Celebrating the Mac’s 20th anniversary has been a lot of fun—we covered it extensively in our February issue, and we’ll publish a series of stories about it in Mac Beat throughout 2004. But look past the increased media coverage of the Mac in this anniversary year, and you’ll find the best 20th-birthday present the Mac could ever get: Folklore.org.
Original Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld set up the site, which features dozens of first-person accounts of the early days of the computer—all written by the very people who created the Macintosh. The stories themselves are fascinating and include such gems as the origin of Steve Jobs’s “reality distortion field” (Bud Tribble coined the term, likening Jobs’s fierce brand of optimism to a Star Trek force field); a bold statement Jobs made to Adam Osborne, the creator of the first “portable” computer; and Bill Gates’s shameful past as the programmer of a particularly embarrassing DOS video game.
“I’ve been telling friends and coworkers anecdotes about the original Macintosh development for the last 20 years,” Hertzfeld told me. “It was satisfying to finally write some of them down.”
Hertzfeld had been kicking around the idea of something like Folklore.org since 1996, but it was the 20th anniversary of the Mac (and a desire to do some programming in the Python scripting language) that was the impetus for the launch of the Web site in January.
The content of Folklore.org is a treat in itself, but Hertzfeld (who also cofounded Radius, General Magic, and Eazel) also envisions the system that runs the site as a gift to the Web community; he’s going to release the Folklore software this spring so other people can set up similar sites of their own. I hope it will join some other landmark Web technologies, such as Slash (featured most famously at Slashdot.org) and the Weblog tools Blogger and Moveable Type, as one of the building blocks of the Web.
When I first saw Folklore.org, I’ll admit that I wondered just how reliable any story could be 20 years after the events described. But Hertzfeld’s got a good answer: he freely concedes that history is subjective, that memory is a funny thing, and that different people can honestly have different recollections of the same events. So all of that figures into Folklore’s design—conflicting accounts can live together in the system, providing readers with multiple viewpoints of the same historical event.
As for his own recollections, Hertzfeld says the reaction from his former Macintosh colleagues “has been uniformly positive.” Several of them, including programmer Steve Capps and icon designer Susan Kare, have contributed stories to the project. “Even Steve Jobs told me that he liked the site,” Hertzfeld says.
Help with Panther
This month’s cover story (“Panther Secrets Declassified”) is an 11-page collection of tips and tricks that will help you use Panther, the latest version of Mac OS X, to its fullest. Add in the multitude of Unix-flavored tips in Mac OS X Hints, and we’ve given you more than 50 cool ways to improve how you use your Mac, courtesy of Contributing Editors Christopher Breen, Dan Frakes, and Rob Griffiths, and others. My favorite tip: how to use ColorSync (of all things) to dramatically reduce the size of PDF files.
About This Macworld
Numerous current and former Macworld writers and editors have been participating in the Weblog revolution for years. (Basically, a Weblog is a Web site where a person or group writes fairly regularly about topics of interest to them.) But Macworld hasn’t jumped on the Weblog bandwagon—until now. Macworld.com has launched two Weblogs. Mac 911 (
www.macworld.com/weblogs/mac911 ) features Christopher Breen writing every day with Mac tips and troubleshooting advice. Editors’ Notes (
www.macworld.com/weblogs/ editors ) is a place for Macworld staff members (including Editor in Chief Jason Snell, President Rick LePage, and Online Editor Jim Dalrymple) to write about the latest news, sound off on hot topics, or describe the Mac products they’re excited about. And, true to the Weblog experience, the discussion doesn’t end when the writing stops. Each Weblog entry is linked to a thread in the Macworld.com forums, where readers can talk back to the Weblog authors and one another.