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ATPM 3.10
October 1997



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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

Bobbing for apples, scary ghost stories, and giving candy to costumed children are some of the traditions that come to mind when I think of Halloween. In fact, I'm pretty excited because this is the first year that the Mrs. and I have owned our own house—a house in a neighborhood full of kids! We're looking forward to giving candy to all of the little ghosts, goblins, and Power Rangers who come trick-or-treating. Hopefully, we'll not eat our bags (and bags) of candy before the big day!

Another long-standing tradition is to make a trip to our local video store and rent the scariest movies we can find. While The Shining and Dawn of the Dead are perennial favorites, some of the best movies are horror classics from the 1950's. You know the ones I'm talking about. They feature stars of the genre, such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney, Jr.

The monsters they depicted have become synonymous with fear. For instance, Dracula is one scary dude. He turns into a bat, sucks blood from the necks of his victims, and brings full blown fear to the countryside while looking rather dapper in his black cape. Wolfman and the Mummy are also top contenders for the King of Terror crown. After watching one of those films, it was always a long, sleepless night of listening for creaking floorboards or waiting for ghostly specters to float into my bedroom.

Those dastardly villains were bad, but the worst of all was Frankenstein's monster. He was the one creature who could send me into screaming fits if I was watching the movie alone. I'm sure all of you are familiar with the Frankenstein story—a mad scientist believes he can toy with the natural order of things and later his invention goes beyond his control. I have always cheered for the torch-carrying villagers who eventually take care of business at the end of the movie.

The worst part of the story is Doctor Frankenstein's tinkering. He believes he can overcome human mortality in the laboratory. To beat nature, he patches together different body parts into a grotesque golem, throws a switch, and sends electricity harnessed from a bolt of lightning into his creation to bring it to life.

Now you can understand why I felt a shiver down my spine when I read transcripts of the remarks Steve Jobs made at the recent Sybold San Francisco conference. According to MacWeek, Jobs reiterated that, despite the imminent release of Rhapsody, Apple remains committed to the Mac OS. "The core of the company is the Mac OS. We are absolutely not doing a brain transplant next year from Mac OS to something else. We are about the Mac OS."

Although he says Apple remains committed to the Mac OS, Steve Jobs is the type to shake things up. I can see good Doctor Jobsenstein clearly in my mind's eye, wearing his white lab coat in the confines of the dank basement of One Infinite Loop—Castle Applestein. On one operating table is Mac OS 8. It's under sedation preparing to have its essence—it's being—changed forever. On the other table is the corpse of NeXT, and Doctor Jobsenstein is reaching in to remove its brain and transplant it into the Mac! Basically, the newly retooled NeXT OS will be running in the background, enabling the traditional Mac OS up front. Unfortunately, this tandem set-up is similar to the way Windows has DOS creeping around under the floorboards (and we all know how well that works).

Dr. Jobsenstein believes he's doing great things with this transplant. He envisions the day when he flips the switch, sending a surge of current through the Power PC machine on his lab bench. In a puff of smoke and a gout of flame, the New and Improved Mac OS will rise from the table and take its first tentative steps. "It's alive!" he'll cry as thunder booms in the background and the musical score rises to a crescendo. The dream of preemptive multitasking will be realized. The Mac OS will run on any platform. All will be well with the new Mac OS. Or so we think...

Dr. Frankenstein's major problem was that the soul of the beast to whom he had given life changed drastically. He discovers—quite tragically—that his creation lacks the essence of humanity, although it has human form. He learns he has created a monster. Frankenstein's author Mary Shelley and directors of the many movie versions wanted to invoke this stark terror into readers and eventually viewers of this classic story.

This could be the danger of creating Dr. Jobsenstein's monster. Say, for instance, Apple's OS programmers incorporate the NEXT system in its Yellow/Blue Box configuration as currently envisioned. What if they lose the spirit of the Macintosh OS? Would there still be a reason to fall in love with the ease of use of the OS, the graphics processing power, and the quality we Mac users have come to expect? Or, will the creation just become a monument to Steve Jobs' ability to say, "We're going to do something new now," and see it realized for better or worse?

We all know that everything falls apart for Dr. Frankenstein by the end of the story. All his hard work and creative energy, which were initially intended as a force for good, end in disaster. The moral is a poignant lesson: It's not a good idea to mess with the natural order of things.

In much the same way, Steve Jobs is playing with the natural order of things in the world of the Macintosh OS. He needs to exercise caution in the redesign process to ensure that he's not creating something which loses the spirit of the original Mac OS. If he does, he will surely be dealing with a mob of very angry Mac users armed with pitchforks and torches ready to put an end to the abomination.

Maybe they'll drink apple cider and bob for apples afterwards...

Blue Apple"Apple Cider" is © 1997 by Tom Iovino, <>.

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