To: "Bits N Bytes Distribution List"
Subject: Bits and Bytes Online v1 #16
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 1994 19:40:19 -0500 (EST)
NOTE: There are one or two obscenities in the following material. I
didn't say it, I didn't say it. Apologies in advance to the easily
offended. Feel free to edit cusswords in your local press run of B&B.
" ...Will there be roadkill on the information highway? Will there
be littering laws? And when we pull over to the information gas
station, will the restrooms be clean and sanitary?"
- Tom Tomorrow
BBB III TTT SSS BBB Y Y TTT EEE SSS ONLINE EDITION:
B B I T S B B Y Y T E S =THE ELECTRONIC
BBB I T SSS AND BBB YYY T EEE SSS =NEWSLETTER FOR
B B I T S B B Y T E S =HIGH-TECH
BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS =DUMPSTER DIVERS
Volume 1, Number 16 Frank Zappa Dec. 21, 1940 - Dec. 6, 1993
Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes
convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe -- a
spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which
we, with our modest powers, must feel humble.
- Albert Einstein
FZ-1: Food Gathering in Post Industrial America
"One of the hallmarks of contemporary life is what I perceive to be
a conspiracy against conscious thought. Every aspect of government
at every level has conspired to minimize education and to punish any
individual or group that chooses to experience the full benefits of
the First Amendment. The contemporary message -- the subtext of
contemporary life -- is keep your fucking mouth shut and be a drone.
And government is set up in such a way now with its complete disregard
for the value of education that they're going to perpetuate a type of
stupidity that makes it possible to have an entire nation of people
watching late-night infomercials on TV with their phone-in credit
card. How else could such things exist, if it weren't for the
disastrous state of education in America?" (Frank Zappa, interviewed
Remote Control (Andrew Hultkrans)
>From the Oval Office on down, they've been pitching the Info
Superhypeway, but nobody has bothered to unpack the press kit. The
interactive incarnation of TV has been mitosing in the dark for almost
a decade, at the bottom-feeder level of technology -- you know, those
infomercials, those home shopping channels? The higher-tech version
will simply pump up the volume.
The lure of interactivity is that you can create your own programming.
And as you make your choices, you reveal yourself utterly. The AI
expert systems are playing gotcha! with your soul. As they hone their
analysis of your view-purchase patterns, they will feed you back what
they determine you want, pre-determining your desires, as you become
ever more narrowly what your psychographic profile says you are. The
spiral narrows relentlessly down to the center...
You are what you watch.
(Andrew Hultkrans, "Remote Control: The Interactivity Myth." Mondo
2000 #11, p. 22)
A Superhighway Through The Wasteland?(*) (Jay Machado)
If the electronic information superhighway is properly constructed and
regulated, it will be open to anyone wishing to speak, publish, and
communicate.(*) One of the most exciting things about the Internet is
making contact with people with whom you share values, interests and
attitudes. With increased bandwidth via fiber optic the possibilities
for entertaining and educating ourselves grow exponentially. Computer
entertainments will be emailed over the net - multimedia desktop
productions, high-tech home movies - all that stuff will be wired back
and forth by just plain folks for the amusement of their net.friends.
America's Most Uploaded Home Videos. The TV networks have already been
losing their lustre to the cable upstarts. "They" want to keep people
tuned-in so they can sell "them" our attentive gazes. "They" don't
know what to do with all the new marketting possibilities just yet but
you can bet that "they'll" be taking the low road to the foamy yellow
nozzle of nocturnal mass desire just as soon as some wormboy
advertising exec sells "them" a map of the territory.
The entertainment and communications giants, who have been cutting a
bewildering array of deals and forging new alliances in the past year
are ready to rock and roll. They're ready to jump in and start
building franchises off whatever rights they happen to have acquired.
Barney TV. The Elvis Channel. The Computer Network. The scent of
money is in the air, and the perception that the window of opportunity
is small -- that whoever gets in there NOW with a killer app all
America will flock to will control their hearts and wallets for the
foreseeable future. Mr. and Mrs. John X. Public will want to deal with
only one device to get their brave new entertainments piped in, and it
had better be easier to use than a VCR. The cable companies and the
phone companies both want you to use their plumbing to access the
net, and both are developing prototypes for the front-end "boxes"
(which will include some sort of computer inside) for their systems.
