deal possible on Videoshop! Well Apple has it bundled with another Best of Show winner for '95--the Apple Performa 638. Yes, a Performa qualifies as a watershed machine for Apple. You can find history-making stuff at a Lechmere!
At a few cents short of $2300, the 638 comes bundled with another $2000+ of software, including Avid Videoshop, ClarisWorks, Quicken, a bunch of CD's and kid stuff. Plus there's a video card that includes a cable hook-up for viewing and capturing CNN or Letterman, video-in from your camcorder or VCR, a CD player of course, a fax modem and a color stereo monitor making the 638 a complete package... nothing else to buy. Way to go Apple!
Quadra 630 owners listen up: something called the "Apple Video System
w/Avid" is a great option. Our friends at ComputerTown
[Best of Show '94] had [as of 2/1/95] this plug-in board kit in their new,
tax-free Portsmouth NH store that adds the video-in ports to a 630 and includes
an Avid Videoshop CD. And the price? It's a steal at $147; $247 adds the
cable TV connection and a TV remote control enhancing the basic kit.
Multimedia that meets you halfway
Don't lower your sights; just begin at the beginning. Here are some winners:
Living Album from QuickMedia can pack 36 full-color [24 bit] images, 6 minutes of sound, and a free-to-distribute player engine on one high density floppy. Think of the family, school and business possibilities. And all you need to create your own show is your homemade PhotoCD and the Mac's built in microphone. Maybe you can live with 20 pictures and finish off the floppy show with a QuickCam video [Best of Show '94].
FlipBook by S. H. Pierce & Co. [the developers of PosterWorks] can convert QuickTime movies into little books that you flip the pages and see the movie! They even provide the die cut paper. Can you resist the convenience?.
Use your expensive, high tech Macintosh to (re)create a pastime that was out-of-date in 1895. If nothing else, you can use it to produce the most striking business card anyone under a hundred has seen! [Most Retro Design Award--JK]
True desktop publishing means complete in-house production. Peirce Print Tools provide service bureau-like features for printing 16 page booklets with page 2 and 15 on the same sheet, stamping watermarks and creating cover pages right to your ol' laserwriter. PPT works its print wizardry whether you're using QuickDraw GX-savvy applications or not.
Just when you thought we were entering the paperless society, here comes
Living Paper from Paper Technology. It changes colors "producing
a dynamic, reader-activated, almost magical response." Perhaps an exciting
variation for pink slips but definitely not for the clammy-handed. Is your
new service or product made for Living Paper, or vice versa?! [Strangest
Product at the Show--JK]
Best Internet Thingies
The Internet is not quite the Information Super Highway; more like the road down Baja -- only the specially equipped user goes at full tilt. Are we ready for the Internet? TCP/IP connection, check. UNIX decoder ring fully charged, check. Engage.
How do we pave the Internet? When the Internet can be traveled using the same set of skills we've learned to navigate around the Mac, that's when...
Eudora 2.0 from Qualcomm was the best inexpensive email package at the show but the company needs to figure out that when someone asks why the commercial version is better than the freeware one, handing out a big table in small print is not an effective answer. [The real answer is "mail filtering" which will sort your email into boxes based on sophisticated Boolean logic operations. Cool! And you can make it into a twit filter, too. Wicked cool.]
Want to get your message out on the Internet? Consider Email on Demand from StarNine Technologies, Inc.; it "lets you create listserver-like mailing lists and auto-response systems on your Macintosh mail system and the Internet." If you have experienced fax on demand, this is the email equivalent. If you have the need, this is a wicked cool solution and no UNIX required!
If your Internet needs are more modest consider Snatcher from
Software Ventures, the makers of
Microphone. Under fifty bucks, Snatcher lets you look at remote ftp sites
as if they were hard disks on your Mac. Double click folders to open them,
view by date, or size or whatever. Open up as many ftp sessions as you have
RAM. Now that's the Internet is just like the Mac, we should all be traveling
Kai Krause: Mac Visionary
If you use Photoshop, you naturally would be interested in the greatest Kai's Power Tool ever and maybe the best of the Best of Show-- KPT Convolver. If you don't use Photoshop, there's still news here for you!
Kai Krause was everywhere at MacWorld Expo. Kai wowed 'em at the opening ceremonies, spoke up a storm at the workshop sessions, and held court to a pack house of the media in his own show floor theater! What guy outside of Branson, Missouri has his own theater! And what in the world was he talking about?
