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Insanely Great

Insanely Great
This nOde last updated January 5th, 2002 and is permanently morphing...
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_Insanely Great : The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer That Changed Everything_
by Steven Levy
Paperback (January 1995)
Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 0140232370

Steven Levy, columnist (the "Iconoclast") for MacWorld magazine, chronicles the history of the Macintosh. The story of the Macintosh is in many ways the story of interface development, and Levy explores how this revolutionary interface came to be and how it literally changed the face of computers.

He avoids falling into the "us and them" of the Windows versus Macintosh debate. He ranges from personal anecdotes from the creators of the Mac to more general issues of software design, hardware design, and the politics and showbiz of the computer industry.

Cyberculture Editor's Recommended Book
Back in the early 1980s, word spread about an inviting little personal computer that used something called a mouse and smiled at you when you turned it on. Steven Levy relates his first encounter with the pre-released Mac and goes on to chronicle the machine that internal linkApple developers hoped would "make a dent in the universe." A wonderful story told by a terrific writer (Levy was the longtime writer of the popular "Iconoclast" column in MacWorld; he's now a columnist with Newsweek, the birth and first ten years of the Macintosh is a great read.

From Kirkus Reviews , November 15, 1993
A breezy, anecdotal, yet discerning history of the people, ideas, and technology that led to the user-friendliness of the Macintosh computer. Levy (_Artificial Life_, 1992, etc.) is among our best interpreters of computer technology (he speaks fluent geek). Here, however, his overbearing passion for the Macintosh keeps this from being a first-class treatment; though he recounts Apple's wrong turns and the widespread criticisms of Steve Jobs, his report lacks the rigor of Tracy Kidder's _The Soul of a New Machine_ or even of his own internal link_Hackers_ (1984)atomjacked inventory cache. Moreover, there are surprising gaps here: The early days of home-computing are limned only briefly, as are Apple's beginnings. But in tracing the internal linkevolution of how humans conceive of, and relate to, internal linkinformation in cyberspace, the author has done his research. From a 1945 essay by internal linkVannevar Bush describing a ``memex''--a sort of desk/cockpit with monitors for ``piloting'' one's way through information--that inspired internal linkDouglas Engelbart to invent the desktop metaphor and the now-ubiquitous mouse, Levy takes us to the golden age of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (``Nerds now think of it as Camelot''). There, although Xerox overlooked the invention of the personal computer, internal linkAlan Kay wrote SmallTalk-- the simple operating system that would one day be embodied in the Mac--and conceived of the ``DynaBook,'' the inspiration for Apple's PowerBook and considered ever since the Grail of computer designs. As the creation of the Mac looms, Levy focuses on the personal contributions and internal politics of those working at Apple; on software offerings like PageMaker, which revolutionized desktop publishing; and the last step in evolving the Mac as we know it: Bill Atkinson's HyperCard, the program that
changed the way computer-users think about information. Everything you never realized you wanted to know about the Mac, by a very smart, infectiously enthusiastic partisan.

In this "holy scripture for loyal clickers of the mouse" (San Francisco Examiner), veteran technology writer Steven Levy zooms in on the Mac and the fortunes of the unique company responsible for its evolution. Includes a new afterword on the PowerMac.

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first mention of the term "insanely great" in internal linkUsenet:

From: info-mac (info-mac@utcsrgv.UUCP)
Subject: : Fundamental Complaints Re Mac (Discurvive Flame)
Newsgroups: ont.micro.mac
Date: 1984-07-07 22:55:57 PST

Date: Sat 7 Jul 84 11:40:33-PDT
From: Tony Siegman  <uw-beaver!SIEGMAN@SU-SIERRA.ARPA>
Subject: : Fundamental Complaints Re Mac (Discurvive Flame)
To: info-mac@SUMEX-AIM.ARPA

I got lucky in Stanford's discount lottery, got an early Mac, and have been using it moderately heavily since then (and had access to a Lisa beforethat).  The Mac is losing its initial glow, for several reasons:

1) Rigidity of its interface:  I agree totally with Jerry Pournelle:  Any computer to be used seriously must have a SUBMIT or ".CMD" or batch facility, so you can put it doing things and go away (or at least turn your internal linkattention away).  (On a DEC-20, for example, if you know the system you can rattle off 6 unrelated commands from the keyboard, invoking 6 separate programs, and the system will store up all the keystrokes and internal linkprocess them in order).  When the Mac repeatedly makes you wait 20 sec or longer, then give some trivial input, then wait again, those pauses are just long enough to slow you down and make you feel irritated, and not long enough to turn your attention to some other task, even if it's right in front of you.  You mostly can't enter commands from the Mac keyboard, and when you can, the buffer isn't very big.

2) Limitations of the mouse: I've come to realize that the mouse is "insanely great" for certain things, like selecting cells in Multiplan for instance, or graphics of course; but for anyone who has typing skills it's lousy for sustained composition and word processing.  Continually moving your hand from keyboard to mouse is very disruptive.  Give me an all keyboard word processor -- and an all keyboard system for entering commands and responding to inquiries any time.

3) Lack of software:  Not even an elementary assembler.  (Hell, my TRS-80 Model 1 cassette machine had an assmbler).  "Real soon now" has passed. You can get lots of promises, but when you've bought the hardware and the software isn't there yet, YOU'RE the hostage.

4) Inadequate documentation:  I am getting very frustrated at being unable to find any clear description or picture of the conceptual structure of the Mac operating system and its software ... what's the Finder, what's the System, what's going on in all these disk swaps, what's stored where?  I don't want to do any detailed programming, but I do want to have a basic understanding of the structure of the machine.  For example, I've just gotten the updated System diskette, new Finder, etc.  How much of this do I have to copy onto my older diskettes and backups, especially those for other non-Apple programs, and how do I do it?  What's essential to change and what isn't?  The documentation doesn't say, and I can't find a clear enough understanding of the logical structure of the system to figure it out for myself (which I have been able to do on a dozen previous computer systems, large and small).

My affection for the TRS-80 Model 100 laptop that I sold to buy the Mac grew with increasing use; my affection for the Mac is shrinking.  Almost wish I had the Model 100 back...

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