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ATPM 3.07
July 1997


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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,


Living in Florida has afforded me several advantages over my friends who have decided to live in states further North. (Before I go any further, I need to make an announcement that no, I was not born and raised here in Florida. In fact, I believe that before routes I-95, I-75 and I-10 were constructed, the state had a population approaching that of the audience of an Oprah show.) The most obvious advantage is that when October rolls around, my friends can be seen taking their heavy winter clothes out of storage and dreading the long, cold, gray months. I’m usually trying to decide upon which stretch of beach I’m going to catch a few rays. The changing seasons (i.e., shivering for months on end) holds no allure for me.

The best advantage, though, is that I live where people want to go on vacation. Accordingly, I get to do things year-round, while my friends get to them for about a week when they come to visit. They then return to the frigid North. Sure, talk to me about missing the changing of seasons!

Living in a vacationer’s paradise has its ups and downs. Crowded restaurants and very large cars sporting out-of-state license plates driving very slowly in the passing lane qualify as downs. Easy access to the many nearby theme parks is a definite up, especially for me, a roller coaster addict.

My favorite theme park is Busch Gardens, The Dark Continent. It appeals to me because I get to sample several of the company’s master brews for free. Most importantly, the owners are dedicated to building large, fast roller coasters. In fact, they want to build the largest and fastest roller coasters in the country.

A few years ago, Busch Gardens introduced Kumba, a gut-wrenching, head spinning 90 seconds of sheer terror. To get the full experience, one should first stand on the bridge leading to the area where Kumba resides. Its track wraps almost completely around this bridge, and you can hear the riders’ terrified screams and the roar of the coaster as it speeds by at 70 miles per hour.

Riding Kumba, of course, is beyond description. In fact, it is almost a religious experience, since you find yourself pleading to a higher power for mercy just before the first steep drop. All was fine, and I had reached roller nirvana.

But then, it had to happen. Busch Gardens’ management announced that they were going to build a “better” coaster. Bigger. Faster. More dramatic. How could this be? We already had the best coaster in the country as far as I was concerned. For them to say they could improve on coaster perfection was absurd. Nothing could equal the experience of the mighty Kumba!

As a dedicated Macintosh user, I find myself feeling the same way now that Apple is preparing to roll out OS 8. For years, we in the Macintosh community have watched System 7 grow from the new kid on the block to something which works so well, we often forget it is there. Photoshop sails through scanned photos. PageMaker rolls through the largest documents. Others barely miss a step. The system is virtually transparent. The only time you ever notice your OS on a Mac is when something goes kerfluey and you need to restart. This certainly has not been a common occurrence, and when it does happen, relief is a quick keystroke away.

Once, I went to the park while the new coaster was under construction. Over the brightly painted plywood panels used to keep the crowds out of the construction area, I could see cranes hoisting large sections of track and support beams high into the bright blue Tampa sky. Workers scurried from girder to girder to guide these pieces into place. It looked impressive enough, but I was still skeptical. After a few moments, I was compelled to make a beeline for Kumba and have a go at it. I knew I was still going to get the ride of my life, and that’s exactly what I was looking for—something to chase away the feeling that change was coming.

As we crested the top of the first rise, I could see the new as-yet-unnamed coaster off in the distance. It looked mighty high, and the turns looked mighty tight. It held definite promise. Within seconds, we were diving towards the first tall loop and I put the image out of my mind. After all, I was still on the most daunting coaster I have ever ridden. It felt solid.

As Apple’s OS 8 release date approaches, I find myself similarly skeptical at times. Although we’re getting snippets from Apple in the form of press releases and statements from the software developers, System 7 still feels tangible. The danger is that now I may become too attached to it. Even with all of its warts, System 7 still works like a champ. I am a believer. Besides, Apple has launched a few technological trial balloons in the past. Some technologies such as QuickTime have taken off like gangbusters. Others...well, let’s let those sleeping dogs lie. Will Apple have the fortitude to keep the train on the track and see something as elemental as an operating system through?

On the other hand, while System 7 is still years ahead of the competition’s best effort, it’s starting to show its age. Something as simple as changing printers, a task done all too frequently among us Desktop Publishers, involves a trip to the chooser, a relic from System 6 and the days when DOS was king and Mac was just beginning to show its superiority. Need I mention the dreaded “Type 11" errors which seem to plague those of us who surf the ‘net? Face it, System 7 was created when the Internet as we see it today was a dream. It really does need some improvements.

Finally, it had to happen. The new coaster opened. It was named Montu and been hyped as a “giant killer.” I got to the park early. There was only one place to go—straight to the new steel behemoth. Judging from the length of the lines waiting to board the coaster, I was not alone in feeling that Montu had issued a challenge which must be accepted.

Fortunately, the park staff was sharp that day and had us moving quickly toward the metal beast. The first time I saw the coaster pull up to the platform, I had a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. Not first ride on Kumba. I was scared! That sealed it for me. I waited patiently for the first available seat and climbed on board. Once I pulled the restraint down over my shoulders and snapped myself in, I knew there was no turning back. The experience was familiar. I knew the drill for securing myself in the seat firmly so I didn’t become a projectile launched across Busch Boulevard. I knew the look of terror on my fellow riders’ faces. The wobbly-legged, pale-faced stagger of the people getting off the coaster ahead of us was a familiar sight, but it was new at the same time. Montu is an inverted coaster, so your feet dangle in the open air below your seat while the cars ride on an overhead track. Very disconcerting. Very nice! It was a completely unexpected twist to the experience I had come to expect.

As we get ready to load the first release of OS 8, the former Copland, the new Tempo, onto our beloved Macs, I hope we’ll notice how similar to System 7 it is in ease of use. I hope our favorite programs truck along just as nicely. Multithreading, an improved user interface, and other items designed to enhance the Macintosh experience are necessary if Apple is going to maintain its loyal customers and win over the skeptics. I hope we see improvements which will keep Macintosh rated as “the premier computing platform” well into the next millennium. Still, we need to remind Apple that the loyal customer base it’s built over the years needs to be handled with kid gloves. Change is always traumatic.

Climbing to the top of the big hill on Montu for the first time, I shot a glance across the park at the sinuous curves of Kumba off in the distance. It stood out majestically in the bright Florida sun. One of the coasters was pulling to the top of the first big drop. Yeah, I’ve been there and done that a few times. You know, Kumba was very good.

I knew Montu was gonna be my favorite as we started the first big drop.

[apple graphic] “Apple Cider” is © 1997 by Tom Iovino,

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