To add to the confusion some cable companies are planning to offer
connections to the internet and to long distance phone service, and
phone companies want to offer pay-per-view movies and events over the
phone lines. The local bells now want to begin offering new services
in order to remain competitive in the new marketplace. Federal law
needs to be changed to allow this to happen, and there is activity in
Washington to do just that. One worry expressed there is that all
involved will be tempted to pass the bill for the needed
infrastructure improvements on to existing customers, who may only be
interested in basic phone and/or cable services. Sound confusing? Call
the 800 at the end of this magazine and we'll explain it to you in
easy monthly payments. Operators are standing by.
Often there is no long-range plan, no sense of where the industry is
going. They are basically throwing things against the wall and seeing
what sticks. Some companies have acquired properties in the telco/
cable realm just so they won't be locked out when the technology
matures and the "killer application" jumpstarts the interactivity
revolution. They want large numbers of viewers, so you can bet they'll
be aspiring to the lowest common denominator -- so you'll get the SEGA
channel starring Sonic the Hedgehog and psychic home shopping on the
Elvis Network. Seeking to minimize concerns about their proposed
mergers, the megamedia companies promise us that in addition to
entertaining us they will connect students with learning resources,
provide forums for political discussion, and increase economic
competitiveness. Hallelujah! But the motives of all concerned must be
centrally scrutinized in the light of what's at stake here. Both
broadcast and cable TV debuted to similar fanfare -- and what do we
have so far? We've got MTV, Baywatch, Jim 'n' Tammy, World Wrestling
on pay-per-view and infomercials -- it's "the slime oozing out from
your TV set." (Zappa) Good golly! I'm not above a little cheezy TV
from every now and then, but there's GOT to be more!
The inherent possibilities of the new types of connections now being
constructed go far beyond any of the aforementioned -- high-speed
links between people at home and other individuals and online services
mediated by and thru video culture are going to bring about some
strange cultural anomalies. You think people have a hard time telling
where to draw the line between fact and fiction now? Wait till people
start "interacting" with and getting advice from their favorite movie
stars. "I've got this pain in my chest Dr. Welby." And how about those
kids lying down in the middle of busy roads because they saw it in a
movie? Humans (as any subgenii can tell you) sure are good at pulling
the wool over their own eyes. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
And of course the televangelistas and new age flim flam men will have
whole new audiences to bedazzle with high-tech warm fuzzies. The
saddest part is that many will be lured in and thus fall from the path
of Kuthumi, who is gentle and wise. The Firesign Theater said "There's
a seeker born every minute," and Frank reminded us that "there's a big
difference between kneeling down and bending over" -- as some former
choirboys can tell you. But I regress.
Public debate on the issues involved is crucial. Keeping in mind what
happened with TV, we need to try t/o make sure we don't end up with
*another* multi-cultural wasteland on our hands. One fact that goes
unmentioned in these debates is the fact that we, the American public,
*own* these valuable broadcast frequencies -- that the broadcast
spectrum is in fact LEASED to the networks and telcos by the FCC.
They are contractually beholden to US as owners to make sure they are
providing a public benefit. And they're not opposed to concepts like
public-access -- they just don't want to *pay* for them, despite the
fact that one way or another they'll be raking in billions of dollars.
The potential is there for interactive multimedia to be both
enlightening and entertaining, sometimes both at the same time.
However, none of the interactive services will be possible if we have
an eight-lane data superhighway going into every home and only a
narrow footpath coming back out.(*) This is the setup the telcos,
cable companies and Hollywood Inc. want to build in to the system, so
they can keep a firm grip on our time and attention, the new and true
currency of the age of information. They must not be enamored by the
concept of the masses (TH-th-that's US folks) entertaining ourselves,
cutting out the middleman. America's Funniest Home Video is an attempt
to keep control of the market (our attention) but I for one could do
w/o the host's pathological banter between clips.
