/// Cheers! — Editorial : The Five W’s

By Dr. Dave Lingwood

In Journalism classes long ago I had  drilled  into  me  the  five  “W”s  of reporting:  “who,  what, where, when, and why?”  Since my purpose here is to describe /// Cheers, I figured what the heck …  Here goes:

WHO?

/// Cheers is brought to you by A.P.P.L.E., Apple PugetSound Program Library Exchange,  which  is, as you no doubt know, the world’s largest Apple users  group.  We grew beyond the functions of a local club years ago — chiefly by being there first — into what amounts to a combined hardware/software co-op and information service organization for our  over  20K  members.   We  also publish  “Call-A.P.P.L.E.”  magazine  each  month.   More  specifically, /// Cheers is a service of the /// Special Interest Group of A.P.P.L.E.  One  of several such groups formed in the last year, ///SIG is a collection of folks with shared interests and needs for help.

WHAT?

/// Cheers is a  disk-based  publication,  sold  to  all  comers  (NOT  just A.P.P.L.E.   members).   Why  do  it  on  disk?   Well,  publication  costs, timeliness, and usefulness are the three main arguments.   A  disk  magazine doesn’t have production costs: you just duplicate as many copies as you need whenever you need them (the ultimate copying machine??).  We  can  also  put articles  and programs together more quickly: authors are required to submit machine-readable copy and programs.   Programs  are  more  rapidly useful if you don’t have to keystroke the silly things in — and then go bug hunting.

Each /// Cheers comes with text and programs  in  both  Business  BASIC  and Pascal.   The  “CHEERS”  program  which  boots  on the first diskette is the operating heart of  ///  Cheers.   It  shows  you  the  table  of  contents, the text of articles and Pascal programs.

In  terms  of content, /// Cheers’s editorial policy is still evolving.  The general goal is to be as helpful as possible to /// users.  In the  dark  of the night, wrapped up in one’s own project, it often is quite a lonely thing to be a /// user.  ///  Cheers wants to help end that,  building  a core  of information and techniques on one hand, and a network of people on the other — the same kind of information and  linkages  that  enabled  the  Apple  ][ software/hardware community to grow so quickly.

WHERE?

A.P.P.L.E. is based in the Seattle area.  Our mailing address is:

A.P.P.L.E.
     21246 68th Ave. S.
     Kent, WA  98032

The  office  phone  number  is (206) 872-2245.  Hours are 9AM-4PM (Pacific). Mike Christensen is the staff member responsible for /// Cheers.

Our hot line for members’ technical questions is (206) 872-9004.   Hours are 9AM-3PM  and  6PM-10PM,  daily.   A list of /// consultants is carried every month in Call-A.P.P.L.E.  Orders (only): (800) 426-3667, 24 hours.

You can get /// Cheers, either individually or by subscription.   Individual copies  are  for  sale  through A.P.P.L.E., and from dealers (if your dealer doesn’t have it, scream — once again,  no  doubt  —  about  his  level  of support  for  the  ///,  and  demand  that  he stock it).  Subscriptions are available to A.P.P.L.E. members.

Single-issue price is  $12.50.   Subscription  (A.P.P.L.E. members):  $40.00 per year (4 issues).

WHEN?

As  we have said, quarterly.  At least to start.  It is frankly a supply and demand issue:  if  you folks  want more,  and authors  can supply us to meet that need, then we’ll expand.

WHY?

Now  the  fun  part:  what  amounts  to an editorial on the /// and needs of people using it.

We all know the initial problems with the /// hardware.  The bad taste  left by  the  early  bugs still lingers — even though Apple Computer quietly did the unheard of by replacing all of those early, buggy systems.

