A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by Mike Maginnis and Quinn Dunki from the Open Apple podcast, a monthly show about the Apple II. I had a lot of fun sharing some of the stories behind the development of SoundSmith and some of my other Apple II titles. I realize that not many people are interested in vintage computing, but if you are my age and had the pleasure to enjoy the early days of personal computing, you may be interested in listening.
Here is the link to the episode.
You may also be interested in subscribing and listen to older episodes. I particularly enjoyed the ones with Bill Budge (of Raster Blaster fame) and Mike Westerfield (The byte works), but there are many others also worth listening too.
The Apple II turned 30 today. To most people this is probably totally irrelevant. To me it is an important part of my life.
I discovered computing on a TRS-80 at a local computer club. I read the manual in a single night and started almost immediately working on a game, a train simulator. However I soon became frustrated by the limitations of both the graphical capabilities of that computer as well as its BASIC language. The Apple II was in a different league, offering high-res color graphics and a built-in disassembler. It was love at first sight.
The Apple II was an expensive computer, at least for a 14 year old like me, at the time. However, I was lucky enough to have a friend at school who could import an Apple II clone (an Orange II) from Taiwan. Thanks again How-Tzer.
Armed with a single book, Nicole Bréaud-Pouliquen’s excellent 6502 assembly language reference, and some Call-A.P.P.L.E magazines, I started writing my own applications, many of which I was able to sell successfully around the world, while still in my late teens. This gave me a sense of achievement that is hard to describe. I can remember a scene that is burned deep in my memory. On my third or fourth trip to San Francisco I was finally able to rent a car (previously I was underaged) and on my way to visit the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, after signing a distribution contract for a new game that I had just started writing (LaserForce). I turned the radio on and almost instantly the song “California Girls” started playing. I felt I owned the world.
The Apple II gave me many friends (you know who you are), money and a career (surprisingly at IBM) but more importantly it gave me a passion that still burns strong inside me thirty years later. Happy birthday, Apple II.
As I wrote in a previous post, every time Apple updates its OS, it includes two kind of changes. A new OS (with new low level functionality which is mainly interesting for developers) and new utilities for the general Macintosh users. Inevitably it seems that for each new OS release there is some controversy around these new utilities.
Why does Apple add these utilities? Well, that is easy, to convince end-users to move to the new version of the OS. Without these utilities, upgrade cycles would be much longer and that is bad both for Apple and third-party developers alike who need to support their apps on multiple OS versions which is costly and slows the adoption of new technologies available only on the most recent releases of the OS.
Should third-party developers be afraid of Apple (or Microsoft for that matter)? Sure. Everyone must be concerned by competition from the big guys. But that shouldn’t be such a big concern either. It is just a matter of carefully choosing what you are going to develop.
Suppose that now that Apple has unveiled Core Animation you decide to use it to create a 2D animation product. Well, that doesn’t seem like a good idea. Since most f the value is provided by the API, it is easy for any company to create something similar to your application. On the other hand if you plan to create a different kind of application that uses Core Animation o more easily display the information to the user, you should feel safe. Basically what I recommend is not to stay in the middle of a freeway for a truck to hit you.
Very long ago, the first releases of GS/OS did not support “dead keys”. Therefore, if you had an American keyboard it was very difficult to write letters in French since you had no access to accentuated vowels (you had to switch the keyboard layout to AZERTY). Since I could not wait for Apple to solve this problem, I wrote a NDA (New Desk Accessory) that did the trick. In this case I did not sell the product, instead published it on a couple of BBS and gave it away for free. Unsurprisingly, Apple later updated the OS and fixed the issue. My NDA was useless. Was I mad? No. Was I surprised? No.
It is not my intention to defend Apple on every issue, but we must remain calm. Many of us would love Apple to include some type of limited (or full-fledge) image editing software with the OS. Why? Because Apple normally produces great software. Sure, there are third-party options, but I would like to get one from Apple. Would this be bad for Adobe or others? Probably. However, as a consumer I do not care. I want the best software for my Mac. If Apple releases a product that is not good enough for my needs, such as iWeb, well I will not use it and buy from someone else. It is called competition.
So, the messages for developers are clear. If you want to compete for a large market, you need to invest a lot in differentiating yourself and create a high quality product. This is not the case for niche markets.