The Test of Time, 25 (35) years after.
In February of 1994 “MacWorld” magazine issued a special edition dedicated to the then 10 years old Mac.
Among the various articles, David Pogue (“The Desktop Critic”) wrote one about “A decade ofproducts that keep on ticking-or don’t”
That is, about the original software packages for the mac, and their evolution (or involution) 10 years after.
Now of course further 25 years have gone by so I thought it would be interested to republish that article, integrating it with what happend in the last 25 years.
Here is the incipit:
THE MAC IS TEN YEARS old-as measured in people years. In dog years, that’s 70. But in technology years, it’s more like 700 years.
Ify ou doubt my math, try to imagine the world of Macintosh a decade ago. Macworld editorials complained that “a fully loaded System folder can easily weigh in at 200K.” Programs called MacSpell, Multiplan, and Lode Runner roamed the earth. “The Love Boat” was still on the air.
So, let’s have a look at some of the original Mac packages.
Born: January 1985, by Forethought, at $199. Sold today by: Claris, as FileMaker Pro 2.1, at $399.
History: Believe it or not, FileMaker started out as the Mac version of a DOS program by Leading Edge. But that far seeing company scoffed at the notion of Macintosh software, choosing to bank in stead on the hot new computer from IBM-a Little number called the PCjr.
The four programmers, ex-Wang employees calling themselves Nashoba Systems, therefore struck a deal with a tiny publisher called Forethought. The program, FileMaker, was the 23rd Mac product brought to market. When M i crosoft gobbled up Forethought in 1987, it made Nashoba a paltry offer for File-
Maker. (Microsoft obviously didn’t want FileMaker to outshine its own power house database program, the now-de ceased Microsoft File. I tell ya- this in dustry is just full of farseeing executives.)
Nashoba reclaimed the program, sold it under the company’s own name for a year, and finally (in 1988) succumbed to a lucrative offer from Claris. The pro gram, then called FileMaker Four, was re named FileMaker Il, to the complete confusion of everybody everywhere. Key to longevity: FileMaker had plenty of worthy competition in its early days: such forgotten classics as MacLion, PFS:File, and lstBase. But FileMaker took full ad vantage of the Mac’s graphic possibilities. Furthermore, FileMaker offered nonper manence : you cou ld change your mind about anything at any time. Contrast this with programs Like PFS:File, which, when you tried to change the layout ofyour in formation, warned that “you may lose some or all of your data.”
FileMaker is still on sales! It is currently called FileMaker Pro, edited by “Filemaker, a subsidiary of Apple”, currently at version 18 and retailing for…well, if you really want to have it, you have to shell out 576Euro/user (in France). But, as most every publisher, they pretend that you “rent” it, at 16 Euro/user-month forever.
Born: August 1987, by Raymond Lau, at $15. Sold today by: Aladdin Systems, as Sruff lt Deluxe 3.0, at $120. (A shareware version is still priced at $2 5.)
History: Srufflt’s original programmer wasn’t exactly a grizzled veteran of personal computing; when Raymond Lau wrote this classic file-squeezer, he was 15 years old. Lau wrote the program for his own use, never suspecting that his little after-school experiment would become a lucrative data-highway juggernaut.
Within a year, Sruffit was the standard for Mac compression. Lau wanted time for side activities (such as going to MIT and having a life). He offered Sruffit to Software Ventures, whose leaders (ad hering to the tradition of Failing to Know a Good Thing If It Bites You) turned it down. In 1989 productless Aladdin Systems saw the light and took tl1is share ware-program-that-could commercial. Key to longevity: At the time of Sruffit’s introduction, the only Mac compression program was Packlt. Lau’s program was faster, compressed tighter, and preserved the folder structure of the compressed files. On top of all this, the thing was share ware (and if you only wanted to unstuff files, it was free).
No doubt about it: if you want your program to become a standard, nothing beats (1) making it better man the competition and (2) giving it away.
Stuffit is also still on the market, from publisher “Smith Micro Software”.Or rather it is “probably” stil on the market, as there is no mention of it in the publisher website.In any case, after the introduction of MacOS X — natively supporting unix gzip and other such compression programs — it is less and less used. Apparently it latest version is 15.0.7
Born: July 1985, by Aldus, at $495. Sold today by: Aldus, as PageMaker 5.0, at $895.
Key to longevity: O h, good Lord, we all know why PageMaker made it big. It
was the first page-layout program for the Mac, right? Early bird gets the worm.
Actually, nope. PageMaker was the third page-layout program (after Mac Publisher and ReadySetGo). That made it the colossal, industry-changing success it is today was, as Aldus president Paul Brainerd puts it, “a three-legged tool: the hardware, good luck, and timing.”
The hardware, of course, was the LaserWriter. In yet another case of executive myopia, there was a movement inside continues
Apple to kill the LaserWriter project. Who would buy aprinter for $7000?
Therefore, the LaserWriter product manager needed PageMaker as much as vice versa. Brainerd worked frantically behind the scenes with Adobe and Apple, dreaming up the hrand-new buzzword desktop publishing. 1n a national tour reminiscent of Bill and Al’s campaign bus ride, the little company of 12 people trained dealers, educated the market, and gave interviews .
T here are three incredible aspects of Aldus today: (l) desktop publishing is nearly a $3 billion market; (2) Brainerd still runs Aldus; and (3) they still haven’t tacked Pro onto PageMaker’s name.
PageMaker is no longer available: the last release was version 7.02 in 2004. Two new products, “Quark Xpress” on the mac and “Ventura Publisher” on PC challenge it, but in the end it could not compete with “Quark (!) killer”, Adobe’s InDesign.
Born: August 1985, by Lotus, at $595.
History: OK. You’re Lotus. You come out with Lotus 1–2–3- smash hit. You follow up with Symphony-instant triumph. So now you try a product for the Mac: integrated word processor, spread sheet, graphics, database, telecom, all crammed, impressively, into 5I2K of memory.
You predict it’ll he running on half of all the Macs in America. Key to its demise:
You, too, can repeat the Jazz experience with these simple steps: (1) release the product a year late; (2) leave out the very features that made1–2–3 a success (macros, power, and speed); (3) require exceptional horsepower (512K and a second floppy disk drive); (4) make the memory situation so fragile that the word processor cops out after 17 pages and occasionally declines to carry out minor commands that require too much memory to execute-like Save and Quit; (5) copy-protect the program so that dealers (let alone software pirates, whose significance as the unofficial first vanguard of software reviewers shouldn’t be underes timated) can’t easily demonstrate it. And then advertise like crazy.
The real question is: what happened to Lotus ?
Sadly, Louts was a victim of IBM. Acquired for 3.5 B$ in 1995, mainly to get the incredible, and very advanced “Lotus Notes” “Collaborative” software — a innovative products including s email, calendars, to-do lists, contacts management, teamrooms, discussion forums, file sharing, microblogging, instant messaging, blogs, and user directories — IBM managed to destroy it, making Lotus irrelevant in the IT Space. Lotus was finally sold for 1.8B$ to “ HCL Technologies” of India. None of the Lotus programs are currently listed in the corporate website (or at least, we were unable to find it)