The truly revolutionary aspects of these technologies emerge when
private individuals become originators, broadcasters, and intelligent
filterers of information and entertainment. B&B O/L is something along
those lines, albeit in a strictly text-based implementation. There are
some multimedia zines and such available for download on the net. My
sense of the word net includes more than the internet. The thriving
world of local online BBS systems will remain important and convenient
points of internet access for many people. This is already occurring.
The right front-end will go a long towards making forays into the
dataverse safer and more enjoyable for all involved. The development
of common "formats" for information, the development of things like
Uniform Resource Locators (URL) amongst the library community on the
internet, will make it easier for soon to be released intelligent
agent technologies like General Magic Inc's Telescript programming
language to navigate the dataverse performing their appointed rounds.
Easy Access -- that's the real "magic app" everyone is waiting for.
There's a wealth of information (sports scores, news, weather, TV
schedules, UFO sighting reports, personal and business email, stock
information, real estate info, etc.) out there, and right now it's too
hard to get at unless you are willing to learn how to navigate the
internet -- not everyone's cup of tea, although everyone could benefit
from some subset of the information available.
The authors(*) contend that we need a superhighway that encourages the
production and distribution of a broader variety of programming, one
that would be required to offer "open platform services." This type
of network would bypass the bottleneck caused by today's systems,
which make producers negotiate for channel space with cable companies
around the country. In an open-platform network, everyone would have
access to the entire superhighway, so programmers could distribute
information directly to consumers. This would lead to diversity in the
electronic media, just as low production and distribution costs enable
a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. New laws are needed to
prevent abuses by the media giants that will control the highway. For
example, controlling companies should be required to carry other
programmers' content, much like phone companies, which must provide
service to anyone who is willing to pay for it.
(* Mitch Kapor and Jerry Berman, "A Superhighway Through The
Wasteland?" NYT 11/24/93, p. A25)
=> NBC PLANS TV "BUG". NBC plans to introduce a new "bug' that will
flash on-screen to alert viewers at the beginning of an interactive TV
show that they can play along. You must belong to a service that has
the interactive option as part of their service. (NYT 11/19/93, p. D4)
=> CHINA TO GET U.S. SUPERCOMPUTER. President Clinton has decided to
sell China a sophisticated $8 million Cray supercomputer as a goodwill
gesture. Meanwhile, human rights abuses continue there, and the
Chinese military view us as an enemy. What's the deal somebody?
(SOURCES: NYT 11/16/93, p. A16, 11/19/93, p. A1)
=> IRS: MORE ELECTRONIC RETURNS FOUND FRAUDULENT. In the first 8
months of 1993, the IRS identified more than 23,000 fraudulent
electronic returns -- double that of last year even though the total
number of returns filed electronically increased by only 14%. The
Government Accounting Office also reported a significant decline in
the number of returns filed for 1992, 3.7 million less than the IRS
was expecting. Some people just don't want to pay their "fair" share!
(SOURCE: WSJ 11/10/93, p. A6)
=> MOTHER OF ALL DISCLAIMERS. This disclaimer is from Haventree
Software's EasyFlow program: "If EasyFlow doesn't work: tough. If you
lose millions because EasyFlow messes up, it's you that's out the
millions, not us. If you don't like this disclaimer: tough. We reserve
the right to do the absolute minimum provided by law, up to and
including nothing. This is basically the same disclaimer that comes
with all software packages, but ours is in plain english and theirs is
in legalese. We didn't want to include any disclaimer at all, but our
laywers insisted." (SOURCE: WIRED 2.01, January 1994, p.35)
=> A VIRUS AS A SALES AID. In Hempstead, L.I. a computer contractor
was found guilty of using a virus to attempt to collect an unpaid bill
from a customer. He infected the client's system with the virus,
threatening loss of data if they did not pay for services rendered.
They claim his work was substandard and were withholding payment.
(SOURCE: NYT 11/23/93, p. A1)
THE ONLINE WORLD
=> MICROSOFT ONLINE? That's the rumor anyway. MS is pondering starting
an online service along the lines of America Online or Compuserve.