The bigger problem was what I consider to be  a  classic  blunder  on  Apple Computer’s part in the timing of release for developmental software.  If you remember back, there was a long period there when all that was available for the  ///  was  Business  BASIC  and  an  information void tied to the rather “locked” nature of the machine.  Face it,  commercial  developers  don’t  do much  in BASIC anymore.  In effect, the Pascal elitism that dictated that an Assembler not appear until Pascal did doomed the /// to second-class status. By  the  time  the development tools did appear, the IBM was on the horizon, and developers were already aiming their big guns at this lucrative market.

The /// is also a higher priced machine than the ][.  Software for expensive computers  is  developed  by those who can afford the equipment.  Individual buyers still bought (and still do buy) the Apple ][.  Companies who  develop software do so with a bottom-line orientation for the size of the market and the cost of gathering the information  needed  to  develop.   Yet,  the  /// lacked  the  unpaid  knowledge  building  corps  from  which the ][ software development industry benefited:  the thousands of (originally) hobbyists and professionals  who  dug out the technical facts.  Apple Computer didn’t fill the void with details about the “innards” of  the  ///.   The  result?   The knowledge  vacuum  and smaller market  sucked  much of the vitality  out  of the ///.

Two years ago Apple began the  “Third  Wave  Developer”  program,  providing equipment  and technical support for developers to overcome the software gap for the ///.  Their /// support group was the most  responsive  and  helpful I’ve  ever  encountered  within  Apple.   They  began to pull the network of producers and users together.  I only wish it had  all  happened  two  years earlier.

ProDOS  for  the  ][,  was  in  part  designed to help the ///, by providing compatible operating  systems  for  the  ][  and  ///.   It  makes  the  /// user/developer   feel  somewhat  like  the  old  craftsman  whose  neglected knowledge becomes once again a  valuable  commodity  when  fad  interest  in his/her  topic  hits  the society: pleased, but with a bitter tinge.  ProDOS will also force part-time /// developers to dig deeper into SOS,  since  the compatibility  is  at the SOS call level.  Too little, however, and much too late  —  my feeling is that ProDOS only complicates life for  the  ][  user, without really helping the ///.

Things  have  changed  for  the worse since then, and recent developments at Apple have us all worried about the future  of  the  ///.   Apple  Corporate decided  that  the /// wasn’t getting enough market share, and (as of Spring ’84) stopped internal development work on the ///  —  placing  the  support issue  back  in all of our collective laps again.  Now we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop: the expected announcement that /// production itself will be stopped.  It won’t surprise us when it comes.

What  a  sorry state of affairs for a machine that still holds its own, when armed with good software, against any PC you care to name.

Bitching won’t help.  With Apple bowing out, we /// users will need all  the information  help and network building support we can get — and it looks as if we’ll have to do it ourselves.  We need a larger tool box.   We  need  to probe  further  into  SOS for development work.  We need better knowledge of new products (both applications and tools).  /// Cheers will try to help  in both areas.  Just try to remember that adversity breeds creativity.

Our  first issue is geared pretty much toward tools, particularly utilities. Remember: first you tool up the factory, then you go into production.

Soon  we  will begin  the network-building job.  In an upcoming issue  we’ll  include  a  simple  database  program,   with  data  on  A.P.P.L.E.  members interested in the ///:   names,  phone numbers, areas of application.   Over time, new names to be added to that database will be included.

As  we  get the tools under control, we will expand more toward applications with reviews and lists of new products.  We will, however, guard the  unique nature of a disk based publication.  Machine readability is more helpful for programs than for text.  As disk space becomes a premium, we’ll tilt more in favor  of  programs,  particularly if adequate reviews exist elsewhere.  Not being particularly proprietary, we’ll  simply  announce  what  is  available elsewhere.

In  fact,  another useful feature may be a database on /// coverage in other magazines.  What do YOU think?

Finally, we need all the help we can get.  We need your name,  phone  number and  list of interests to include in the network.  We need tools (and we pay for articles and programs at the rate of .72 cents a  character).   We  need reviews.  So, welcome to /// Cheers.  Let’s get to work.

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