I Yearn for System 6
Tuesday, April 2, 1996 by Dave Winer.
Happy April 2. In case you didn't pick up on it, yesterday was April Fools Day. Coool. Last year I told big lies on April 1. This year too! Ain't nothing like the real thing baby.
Marvin Gaye! He's a fella with a one track mind. He's too busy thinking about his baby. He ain't got time for nothing else. Ain't that peculiar?
Oh yeah, Marvin can belt them out. Motown's sweetheart, the guy that always got the girl. Diana, Kim and Tammi. He just wants to get it on. It takes two baby. Come on darling, stop beating around the bush!
Mercy mercy me. Boy did he worry! Wow. Ain't that peculiar? YES! Motown meets the hippies. What's going on? What's going on? It's grrrreat walking music.
Anyway, just an hour ago I was nerding out to the new tune of the times in the Macintosh world. Yes, Apple is in total disarray. Yes, the platform is tottering on the edge. If everything doesn't go exactly right, I'm fairly sure there will be no such thing as a Macintosh a year from now.
This is a liberating feeling! One foot in front of the other and we move on.
Here's the deal. The web flattened out the differences between platforms. This has been going on since late 1994. Windows and Mac sing the same net song. Both platforms grew thru the Internet and both companies were undermined by the Internet.
Microsoft mobilized all its resources, reacted as only Microsoft can. Their lightbulbs turn on, they turn a corner. Action! Booooom. Yeah there they are. Everywhere.
We're still waiting to see if the response will work, if they turned the *right* corner. But they woke up and changed. Credit where credit is due.
Apple did not wake up. Now, the train has left the station, all the wakeup calls were missed; but even now, they still think they're in the game. Amazing.
Apple Computer has none of the source code needed to make the Macintosh a competitive Internet platform.
The developers are waking up to this. It's getting very independent in ISV land. Big meetings are happening. They should have happened six years ago, when Apple failed to lead a credible response to Windows 3.0, back when the Mac was a much superior platform to Windows.
Never mind, it didn't happen that way. There's no time like now. It's finally dawning on the Mac development community, what's left of it, that they'll have to work together, to support each other, to dig out of this mess.
In the past I recommended that Apple eject CyberDog and OpenDoc. I still recommend this. Even if OpenDoc were the most compelling well-implemented timely technology in the world, I still promise you, I will not implement it. And I have a lot of company on this one.
Here's the deal. They're shipping awful operating systems at Apple. Everything is breaking. MacWEEK says, whatever you do, don't install System 7.5.3. But if you have a 9500, what do you do? You have to use Open Transport. MacTCP doesn't work. My system crashes a lot more than it used to. Should I install 7.5.3? What if my machine won't boot? Will Gil Amelio come over to my shop and fix it for me?
Look at the choice they've given me. I need help, I don't need OpenDoc. Bugs. Ohhh. It's a morass out there. I'm knee-deep in bugs. And not liking it!
I yearn for System 6, not System 8. It's true that my 9500 boots a lot faster, the CPU is a screamer, but it hurts every time I hear that deep long boot chord, which is sounding more and more like a death dirge to me every day. I'm sure the designers thought I'd be impressed. I would be, if I didn't have to hear this awful sound so often! Crashing computers are not funny or loveable. Maybe the other guys are worse, but Macs used to be better. Much better!
Basic engineering failures at Apple. The kinds of mistakes that the PC software business stopped making in the early 80s. Every time they ship a new operating system I lose some of the functionality I've come to depend on.
For example, when I switched to System 7.5 I lost SuperBoomerang. It remembered the last 20 folders in a popup menu, making it easy to bop around the file system. I could be better organized and I was. It was a little thing, but what a gem! Now I don't have it, so my day goes slower, I forget things while I have to navigate long distances in the file system, and I don't embark on projects that would further complicate my disk structure. It was a very important piece of software.
I used to use Deneba Artworks to edit graphics. It worked the way I wanted to work. I had learned many of its nuances. When I moved to a PowerPC it stopped working. I don't have time to figure out PhotoShop, so I can't edit pictures anymore.
In the latest system upgrade, Netscape isn't running very well. Eudora is trashing messages and losing indexes. I know the operating system is responsible for these problems, the same binaries used to run with far fewer problems on my old system.
Writing this DaveNet piece caused several system crashes. Every time the machine reboots I wonder how much of my work I lost. They will tell me to get a new release, but get a new release of what? Everything? Oh man. I'll be here for years.
When will it ever settle down? With every release of the OS we lose more functionality. At the same time, app developers are moving very quickly in some areas. We're losing important things as we go along, and the important point is, we wouldn't be losing them if Apple was doing its job.
In this midst of these calamaties, Apple has the gall to propose not only a total overhaul of the operating system, Copland, but they want to lead us into a whole new paradigm, OpenDoc.
Mac users -- get a life. Instead of dreaming of Copland and new application architectures, wouldn't it be better to fix the bugs and performance bottlenecks in the current system? We're just beginning to reach maturity in System 7 features in the app base. It's frustrating for Apple to call attention elsewhere, when developers are finally catching up.
