Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

January 1996 General Meeting

by Lawrence Charters

Will Apple Survive?

Apples are the oldest domesticated fruit, cultivated in southern Russia, eastern Turkey and western Iran for thousands of years. They are also the most widely cultivated tree fruit, grown on every continent but Antarctica. But in terms of total fruit sales, they have just a fraction of the market, and have never been able to completely eclipse oranges, bananas, figs, watermelons, and all of their countless competitors.

Apple Computer has a similarly lengthy history: it is the oldest personal computer company in the world. More Apple computers are in active use than those of any competitor, yet they've never been able to completely eclipse all of their countless competitors.

In the year just past, Apple Computer sold $11 billion dollars worth of goods, but began 1996 with a $69 million dollar quarterly loss. How can they possibly survive with losses exceeding 0.006 percent of their gross revenue?

I have no idea. But it doesn't sound all that difficult.

Look, Ma, No Cords

During a brief pause between blizzards, Washington Apple Pi had its first General Meeting in ten weeks (not counting the December Computer Show). For many, it was their first extended trip outside of their burrows since the start of the winter storms and winter furloughs, with the streets finally somewhat clear and Congress safely recessed.

This doesn't mean Pi members weren't active, however, as the TCS (the Pi's computer bulletin board) did a booming business, as did the Pi's Explorer Service (members-only Internet access). The region didn't suffer any widespread electrical or phone outages, and Congress didn't try to cut either off, so people reached out with their computers and modems to go where neither they nor their cars could go: everywhere.

Megahertz, one of the General Meeting guests, demonstrated a new way to reach out: the AllPoints Wireless PC Card. Aside from a name that is about as catchy as PCMCIA, this is a neat gizmo in an industry filled with neat gizmos, a small battery-operated, wireless, cordless modem that slips into a PowerBook 190, 5300, or PCMCIA-equipped 520 or 540. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, he has a new toy, and you can go net-surfing when the power and phones are out!

[Editorial aside: PCMCIA is the acronym for the credit card-sized modems, disk drives and whatnot designed to slip into standard slots on portable computers and a few desktop computers. It stands for either "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms" or something else. Recently, the industry has decided to rename these as PC Cards, a practice which this article pointedly ignores.]

Karleen Broadwater (kbroadwater@mhz.com) and Rebecca Krull (rkrull@mhz.com) offered personal testimonials on the practicality and utility of this technology. Rebecca flew into the DC area ahead of a major wind and rain storm to visit family, while Karleen took a later flight. The flight, however, was blown to Atlanta, so Karleen took her trusty PowerBook 5300, extended the telescoping antenna on the AllPoints modem, and sent Rebecca both E-mail and voice mail explaining her plight. (Meanwhile, her fellow passengers were rioting, trying to mob the few available phones in the airport.) By the time she got on stage for the General Meeting, Karleen had recovered neither her lost sleep nor her lost luggage, but she had managed to coordinate her presentation with Rebecca.

To demonstrate the wonders of wireless technology, they brought to the meeting a cellular phone, a pager, a PowerBook 5300 and the AllPoints modem. But they suffered a battery shortage: the AllPoints (powered by a standard 9-volt battery) was running a bit low, as was the pager, and the cellular phone was essentially dead. In spite of this, they used the PowerBook to call up the RAM Data Network and:

The voice mail, broadcast over the auditorium sound system, was faint (telephones aren't designed to be picked up by microphones) but funny: the robotic voice which speaks the message pronounced "Washington Apple Pie" correctly, but the correct spelling of "Pi" came out as "pee." Except for the telephone cord required for the phone, no wires were required, and nobody even noticed their cell phone was dead.

For massive file transfers, the AllPoints is not the best choice; the initial cost of the modem is quite low, but, like a cellular telephone, usage charges can get quite hefty if you spend lots of time on it. On the other hand, for keeping mobile managers in touch with their troops, or executives in touch with the home office, it is quite seductive: no wires, no connectors, no funny hotel phone bills or service fees, and a radio network that covers 92 percent of the urban U.S. and a huge chunk of the Interstate highway system. The other attraction is the "one size fits all" nature of the modem and service: you can send and receive E-mail (to any Internet address), voice mail, pages or faxes, all from your PowerBook, all from just one application.

While they didn't demonstrate it, they did show a CruiseCard, Megahertz' nifty 28,800 bps V.34 data and fax modem. What distinguishes the CruiseCard from other PCMCIA modems is the XJack, a spring-loaded pop-out telephone connector. Every other card modem requires some sort of custom, detachable cable to connect the card to a telephone line, and these custom cables are easy to put down and forget. The XJack, on the other hand, is part of the card: pop it out to connect, push it back in when not in use. Megahertz also has a version of the CruiseCard with an additional connection designed for use with a cellular telephone, as well as a 14,400 bps version (presumably for PC owners) for those who like life in the slow lane.

It was a near-perfect Washington-area demonstration: Karleen in jeans, looking the part of a computer nerd, and Rebecca in high fashion, looking like a business executive. They even revealed a couple secrets: Megahertz started out life in a garage, manufacturing a part for a refrigerator, but is now a part of U.S. Robotics, the world's leading modem manufacturer. (But do either of them know that U.S. Robotics got its name from Isaac Asimov's short stories, or that it was founded to build -- robots?) For more information, write Megahertz at 605 North 5600 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, or check them out on the World Wide Web at http://www.megahertz.com.