Online shopping and such, of course. Online upgrades. Kindly Uncle
Bill. Rumor has it that the graphic front end will be installed on all
machines as part of Windows 4.0, due out next year. Apple is
contemplating a similar start-up, eWorld. I want my mtv.com.
(SOURCE: Boardwatch, November 1993)
NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:
=> THE ACE CARD. Best Data is set to release an incredible add-on card
for IBM PCs. Developed by IBM, the ACE (Advanced Communications
Enhancement) system uses DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology to
create a single card that is a 14.4 V.32bis modem with 9600 Fax send
and receive, a 16-bit CD quality stereo sound card, an answering
machine, a voice mail system, a fax server, and a full duplex speaker
phone. It will eventually do OCR and then read your faxes to you. The
card has microphone input, audio in/out, and telephone line jacks. It
supports speech recognition, text to speech, and speech synthesis. In
the future they have pans for the card to support colorfax, full
motion video, JPEG/MPEG, voice over data, voice recognition, it
slices, it dices. You get the picture. Is it a wonderful life, or
what? Suggested retail is $259, street price $200. (ACCESS: Best Data
Products 818/773-9600) (SOURCE: Boardwatch, November 1993, p. 34)
=> WINDOWS 4. Chicago (as Microsoft calls it) is slated for release in
mid-1994. Indications are that it will trade performance for features,
that it will be reasonably compact (4 MEG) and will be backward-
compatible (duh). In addition to implementing the Windows 32 bit API
(which will help insure compatibility across Windows 3., NT and Cairo
also) Windows 4 will also have a new user interface, plug and play
hardware, a configuration manager, and support for many devices like
VCRs, laserdisks, mobile computing, pen computing, and automatic file
synchronization. Probably work your home appliances if you're so
inclined. (SOURCE: PC WEEK 12/13/93, p. 2)
FZ-2: Say Cheese . . .
It has been suggested that the Gross National Product is perhaps not
the best indicator of how well we are doing as a society since it
tells us nothing about the Quality of our Lives . . . but, is this
worth dwelling upon as we grovel our way along in the general
direction of the 21st Century? When future historians write about us,
if they base their conclusions on whatever material goods survive from
Present-Day America, we will undoubtedly stand alone among nations and
be known forevermore as "THOSE WHO CHOSE CHEESE."
As you will recall, folks, nobody ever had as much going for them in
the beginning as we did. Let's face it . . . we were fantastic. Today,
unfortuantely, we are merely WEIRD. This is a shocking thing to say,
since no Red-Blooded American likes to think of his or herself as
being WEIRD, but when there are other options and a whole nation
CHOOSES CHEESE, that is WEIRD.
Our mental health has been in a semi-wretched condition for quite some
time now. One of the reasons for this distress, aside from CHOOSING
CHEESE as a way of life, is the fact that we have (against some
incredibly stiff competition) emerged victorious as the biggest bunch
of liars on the face of the planet. No society has managed to invest
more time and energy in the perpetuation of the fiction that it is
moral, sane and wholesome than our current crop of Modern Americans.
This same delusion is the Mysterious Force behind our national desire
to avoid behaving in any way that might be construed as INTELLIGENT.
Modern Americans behave as if intelligence were some sort of hideous
deformity. To cosmeticize it, many otherwise normal citizens attempt a
peculiar type of self-inflicted homemade mental nose-job (designed to
lower the recipient's socio-intellectual profile to the point where
the ability to communicate on the most mongolian level provides the
necessary certification to become ONE OF THE GUYS). Let's face it...
nobody wants to hang out with somebody who is smarter than they are.
This is not FUN.
Americans have always valued the idea of FUN. We have a National
Craving for FUN. We don't get very much of it anymore, so we do two
things: first, we rummage around for anything that might be FUN, then
(since it really wasn't FUN stuff in the first place) we pretend to
enjoy it (whatever it was). The net result: STRESSED CHEESE.
But where does all this CHEESE really come from? It wouldn't be fair
to blame it all on TV, although some credit must be given to whoever
it is at each of the networks that GIVES US WHAT WE WANT. (You don't
ask-you don't get.) Folks, we now have GOT IT . . . Iots of it . . .
and, in our Infinite American Wisdom, we have constructed elaborate
systems to insure that future generations will have an even more
abundant supply of that fragrant substance upon which we presently
If we can't blame it on the TV, then where does it come from?