I don't care if InfoWorld likes OpenDoc. It's a dream. At best it's the Newton five years ago. But it might be Taligent or Kaleida or PowerTalk or Publish & Subscribe or Windows 1.0 or VisiOn or FrameWork, dBASE IV or ProDOS or Lisa or Apple /// or CPM-86. Even QuickTime, one of Apple's successes, took years to happen after it shipped. Whatever, it's way off in the future. Don't journalists read their own magazines? On page 1 they say Apple has no future. On page 32 they give OpenDoc an award for *being* the future. I can't overlook this contradiction.
Delivered goods is what counts. Judge a computer by what shows up on desktops, not in white papers and corporate videos.
Bill Gates says his chief competitor is Windows 3.1, not Macintosh. I believe him. Copland has to displace an operating system that would totally fade into the background if Apple would just fix the bugs. I wish they would do it quickly, and then send the engineers on vacation. Then, and only then, should they consider the possibility of throwing all the cards into the air again by doing a major OS upgrade.
Net-net, no to OpenDoc, and no to Copland too.
I swear, I'll turn out the lights when I'm finished doing Mac software.
In the meantime, I'm having fun.
Please don't blame me.
My parents raised me this way.
There's been a leadership vaccuum in the Mac world for many years. Microsoft was part of the problem, throwing all their specs and software at Windows, and delegating the Mac to ports of their Windows products. They have had their own share of Macintosh calamaties, most notably the fat buggy incomplete Word 6.0 shipped in late 1994.
Bill Gates is not loved in this world. Apple people say that Bill is dishonest. They're confused. Gates always tells the truth. You just have to understand the language of the software world. Apple has never had a leader that spoke the language, and they still don't. The fanatics in the Mac community buy into Apple's paranoia. I've never believed that Gates is dishonest. Other people do though.
When I get together with Microsoft's top Mac guy, Don Bradford, firstname.lastname@example.org, I find we speak the same langauge. The people on his team, the ones doing Microsoft Internet Explorer for the Mac, are taking a new approach. They're doing new Mac software, not ports of Windows apps. And they're thinking bigger than browsers; they want to do a whole line of Mac products, to build it up as a great client and content platform.
Most important, they are reaching out into the community. They're meeting with all the key software producers, talking about the resources Microsoft has assigned to the Macintosh. It's energizing. A Mac where the decisions don't have to flow thru the bottlenecks, cul de sacs and infinite loops at Apple. What an idea!
You have to wonder why, after all this time, just when it appears that Apple is totally out of gas, why is Microsoft willing to fund a 60-person development team doing software that only runs on Macintosh? Further, you have to wonder why they're willing to take the lead, to fill the gaps that Apple is leaving?
Some people theorize it was a condition of the deal with America OnLine. AOL has one million Macintosh members. It makes sense that Microsoft would have to agree to do an excellent Mac web browser in order for AOL to turn over all their client development to Microsoft. But Bradford was funded before the rushed AOL deal, so perhaps we have to look elsewhere for the motivation?
In the end, only Bradford and his chain of command can answer the question. The only question I have to answer is if I'm willing to work with them. I didn't have to think about this very long. The answer is yes.
In the last DaveNet piece, Content Rules, I asked about developing film and receiving your output on the web in the form of GIF files. I got a hundred emails pointing me to http://www.filmworks.com/. And I got an email from a product manager at Kodak, explaining that they plan to enter this market in a big way in the near future. So it's happening. Dust off the old 35 millimeter, you won't need a digital camera to easily get your personal pictures accessible to millions of people on the worldwide web.
In the same piece I quoted Marc Andreessen, email@example.com, talking about Netscape's next push -- turning the Internet into a phone network. I asked the obvious question -- what about bandwidth? Here was Andreessen's reply:
"The bandwidth issue is always a red herring. Bandwidth expands over time to meet demand. It's purely a matter of economics. That's why the telecom bill was such a good thing, sans the decency act -- it encourages rational economic behavior.
"Remember, the 'backbone' (now multiple backbones) have gone from 56 kilobits per second a small number of years ago to 155 megabits now, and over the next few years get up to 10 gigabits and above.
"Bandwidth is not a problem. The capital investment being poured into this industry and the amount of attention being focused on it by major-league telecom companies (all of them), along with the fundamental attractiveness of the business model (e.g. for telcos, Internet access makes a lot of sense as a fundamental service offering), guarantees spiraling amounts of bandwidth to meet demand. Sure, there will be hiccups here and there, but nothing systemic or long-term damaging.
"Bigger issues are, in no particular order: standards for Internet telephony (we believe in RTP et al), directory services, crypto policy again (you want your Internet phone calls to be secure, after all -- that would be a huge value-add), gateways into POTS (start a phone call on the net but call someone using a normal phone), user interface issues (gotta be really easy), etc."
Onward and upward.
PS: POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service.
PPS: ISV stands for Independent Software Vendor.