What If... What If!
Monday, August 12, 1996 by Dave Winer.
I woke Saturday in Boston. It rained at night, it never does that in California in the summer. Big thunderstorm! Wow. I've said it before, I miss the drama. You never get it in the west, but it's common in the east.
I took a long walk on Saturday morning thru the heart of colonial Boston. I was reminded that our country was founded in revolution. These people were idealists. They believed in an educated and armed populace. They lived under the tyranny of mediocrity. People vested in the way things were, far away, out of touch, holding onto the past. Their creativity longed for expression. Many of them had to die to be free. I forgot that.
In California we're far away from the spirit of independence and revolution that our country was founded on. Maybe they are in Boston too, but they can't be quite as far because the reminders are everywhere -- on the statues on Commonwealth Ave, in the slogans on the post offices and courthouses and libraries. This country was founded on an ideology. You can't miss it in Boston. At least this tourist couldn't.
Later that day I flew across the country. It was an uneventful flight until we got to San Francisco's airport. We're on the runway. The pilot comes on the speaker. "The main terminal is experiencing a power outage." Wow. That's never happened before. Someone on the plane has a radio. Seven states are blacked out. Wow! Yah. Takes your breath away.
Two hours later, they roll a set of stairs to the back of the plane. Entering the terminal, it's dark and empty and quiet. Hot and lovely. The speaker sytstem works, an anxious and impressive recorded female voice warns of security breaches. Rounding a corner, a scene from a third world country -- a few thousand angry people -- they've been waiting a while. These are the people who want to leave the airport via an airplane, not via a car as I do. I stop and talk with a few people. What's going on here? They're hot and not happy.
I thought of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a book I read and was impressed with as a teenager. In her story, the world economy collapses because the people who hold it up get tired of the whining of the politicians, and decide to disappear. The book has incredibly graphic scenes of the collapse of civilization. It's a naive premise, but there's an element of truth that remains with me as an adult. Someday the system may collapse as Rand said it would. It could get ugly. This airport scene reminds me.
I made my way thru the crowd. People pushing and shoving. Children screaming. Parents screaming! I wondered.
Do we understand how high we have climbed? Do we understand what we have left behind? What are our principles? Do we stand for anything? Do we stand for each other? A hot day on the west coast can knock out all our technology. If our airports and computers stopped working tomorrow what would we be left with? Do you know the people you think you're close to? How long has it been since you've listened to them? What if you had to depend on them for your survival. Could you? Do your friendships, your relationships, mean anything?
These are the questions that floated thru my mind as I drove back to my dark and hot house on Saturday evening.
Hey -- there's a bright spot in the Mac world. Power Computing was everywhere at MacWorld Expo. Their T-shirts are incredible. A picture of a tough determined punkish little kid, an old-fashioned one, saying "Let's Kick Intel's Butt!". Yeah! Why not? They claim to have the fastest desktop computer in the world, a 225 megahertz MacOS system. I want one! They say "We're fighting back for the Mac." Ye-hi! Me too.
They were everywhere. A big noisy fun booth. A 225-foot bungie jumping tower across from the World Trade Center. T-shirts everywhere. They're having fun over at Power Computing. The little dude that wants to kick Intel's butt deserves our support. Right on!
But I have a question -- where's their laptop? I think a Power Computing laptop would be killer. Where is it? It's amazing that they don't have one. I'd be very happy to hear from people at Power Computing. Comments are on the record unless you specifically state otherwise.
I was aware that Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal was working on the story of Microsoft's efforts to boost the Macintosh net developer community. I saw him doing his work at an Expo party, but he asked that I kick back and let him do his thing. "You have a shorter lead-time than me," he said. "True, but I've already written this story," I said. "Many times," I thought to myself.
The article is in today's Journal. It's great! "Microsoft Corp. has launched a quiet but ambitious effort to help small software companies write Internet programs for its struggling rival, Apple Computer Inc." says the Journal.
I support what Microsoft is doing. If Apple decides to provide meaningful support for net developers I'd welcome it too. Same with Netscape and any other investor with deep pockets and an interest in the Net.
There are bargains to be had in this community. We're deep on great technology that wants to happen. OpenDoc may be relevent in 1998, if Apple survives 1997. Today's Mac technologists want to hit home runs with stuff that's already working and supported in the app base. No new software needed, just the will to succeed and a little money. Where else can you buy that so cheaply? Nowhere.
Microsoft is smart. We keep learning that lesson. It's coool! Many thanks to Don Bradford, email@example.com, and his chain of command, for believing in us. One developer says he feels like he's making a deal with the devil. How ironic. Microsoft is much less the devil than Apple is, even though Apple's rep is cleaner; but this is undeserved. As has been amply reported in DaveNet, Apple screws developers routinely. With rare exceptions, they've been doing it since 1980. And they still do it, at a time when they need the goodwill of developers more than ever.
In the Journal piece, Ellen Hancock, Apple's CTO, complains that it's not fair. To Ms. Hancock, with much respect, start treating your developers like the accomplished hardworking professionals they are, and you'll find that you can have an important place in this community too.
I am always disappointed when Apple choses to compete with developers, especially in diverse markets like web servers and web content tools. Apple is anti-diversity, when they move into a market, the developers go out of business. We've been around this loop so many times. Ms. Hancock may not know, because she's new at Apple. It doesn't matter if she gets it or not. Apple keeps betting on the wrong people, on a super-expensive R&D system that produces little timely or useful software.
Same old same old. Apple remembers too much. They can't compete with Microsoft, yet they keep trying. They have to let go of that one before they can move on.
We aren't waiting for Apple. Cooool. Many thanks to Microsoft for helping to make that possible.
Another company that believes in the power of the Macintosh community is Jean-Louis Gassee's Be Inc. I reported, briefly, in the last piece that they had ported the BeOS to Macintosh hardware. I saw it! It sets my mind spinning. What if... What if! I love this.
Could the BeOS run Macintosh applications? If so, let's call it System 8 and be done with it. A modern OS that supports multiple processors. An emphasis on fast storage and multimedia. A natural fit for Mac web developers. What a great web server the BeOS would make. What a natural leader Jean-Louis would make.
To other developers, keep your mind and options open. Make a deal with Apple today with your eyes open. There are other possibilities. Let your mind play with this one.
All the mottos apply. Let's have fun! Still diggin... Go with the flow. Gambatte. Ye-ha. I'd add a new one, it comes from Winston Churchill, I think (I'll be corrected, for sure)... "We must all hang together or we'll all hang separately." Maybe it was Patrick Henry?
PS: Chuck Shotton, firstname.lastname@example.org, asked me to tell people that his server at ww.biap.com is off the air due to an electrical storm in Houston. This means that the MIDAS mailing list is off the air too.
PPS: The Journal article can be found at a local news stand today. Their website is so irritating! Passwords and ugly URLs. Yuck!
PPPS: Power Computing's website is at http://www.powercc.com/. To their webmaster -- put the little dude on the site so I can point to him!
PPPPS: Great quotes: http://socsci.colorado.edu/~brumbaug/quotes.html.
PPPPPS: Life on Mars? Let's go!