Obviously, we are weird if we have to ask such a question. Surely we
must realize by now (except for the fact that we lie to ourselves so
much that we get confused sometimes) that as Contemporary Americans we
have an almost magical ability to turn anything we touch into a
festering mound of self-destructing poot.
How can we do this with such incredible precision? Well, one good way
is to form a Committee. Committees composed of all kinds of desperate
American Types have been known to convert the combined unfulfilled
emotional needs and repressed biological urges of their memberships
into complex masses of cheese-like organisms at the rap of a gavel.
Committee Cheese is usually sliced very thin, then bound into volumes
for eventual dispersal in courts of law, legislative chambers, and
public facilities where you are invited to eat all you want.
* * *
The Quality of Our Lives (if we think of this matter in terms of "How
much of what we individually consider to be Beautiful are we able to
experience every day?") seems an irrelevant matter, now that all
decisions regarding the creation and distribution of Works of Art must
first pass under the limbo bar (a/k a "The Bottom Line"), along with
things like Taste and The Public Interest, all tied like a tin can to
the wagging tale of the sacred Prime Rate Poodle. The aforementioned
festering poot is coming your way at a theatre or drive-in near you.
It wakes you up every morning as it droozles out of your digital clock
radio. An ARTS COUNCIL somewhere is getting a special batch ready with
little tuxedos on it so you can think it's precious.
Yes Virginia . . . there is a FREE LUNCH. We are eating it now. Can I
get you a napkin?
(c) Frank Zappa, April 1, 1981
The will to virtuality gets an economic boost from a depressed
economy. Virtual satisfactions are cheaper. Movies do well in
depressions. There's a TV in every hospital room. Can we doubt that it
won't be long before every hospital room comes equipped with a virtual
reality helmet? A cyber-punk "fantasy": You check into the hospital.
As soon as you hit the bed the helmet goes on and it doesn't come off
until you're released except for when it's time for you to go under
Virtual satisfactions are cheaper. This is how the hatred of existence
works: A nihilistic will projected against future generations
motivates indebtedness. Under the sign of possessive individualism
possessed individuals work the economic destruction of the future in
the name of just deserts, security, and self-fulfillment. "Who cares?
I'll be dead before the shit hits the fan." "Are we having fun yet?"
Smile buttons. Smile signs on canisters of pesticide in the chemical
fields of the great midwest. (Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein,
"The Political Economy of Virtual Reality (1): Pan-Capitalism".
Television is the first truly democratic culture -- the first culture
available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want.
The most terrifying thing is what the people do want. - Clive Barnes
All the World's a Stage... (Neil Postman)
Television does not extend or amplify literate culture. It attacks it.
. . .If television is a continuation of anything, it is of a tradition
begun by the telegraph and photograph in the mid-nineteenth century,
not by the printing press in the fifteenth. . . .
Our television set keeps us in constant communion with the world, but
it does so with a face whose smiling countenance is unalterable. The
problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject
matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which
is another issue altogether. . . .
To say it still another way: Entertainment is the supra-ideology of
all discourse on television. No matter what is depicted or from what
point of view, the overarching presumption is that it is there for our
amusement and pleasure. That is why even on news shows which provide
us daily with fragments of tragedy and barbarism, we are urged by the
newscasters to "join them tomorrow." What for? One would think that
several minutes of murder and mayhem would suffice as material for a
month of sleepless nights. We accept the newscasters' invitation
because we know that the "news" is not to be taken seriously, that it
is all in fun, so to say. Everything about a news show tells us this -
- the good looks and amiability of the cast, their pleasant banter,
the exciting music that opens and closes the show, the vivid film
footage, the attractive commercials -- all these and more suggest that
what we have just seen is no cause for weeping. A news show, to put it
plainly, is a format for entertainment, not for education, reflection
or catharsis. And we must not judge too harshly those who have framed
it in this way. They are not assembling the news to be read, or
broadcasting it to be heard. They are televising the news to be seen.