When he speaks about features of our venerated Mac interface he refers to "butt-ugly radio buttons" and gets laughter and applause. Even we didn't know we were ready for a revolution.
Kai raises the Mac vs. Windows stakes to a higher level. This is not about who has the most game software when your computer company gets bought out. This is about more than just sexy, polished pearl buttons although Convolver sure has those. Convolver is the first computer software product you can buy on any platform to employ "imaging science" in its interface architecture. Forget typing a numeric representation or any other code for what you want to see-- em spaces for kerning, positive and negative number grids for blurring or embossing or even a database report-- just see it as it is previewed in a Convolver-like dialog box. Windows 95 would be Windows 2001 if we waited for them to figure out this technologic warp drive feature.
By the way and for the record, Convolver 1.0 from HSC
Software edits photographic images in Adobe Photoshop, Fractal Design
Painter, or Color It. You never enter a number in a dialog box or choose
just one step of sharpening or embossing, etc. Convolver always shows you
a range of possibilities at any one time. Convolver starts you off with
a simple tool and then adds features as you've proven your interest in playing
and experimenting. I kid you not. Kai's analogy, "I give you a screwdriver,
you use it for awhile and the next time I give you a hundred different screwdrivers."
The Game Room
When MacUser celeb [and still BCS·Mac regular Joe] Andy Ihnatko was asked what was hot in gameware he scowled lightly and proclaimed them all, "Myst-wantabees and Doom imitators." When the original game boy couldn't find a new toy at the biggest toy store on the planet, we got trouble.
Never fear, your intrepid reporters found the new stuff. Both products from the same company, entertainment upstart Big Top Productions. The Groove Thing and Felix the Cat were just wonderful. While kids looked either Jean Claude VanDammed playing Doom-like games or positively bored elsewhere, they were all calm but riveted to the Big Top stuff. Oh, don't get the idea their products are quiet. The Groove Thing is a digital kaleidoscope reacting to any music or sounds around it. You can add your own quite sophisticated noise by hitting the keyboard. The Big Top tag line says it all, "This product will wear you out." While Felix the Cat can go splat, thud and vroom.
Felix the Cat is the famous cartoon cat of days gone by. Well, he's making a comeback on Saturday mornings and through a Big Top multimedia toolbox. Kids can make their own stories involving animation, sound, special effects, and scenery. Cartoons are saved in a Mac or DOS version that can be shared with others and played back on any machine without having Felix the application. The frame by frame editing and playback just sucks you into the creative process. If arcade games made our kids great Desert Storm pilots, just think what a good multimedia game will help them become.
We first encountered The Groove Thing as we walked in the door of The Ambient Room [an off-show floor suite]. We stepped back 25 years to the 60's. Black light, bean bag chairs, incense, pounding rhythms, zoned-out software. Like, wow, man! [JK]
Aquazone Desktop Life from Lits Compute is another kind of game altogether. You all have products that put exotic fish on your screens but how many of you have a product that requires you to feed virtual food to virtual fish? If you don't feed your fish, if you don't change the water regularly, if you don't de-chlorinate the water when you change it, etc., etc., etc., your fish die and float to the top of the aquarium where they rot and float to the bottom and all the other fish die too. And you can't get them back!! Unless you reinstall but that would be cheating. And while I have your attention I should tell you that Aquazone has an incredible body of information about aquariums, fish, fish diseases, habits, etc. This is a must for fish lovers. Virtual fish, virtual food, virtual responsibility. Includes everything but the stench!
If you take care of your fish they will flourish. But be careful; if you take too good a care of them they get frisky and will do the nasty right on your screen. You wouldn't want visiting neighbors to see that would you?
But wait there's more! When your fish die (or even if they don't), you
can buy extra, new, exotic fish from Aquazone. Such a deal-and fun for the
whole family. [Best Product That Is Hard to Describe-JK]
CD's--Coin of the Realm
Here's a sampling of the best...
You can't go wrong buying any CD title from The Voyager Company. We liked Beethoven's 9th or Hard Day's Night. These two are complete works-a musical work and movie-with lots of additional interpretation! Shining Flower is a children's story for all ages. The story is told without words as only the Japanese can tell a story. Stephen J. Gould On Evolution is one their "first person" CD's featuring lectures and full-text books with plenty of annotations. This one's Harvard in a box.