Data, Data EveryWare

The second guest presentation was by EveryWare Development, a Canadian software development with big -- really big -- ambitions. One of the largest software companies in the world, Oracle, is famed for one thing: its SQL database of the same name. EveryWare has decided to compete with Oracle by creating its own SQL database, Butler SQL, but with some interesting differences: it runs on a Mac, it can be used with a Mac-based Web server to put information on the World Wide Web, and all of this can be done through a non-technical interface called Tango. EveryWare also claims (though it doesn't recommend) that you can even use a Macintosh Classic as a Butler server.

Ross Leonard, EveryWare's manager of Online Marketing (ross@everyware.com), had an easier time getting to the meeting than the Megahertz representatives; Toronto is "just a short flight" from DC, and neither rain nor snow are strangers. But while the fates cleared away transportation obstacles, the demo gremlins attacked in force: he struggled mightily to get his equipment to operate properly.

What he was trying to do was challenging:

Unfortunately, the two PowerBooks (a 540 and a 5300) apparently weren't on speaking terms. Netscape insisted it couldn't find the other PowerBook, located just inches away, which prevented it from asking WebStar to snatch data out of the Butler SQL database. The main selling point of Butler -- its seamless integration with other programs and other computers (and the computers don't even have to be Macs) -- was lost when the two PowerBooks refused to, ah, integrate.

How it was supposed to work: say you are in San Francisco, and need the phone number of an associate who works in your Denver office, but your main office in Washington, DC, is closed. Using the World Wide Web, you have two ways of providing this data:

The second technique, in addition to being easier to use, is also easier to maintain: it is much more efficient (and accurate) to update one database than it is to edit a mass of Web pages.

Ross did get the two machines to cooperate enough to give a brief demonstration of Tango, the tool that allows you to create custom Web pages without knowing either SQL (structured query language) or HTML (HyperText Markup Language). He created a simple form that listed housing characteristics, then used Netscape to contact his Web server and ask Butler for all properties which met certain conditions. He wasn't entirely pleased with the result (some information didn't transfer properly) but I was impressed: I've spent months, instead of minutes, trying to do the same thing using traditional tools.

If you attend an Apple seminar on the Internet, you'll almost always hear mention of Butler and Tango. With these tools, a Mac and one person can do things on the Internet that used to require millions of dollars of equipment and large staffs, when they could be done at all, and do it within a familiar, graphical, not at all "technical" environment. For further information, contact EveryWare Development by mail (7145 West Credit Ave., Bldg. 1, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5N 6J7) or check out their interactive demo on the Web at http://www.everyware.com.


There are some things you should remember about the drawing. First, you must be present to win, so don't bother to write your phone number and address on a drawing slip (unless we are conducting a survey, in which case we won't accept the slip unless you fill it out completely). Next, only one entry per person; if we find more than one, we throw them all away. Next, print your name in something that at least resembles the Roman alphabet; if we can't read the name, we throw the slip away. (Business cards are great for drawings since they almost invariably are easier to read than handwriting.) In January, two names were drawn of people who left early, two were drawn that were illegible, and two were drawn that were repeat entries; none of these people won anything.

Which is a shame; we had a great crop of prizes to give away. Megahertz brought some wonderful long-sleeve denim shirts in addition to two of their CruiseCard modems, and EveryWare gave away a full copy of Butler SQL. As an unexpected bonus, Casady & Greene sent five copies of their award-winning Conflict Catcher 3 utility which arrived just before the meeting.

Mac Head T-shirt (Microsoft): Bob Fetterolf
EveryWare T-shirt (EveryWare): Pat Garvey
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Don Franklin
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): John Kelemen
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Donald Reilly
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Glenda Finley
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Eileen Powers
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Lorin Evans
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Elmer Keene
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Mike Briggs
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Don Erickson
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Beth Medlin
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Diana Epstein
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Robert Ketchel
Megahertz denim shirt (Megahertz): Ron Evry
Visual QuickStart Guide to Photoshop (Peachpit Press): Jan Bailey
Visual QuickStart Guide to FileMaker Pro (Peachpit Press): John McDonnell
Visual QuickStart Guide to Illustrator 5 (Peachpit Press): Darla Lee
The Macintosh Font Book, 3rd Ed. (Peachpit Press): Ed Kelty
Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Barb Reilly
Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Joe Morey
Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Bill Wydro
Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Jason Morenz
Conflict Catcher 3 (Casady & Greene): Hal Lee
CruiseCard 28.8 (Megahertz): Donald Eckstein
CruiseCard 28.8 (Megahertz): Andy Werthmann
Butler SQL (EveryWare): Frank Potter

Yes, Apple Will Survive

For one thing, my Macintosh II (purchased in 1987) is due for replacement this year. I figure a new computer per decade isn't too extravagant, is it?

My Mac II started life with 4-bit "color" on a 12-inch black and white monitor, with one megabyte of RAM, and a 40 megabyte drive; now it has 8-bit color on a 16-inch monitor, 20 megabytes of RAM and 2.5 billion bytes of drive space, plus stereo speakers, a CD-ROM drive, and a 28,800 bps modem.

I can't wait to see what my next Macintosh will do...

Send meeting comments to: lcharters@tcs.wap.org.

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