They must follow where their medium leads. There is no conspiracy
here, no lack of intelligence, only a straightforward recognition that
"good television" has little to do with what is "good" about
exposition or other forms of verbal communication but everything to do
with what the pictorial images look like. . . .
Television is our culture's principal mode of knowing about itself.
Therefore -- and this is the critical point -- how television stages
the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be
staged. It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment
is the metaphor for all discourse. It is that off the screen the same
metaphor prevails. As typography once dictated the style of conducting
politics, religion, business, education, law and other important
social matters, television now takes command. In courtrooms,
classrooms, operating rooms, board rooms, churches and even airplanes,
Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other.
They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue
with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and
commercials. For the message of television as metaphor is not only
that all the world is a stage but that the stage is located in Las
Vegas, Nevada. (Excerpted from "Amusing Ourselves To Death" by Neil
Postman [Penguin Books, 1985])
TV Factoids From the Deep
The average child has watched more than 200,000 commercials by the
time he graduates from high school. He or she will have spent more
time watching television than sitting in a classroom. Each year, the
average viewer sees 18,000 commercials. In one year, 250,000 Americans
wrote to Marcus Welby, M.D. asking for medical advice. A Detroit
newspaper offered $500 dollars to 120 families to turn off their TV
sets for one month. 93 of the families turned the offer down. By age
14, devoted viewers will have witnessed 11,000 television murders. The
National Institute of Mental Health reports that pre-school children
show "unwarranted aggressive behavior" after heavy television viewing.
When asked to choose between their fathers and their TV sets, more
than half the young people in a survey chose television. We'll be back
after these words from our sponsor...
(SOURCE: The Society for the Eradication of Television's Fact Sheet,
reprinted in Apocalypse Culture [Feral House, 1990])
FZ-3: Break Out the Baseball Bats
"I was asked, 'Don't you think you should be more subtle in your
approach?'" he [Frank Zappa] said in a 1988 interview. "With reading
and listening comprehension where they are in the United States today,
it is time to get out the baseball bat."
THE KULTCHUR KORNER
=> BLIPVERTS. The shortest commercial in history was aired on TV in
the Pacific Northwest. The ad, for a popular chocolate candy named
Frangos, is four frames long and lasts 1/14th of a second. Cost per
frame: $395. (SOURCE: NYT 11/23/93, p. D4)
=> HIGH-TECH HATRED. Some leaders of the extreme right are making the
technological leap to satellite television. On October 9, the La Porte
Church of Christ launched "Truth for Our Times," shown twice weekly on
the Keystone Inspiration Network. Pete Peters, church founder is the
host. On the first show he attacked homosexuals, saying "There is
going to be a death penalty for homosexuals...". Also attacked was gun
control and Federal child immunization. The Jews are behind it all,
of course. Ah ha! It's going to be a strange twisted ride towards the
millenium. (NYT 11/16/93, p. A27)
=> GOODBYE HOMEWORK! Homework, once a childhood fact of life, may be
headed for extinction, reports the Wall Street Journal. Work-weary
parents are partially to blame, as are parents who place too much
emphasis on extracuricular activities. Additionally, some parents
can't help with homework because they never learned the basic concepts
when *they* were in school. One teacher said parents call in and
complain if the homework is too hard. This was a third grade teacher!
"I'm fighting against Nintendo!" said one teacher, who said that 17
years ago, 80% to 90% of all students turned in their homework. Now
that figure is less than 50%. Some teachers water down the assignments
and some allocate time during class for assignments, which leaves less
time for instruction. Students who don't do homework are not only
lacking in basic skills like spelling and grammar, but they are not
learning how to turn facts into ideas by writing essays and research
papers. They are not learning how to reason, which renders them unfit
for many jobs outside the political and entertainment industries.
(SOURCE: WSJ 10/11/93, p. B1)
A Different Take on Newton (Jaron Lanier)
There is a very narrow range of human behavior which, if properly
exercised, will make the Newton appear to be an intelligent product.
