By 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:
/// 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.
/// 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.
A.P.P.L.E. is based in the Seattle area. Our mailing address is:
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).
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.
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 networkbuilding 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.