Before TV, before video games, there was the sky. Voyager II: Dynamic Sky Simulator from Carina Software is aptly named for the two satellites that did the fly-by of the outer planets and provided so many fabulous photos of seething, frozen worlds, this CD-based software is an entire planetarium and much more. In addition to viewing the stars and the planets from any position in this quadrant of the universe, you get high-quality photos from the Hubble space telescope and many other NASA sources.
Definitely we liked 4 Paws of the Crab from Live Oak Multimedia, Inc. This CD is a must for anyone who is fascinated with Thailand, Thai cooking or Thai culture. This kind of product is establishing multimedia to be more than the sum of its parts.
Developed by a Thai man and an American woman, 4 Paws uses text, sound
(you can hear the names of the Thai dishes pronounced in Thai), QuickTime
movies, and photos to explore the response of each to the other's culture
and food. There is a concise and informative history of Thailand (the only
country in all of Southeast Asia to escape colonial rule), dozens and dozens
of wonderful recipes you can print out (my mouth waters when I think of
mango and sticky rice), a discussion with photos of the ingredients of Thai
cooking, and thoughtful ruminations. You can even place orders for hard
to locate ingredients. Fill your mind as you plan to fill your stomach.
The hunt for hardware and hardware substitutes
Finally a really nice drawing tablet that doesn't cost as much as a round trip ticket to the west coast. Do I want a tablet or a trip to California? The Wacom ArtPad 4x5 with its wireless pen allows any of us to draw a little and still travel. It's a great gift for yourself or that young artist. Separately it's $149 and still under $200 bundled with Dabbler [Best of Show 94]. Yes it's small but it comes from Wacom, so it's well-made, pressure sensitive... the same features the big girls use. Hopefully Wacom and Fractal Design will sponsor the digital art show that's now toured Boston and SF. Look for it this summer. It's amazing and it's genuine art.
The Datadesk Trackboard is manna from writing heaven. If you took some typing classes your speed will get a big jump on their very responsive keyboard. There's a built in trackball with three buttons: one for locking and one for double-clicking. The thing is compact without sacrifices. The lilac colored fkeys compliment the pink, gold, green, and blue special keys! A modular keypad will ship soon. Wanta just talk about keyboards? Robert and Scott at Datadesk are the click and clack of keyboard manufacturers.
Supra FaxNetwork and Portshare Pro from Stalker are leading the way with clever innovations aimed at cutting network costs. While Shiva and Global Village [Best of Show 94] make excellent network devices for modeming, not every office has $1000+ to spend on a solution.
FaxNetwork allows many users to share one, ordinary faxmodem. There's
software for each machine and some server software. That's it. A five pack
is under $300. Portshare puts any serial devices onto the network via the
Chooser and "virtual ports."
A slug is small thing; noticeably slow. Word 6 is a government agency of a word processor-- big and slow; a word processor the Post Office would be proud of. People are beginning to depart the Microsoft coal train for: WordPerfect 3.1 from WordPerfect Corporation. A fast, full-featured word processor that has all the functionality you need and it isn't a clone PC software but rather a 100 percent Mac-like product. A real pleasure to use. They're famous, especially in SF for giving away umbrella.
If WordPerfect were the business suit word processor, then Nisus Writer 4.0 is for those of us you feel most comfortable in a tee shirt. Nisus has been a BCS·Mac fav for years. At the deep end, there's a unique and powerful find and replace function while the surface is chuck full of features that will make you smile and nod your head: unlimited undos, ten clipboards, and the ability to select noncontiguous text, like five separate words in a paragraph and then make them bold!! If you get the Mac you'll love Nisus!
Since you have to learn all new keyboard shortcuts with Word 6 anyway, why not try something else. Both companies have competitive upgrading pricing and if can wait until August, their show prices have been $99 for the last year.
Last word? Well, there's still Word 5.1a--TC. Word sucks, hee, hee--JK.
Not ready for primetime products [and our watch-for-it in Boston 95 list]
Entering business card information into a computer database is tedious business especially as your business piles up cards. The Windows demo of Biz Card Manager from Electronic Document Technology of Singapore was the most impressive OCR demonstration at the show. Tiny type is always a big pain but BizCard has no problems as it rolled the classic 2 by 3.5 inch card through its little piece of scanner hardware. If the company name and the last name information are transposed, simple change the field name by dragging before you go on to the next card entry and the software saves it the way you want it. Very cool. The Mac version should be complete this spring so watch for it in Boston. At three hundred and something dollars, this will be an indispensible tool for any contact-intensive endeavor.