The problem here is that people change when they believe they are
interacting with artificial intelligences. People make themselves
stupid in order to make the machines appear smart.
Imagine that, in an alternate universe, the Newton had been advertised
as a portable display of data that would allow you to do a little bit
of data entry on the go, instead of as an intelligent assistant. I
think that advertised as such, it would be rather successful. I
pretend that's what it is - rather than an intelligent assistant - and
I find that I'm about the only person I know who likes the thing.
Not much has been said about the Newton's interface, but it is about
the best I've seen. I showed the Newton to a 4-year-old, and after a
brief demo she was using it with tremendous grace and fluency. I
believe that the craft of interface design is one of the most
important frontiers of culture. The Newton's user interface is a rea]
triumph, but its positioning as an artificially intelligent personal
assistant is all wrong. (Excerpted from "Newton: Great Interface; AI
in Your Face," by Jaron Lanier, Wired 1.6 (Dec. '93), p. 111)
If one wishes to be the master of an art, technical knowledge is not
enough. One has to transcend transcend technique so that the art
becomes an "artless art" growing out of the Unconscious.
- D.T. Suzuki
Phooey on GUIs! (Jef Raskin)
Bluntly: Graphical User Interfaces (GUls) are not human-compatible. As
long as we hang on to interfaces as we now know them, computers will
remain inherently frustrating, upsetting, and stressful.
An operating system, even the saccharine Mac or Windows desktop, is
the program you have to hassle with before you get to hassle with the
application. It does nothing for you, wastes your time, is unnecessary.
Some will ask, "How can you run a computer without an operating
system?" But newcomers to computers know the answer. When they first
see a desktop they ask a much more intelligent question: "What is all
this crap? Why can't I just get about my business?"
Another big mistake is the concept of an application. Applications are
programs that prevent you from using most of the power of your
computer. They are walled cities. When I am using my CAD package, I am
prevented from using the spelling checker in my word processor. When I
am using my word processor, I am prevented from adjusting the gray
scale of the lettering as I can in my image processor. When I am using
my image processing program, I am prevented from solving equations,
and so on. Make up your own list. Some operating systems build tunnels
between applications that we can crawl through (Microsoft's OLE,
Apple's Publish and Subscribe features, HP's New Wave, for example),
but we want to run aboveground.
There's a fix for this problem. Vendors should supply not applications,
but command sets, interoperable with all other command sets that you
purchase. Mix and match. You like the way MacWrite does spell checking
but the way Word does footnotes? Install the spell checker from one
and the footnote from the other. Is this technologically feasible? Of
course. It's simpler than what we have now and a lot easier to use.
Only decrepit technowonks think this is impossible or problematical.
Entrenched marketers and managers, when they understand the
implications, are discomforted by the idea of a cold restart with a
product that threatens their livelihood. (Excerpted from "Down With
GUIs!" by Jef Raskin, Wired 1.6 (Dec. '93), p. 122)
* * * ADVERTORIALS * * *
Ken Laws is the editor of the Computists' Communique, an AI/IS/CS
weekly news service of Computists International. Send him email
saying where you saw this announcement and request a sample issue
and subscription information. CC has job ads, journal calls, NSF
announcements, grant and research news, online resources, career
and business tips, and commentary. The Communique is about 32KB
(8 pages) per week, with a high signal-to-noise ratio -- eclectic,
but with special focus on AI research, information technology,
software applications, and entrepreneurship. "I try to capture 'old
boy' knowledge in a way that's time-saving, timely, and useful."
The CC is a useful addition to the B&B datastream.
Write for a sample issue now, or for membership details and
testimonials. (Full membership is $135/year, but discounts may apply.
Unemployed computer scientists may join free.) Sample issues are
available on request.
Dr. Kenneth I. Laws \ Feel free to forward this message
Computists International \ to other lists, with or without
(415) 493-7390, Palo Alto \ your own comments.
Internet email@example.com \ Remember to say where you saw the
HOTT -- Hot Off The Tree -- is a free monthly electronic newsletter
featuring the latest advances in computer, communications, and
electronics technologies. Each issue provides article summaries on
new and emerging technologies, including virtual reality, neural
networks, personal digital assistants, graphical user interfaces,
intelligent agents, ubiquitous computing, genetic and evolutionary
programming, wireless networks, smart cards, video phones, set-top
boxes, nanotechnology, and massively parallel processing.
