by MARGOT COMSTOCK
II Computing Magazine
About the author — Margot Comstock was cofounder and editor of Softalk. It was great jun, but it was just one of those things.
Not even ten years have passed since Steve Wozniak put together the very first Apple II. The industry that has grown up supporting it and its successors has gone through just as many stages as a child of the same age. But, for the analogy to work, the child shall have to have been one of several centuries past; the mortality rate in the computer industry reflects more closely the infant mortality of the Dark Ages.
On the other hand, the incidence of brilliance, genius and astonishing progress also reflects better another time than our own: the Renaissance. The world of Apples abounds with “Renaissance people:’ Maybe that’s why its programmers, publishers and manufacturers fascinate Apple owners. Or maybe having a touch of the Renaissance spirit in them is what moves people to choose Apples in the first place over IBMs and sundry other pepperoni-only machines.
EVERYTHING BUT ANCHOVIES
In fact, the world of Apples, its producers and consumers, is a very unique and special one. The industry was begun by pioneers: people who were not established leaders elsewhere, but who were often castoffs, malcontents and, well, misfits in the so-called normal world. Their focus was on the fun of what they were doing, the excitement of discovery, the amazement of success. Thoroughly thrilled with what they might just have accomplished, they nevertheless immediately began trying to do it ten times better. And achieved that too. They pushed their computers, they pushed their minds, they pushed their endurance.
The results were breakthroughs at an astounding pace. When the establishment finally took notice and tried to jump on the bandwagon, it found that the pioneers were constantly changing the model, and most of the otherwhere renowned newcomers eventually fell off
A RUBBER TREE PLANT
The pioneers were falling off, too. Or at least dropping out. Many weren’t too good at business or didn’t care about money; others got greedy; and some simply hadn’t the patience to perfect their products commercially, but preferred to go on to new challenges. It was called the Great Shakeout, and it made everything not quite as fun as it used to be.
But the survivors (and some of us casualties) are carefully picking up the best pieces and moving ahead. It won’t be the same for the producers, but it will be good again. And it will be super for the consumers.
BUT NO WHIMPERS
Sotto Voce (which translates to “soft voice;’ or more roughly to – well, whatever) is simply a place to chat about what’s happening in the Apple industry that’s important to its future and, consequently, to Apple users; and what’s just interesting; or heroic or funny or evil or exciting. It’s a place to talk about what the movers and shakers are doing and the ideas they’re toying with (next year’s products?); a place to share anecdotes that amuse and delight; and to get into discussions such as what directions computers are going in the world, discussions that will come to life with your contributions as well as those of industry leaders.
WOKING FOR THE WAY
Five years ago this month, Softalk said, “Look up from your monitor, look out from your software den and see the world that is welcoming your computer, that is growing and glowing and turning with your computer. And you were there first! So take up your mouse and lead the way” (well, the mousefor-the-rest-of-us wasn’t quite out yet.…) That short a time ago, having a personal computer was weird and somebody needed to light the way to general acceptance.
Today, it’s perfectly normal to own a computer. But now we’re the veterans; we still must lead. People who choose Apples seem to be that kind of people. M aybe we have just enou gh of H oratio Alger’s Mark the Matchboy in us that we can’t tum our backs on the wonder of Woz.
A long time ago, Diane Ascher, of Island Graphics, was asked what it was that gave the Apple industry and Apple people such a special feeling for each other and for their work. After a moment Ascher replied, “I think it’s that we were here before IBM ‘.’
DEFENDING THE UNCARVED BLOCK
A very popular question of computer owners in the early days was, Why did you buy a computer? Many people accepted the implication that they should have a reason; the most popular answer was, for my children’s education. But I always said (with a nod to a rather obscure Everest not near), because it was there. And that’s the truth for a lot of us. Because it’s fun, because we like it, because we sense
“They pushed their computers, they pushed their minds, they pushed their endurance.”
an enormous good to come of it; and the only sanction we need is that of our own vision. In Sotto Voce, we’ll keep tabs on each other and encourage one another, with just enough irreverence to keep in hand the Owls and Rabbits. II