The Totally Twisted Screen Saver from Berkeley
Systems is actually 12 sick AfterDark modules and I'll just mention
one: AD's Mowing Man encounters Boris the Cat... close calls are not an
TCP/Connect II version 2.0 from InterCon was an interesting attempt to combine all your World Wide Web software for the Internet into one package-if they get it to work. We waited over thirty minutes but never got the demo since one thing after the other went wrong. Definitely a must see at MacWorld Expo in Boston [JK]
If you're tired of blasting aliens at home and on the office network, you will enjoy these puzzles. Unlike Myst, Jewels of the Oracle from Discis is an associational logical puzzler. This game is also more "physical" requiring you to slide tiles around in a frame, hop pegs from one hole to the next on a large stone wheel. The Oracle gives hints at least as useful as the best Delphic utterances and as you solve the puzzles, you collect jewels that must be good for something.
Intriguing, fascinating and fun. At the least the three puzzles on the "TeaseWare" CD were [there will be 16 on the final product]. Of course, my opinion might be influenced by the fact that I was able to get two of the puzzles done right away. Now if I can only get all those tiles organized... [The Puzzle Game to Keep an Eye Out For at MacWorld Boston or Best Incomplete Game-- JK]
SpeedDoubler follows on the heels of QuickCam and RAMDoubler making Connectix a major Macplayer even as they continue to work their magic for under $100, street price. SpeedDoubler, debutting at MacWorld Tokyo, doubles the speed of your operations without adding an accelerator!
The MacWorld Expo Best of Show Ticker Tape...
Onsite Bodyworks did their 15 minutes for fifteen buck massages on the sidewalk years ago but now they'll work on your software as an intregal part of the Expo experience indoors. Look for them in Boston and treat yourself. By the way, this is a great way to get acquainted with professional massage therapy, if you've never tried it.
Tee shirts are making a slow but steady comeback at the shows. In San Francisco, we found KB Publishing/MacToday sporting their "Penium vs. PowerPC? Do the Math" shirts. A little Intelgate humor. While the AfterDark folks at Berkeley Systems had their Bad Dog shirts: the piss de résistance of t-shirts for sure as Bad Dog shows you what he thinks of the Trash can.
Best non-virtual reality
Sensory deprivation is the usual order of day during MacWorld Expo. You're
inside so much that the weather isn't relevant, or so it seems. The California
Rains of 1995 began the day before MacWorld Expo opened in San Francisco
and kept going and going and going. Over the next eight days, locations
from Santa Rosa [near the Russian River of CNN
fame] to Santa Barbara and LA received between 12 and 20 inches of precipitation.
Floods and mud slides closed roads and carried off whole buildings as we
tried to get around a mere trade show.
Curiouser and curiouser
Columbia Pictures' The Net, an upcoming movie about computer intrigue, filmed some trade show footage at MacWorld Expo creating a fictitious Cathedral company. THIS WAS NOT A REAL BOOTH but you couldn't tell that to some people who rushed the tables when the security tape went down and the prop people had to yank their limited, fake literature back from people unclear of the concept.
Technology driven to it finest:
Number 1. The perfect reason for having a top o'line PowerPC: running the flight simulator F/A-18 on 3 NEC 27 inch multisyncs creating a 180º line of sight for fabulous gaming. What the heck, get more RAM and add three more monitors for that surround effect.
Part B. Reply Corporation, with a TV camera in their corporate face, stated that the best use for their DOS on Mac expansion card and the main reason people were buying their product was to have access to that vast world of DOS games.
Could we possibly make stuff like this up?!
Thanks to the following BCS members who made specific product suggestions in SF: Mike Costello, David Drucker, Jeff Kane, MD, & Andy Ihnatko. Also these accessories before and after the fact: Adrienne Giovino-- who always says "you should do that", Michael Goff-- Mr. Trade Show Boy, and Judy Woods-- the Marsha Clark of marketing.
We try to get the web links right but at any moment in time or quite permanently a link may be down... such is life on the Internet.
Back to the Best of Show "home page."