Summaries are provided from general media (eg, Wall Street Journal,
Time, Business Week, Forbes), trade magazines (eg, InfoWorld, Byte,
Datamation), research journals (eg, publications of the IEEE),
technical journals, and over 100 Internet mailing lists and USENET
discussion groups. HOTT also will include listings of forthcoming
and recently published technical books, listings of forthcoming
trade shows and technical conferences, and company advertorials,
including CEO perspectives, tips and techniques, and new product
The next issue of the reinvented HOTT e-newsletter is scheduled for
transmission in late January/early February, and will have an
interview with Mark Weiser, head of Xerox PARC's Computer Science Lab.
The editor hopes to cover over 200 trade magazines and sources,
including 30 from Britain, plus syndicated columns, newspaper article
reprints, and transcripts of news broadcasts. Archives will be
described in the first issue. A bit.listserv.hott gateway to Usenet is
planned for Summer, and may be the easiest way to browse the news
stream. A WWW/Postscript version may be available by Fall. Corporate
sponsors are needed, and 100K+ subscriptions would help. This sounds
*very* interesting indeed.
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: Send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave the "Subject" line blank and include the following one-line
Note: do *not* include first or last names. If you have problems
or require human intervention contact email@example.com.
For more information about HOTT contact:
David Scott Lewis
Editor-in-Chief and Book and Video Review Editor
IEEE Engineering Management Review
PO Box 18438
Irvine CA 92713-8438 USA
Tel: +1 714 662 7037
(SOURCE: net-happenings and fringeware mailing lists, Computists
Work like hell, tell everyone everything you know, close a deal with a
handshake, and have fun.
- Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton, 1990
### ADMINISTRIVIA ###
THIS ISSUE was originally sent out on December 21, 1993. The mailer
software choked on it or something. The conspiracy strikes again. I've
re-written and re-editted it some, and am sending it out in lieu of
new material. Bits and Bytes is s-l-o-w-l-y gearing up for 1994. The
next edition will be out in late January. Really.
THANKS. Thanks to everyone who's written in with material and
suggestions. Thanks to Richard Turnock for pointing out interesting
news articles, and thanks again to Paul Snow for maintaining the list.
Next issue I will include information on access to back issues.
LETTERS. We welcome submissions and commentary. All mail sent to the
editor or to B&B will be treated as a "letter to the editor" and
considered printable, unless noted otherwise.
IN THE FUTURE... That's it for this year folks. Between problems at my
(real) job and the Christmas horrordays there just aren't enough hours
in a day. I'll be back in 1994 with the high-tech lowdown live from
the stone ages of the digital (r)evolution. Join us, won't we?
SUBSCRIBING AND UNSUBSCRIBING: Subscribe to B&B by sending email to
text: SUBSCRIBE bits-n-bytes
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ONLINE ACCESS. B&B is available for downloading on America Online in
their telecom files area, and in Compuserve's telecom forum library,
and on various fine BBS systems all across this wunnerful wunnerful
world of ours.
INTERNET ANONYMOUS FTP SITES:
ftp.dana.edu in /periodic directory
INTERNET GOPHER ACCESS.
- gopher.law.cornell.edu in the Discussions and Listserv archives/
- gopher.dana.edu in the Electronic Journals directory
Yes, there is a nirvana;
it is in leading your sheep to a green pasture,
and in putting your child to sleep,
and in writing the last line of your poem.
- Kahlil Gibran (Sand and Foam)
Jay Machado = (Copyright 1993, 1994 Jay Machado) =
1529 Dogwood Drive = *Unaltered* ELECTRONIC distribution of =
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 = this file for non-profit purposes is =
ph (eve) 609/795-0998 = encouraged. If you've read this far you've =
======================== got a little too much time on your hands. =
========PIPCO=========== Get a life. I hear they're fun. =
=============================== End of Bits and Bytes Online V1, #16 =