The Evolution of the Digital World

Several years back, Rob Ford of the FWA contacted me to ask some questions about my minor role in the history of online multimedia for a book he had been working on. I was both flattered and flabbergasted. Like so many labors of love, there have been a number of deadlines that came and went for the project’s release, but apparently Web Design: The Evolution of the Digital World 1990–Today (Taschen) has finally reached gestation, and Phillip Kerman caught a glimpse of my first book’s cover in Rob’s unpacking video, posted on his Amazon author page.

New Here

I know I haven’t been particularly active on Adobe Support forums in recent years, but I have been using Adobe products since Illustrator 0.88, when I was at Reed College and it was in beta release more than thirty years ago. I’ve had an account on the Adobe site for probably close to two decades, and I authored multiple books on two of the products they acquired from Macromedia.

As the result of your contributions to the community, you have earned a new rank.

Your new rank is New Here .


I Am Not Old

From Ron Bearry, on a Director email list (yes, there still is one!), a piece of history.

I also still have this case, out in the garage. I think there are a couple of SCSI cables in it. Blog Engine Ends Service

More than fifteen years ago, while I was trying to learn new skills to supplant my knowledge of Director and Flash, I set out to pick up PHP and SQL by writing my own system for posting stuff on the internet, on my own domain, on my own server.

That effort didn’t exactly pay off—I spent most of the intervening years un- or underemployed—it didn’t make me a PHP/SQL savant, and by 2010 I was using WordPress to run my other blog, Mutant Poker. In the meantime, I posted a lot of political and general interest stuff here that I thought was interesting, but the system I wrote made more investment of time in it just seem counterproductive.

I’ve finally taken the time (not so much as I thought it would take) to convert the hand-built system to WordPress, figure out how to redirect all (well most) of the URLs, and get my act together, so: ta-dah! Welcome to 2.0.

Gandhi Would Approve

Making the most of the Supreme Court striking down California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, one of the proponents of the ban picks the right metaphor to show how the message of peace wins even with the reversal:

“I think we definitely hit the industry over the head with a 2-by-4,” said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a leading kids and media organization in the United States.

Digitized Decade 10: Those Who Can, Do; Netherlands Edition

Dutch Director Developers at Cafe Zero?

One thing that was astounding to me about writing books on Director is how outsized my credentials appeared. In mid-1995 when I started working as a freelance digital file manipulator, I had never worked professionally in Director, although I’d been messing around with it for a couple of years and had actively been looking for projects. I lucked into a job actually teaching Director at Portland State University by being in the right place at the right time and proving that I knew enough to teach an introductory course. Then I chanced into the Shockwave book at the end of the year and I had a little bit of celebrity in the small Director pond. But it wasn’t based on any actual work I’d done, and as time went on and I did more writing gigs and continued teaching, I couldn’t really share stories about the cool kiosk or online gig I’d had because they just didn’t exist. I wasn’t exactly a fraud because I never represented myself as anything other than a writer and demonstrator of techniques, but there were times when I sure felt out-classed by the people I was hanging out with.

What was worse was that people were always eager to see me. I’d met up with developers on a London trip shortly after the publication of my first book, hung out with the infamous Peter “Lingo Sorcery” Small at his home, and visited James Newton, as I’ve already mentioned. Amsterdam was the superlative of these visits, because people actually travelled for significant periods of time (about as long as you can travel in the Netherlands) to get together at a cafe and drink some beers. From left to right in the photo above: Mark Reijnders (whose iPhone app “Clean My Screen” is currently available); Lucas Meijer (the 3D guru I’d met at UCON 2001 just a couple months earlier, now working for Unity); Mark Hagers (still doing the digital media thing); and Pim van Bochoven (Mr. OSControl Xtra who is always doing incredibly cool things). I knew why I wanted to meet them but why the hell did they want to meet me?

The Digitized Decade is a look back at the first year of my entry into consumer digital photography.

Digitized Decade 7: She Turned Me Into a Newton!

James Newton on the ferry across the Firth of Clyde

A decade ago today we made a very special Director pilgrimage. I’d had the luck to be hired as a contractor to write code for the Behavior Library on versions 7 and 8 of Director. What made it a real honor was that the other contractor for on the project was James Newton, who even then was a font of Lingo wisdom that I could only aspire to.

We had worked on our chunks of code separately (as should be obvious from any comparison of James’s tight programming style to my more haphazard messes) but there was a certain amount of contact through a variety of channels, and when I knew we were headed to Europe in 2001 I contacted him to see if we could get together in person. At the time, just after the release of Director 8.5, he was living in his native Scotland, a fair piece outside of Glasgow in a town called Dunoon.

Barbara and I hopped across the Irish Sea from Dublin to Glasgow, where James picked us up in his van, then drove us to his home via the ferry at Gourock (this picture was taken 29 April 2001) where we had a delightful couple of days visiting with James and his family, eating paté, pizza, and an after-dinner apertif of chocolate and Scotch.

You couldn’t ask for a nicer host. Or guide to the vagaries of Director.

The Digitized Decade is a look back at the first year of my entry into consumer digital photography.

Digitized Decade 2: I See Stephane Comeau!

[click to enlarge]
Director Advisory Council 2001

It’s the latest game sweeping the nation! This three-photo panorama was taken at the first event I attended with my then-new digital camera, ten years ago today. It’s a meeting room in Macromedia HQ where a number of Director developers were given a close-up look at Shockwave 3D (then nicknamed “Tron”) which would be released at the Macromedia User Conference the following spring. Name as many developers as you can!

Here’s a preliminary agenda for the upcoming Tron Beta Seminar here at Macromedia January 18th and 19th (1 week away!). So far we’ve got 46 attendees, with room for 53. Submit requests for attendance directly to me. Hope to see you here. (Note the special opportunity for showing your own stuff to the group Thursday evening)

Thursday January 18th

Time Session / Speaker

9:30am Hello and Introductions / James Khazar
Coffee & doughnuts

10:00 Tron Basics Seminar
Terry Schussler
Terry’s a great teacher and he’ll
be giving us a good part of a day
with a high-level overview of what
it takes to get cool stuff built
with Tron. Lunch in there somewhere.

5:30 Q&A / Terry & Engineering
Your chance to ask the experts
about Tron

6:00 Snacks and Show&Tell
to Several of our partners and your
when- fellow developers have a chance
ever to show off some cool stuff.
>>> If you’d like to participate,
>>> let me know directly.

Friday January 19th

Time Session / Speaker

9:30am Good Morning Mixer

10:00 3D Max Optimizations and Workflow
Jeff Abouaf, our resident 3D Max
expert will show you the tricks
and gotchas of bringing your
3D Max models into Tron.

11:00 3D Behaviors
Kraig Mentor, Director Engineer
and author of the new 3D behavior
set talks about their use and
other lingo goodies.

12:00 Tron Tips
Tom Higgins, QA staffer and
3D aficionado demonstrates his
vast knowledge of Tron.

12:30 Lunch & Demos
How’s Pizza sound?
See some cool short demos.

2:00 Multiuser Server
David Simmons, the Godfather of
MUS, shows off the new features.

2:30 QA Scenario Test
Christophe Leske and Buzz Kettles
walk you through our Zoombot
case study.

3:00 Sapient’s Real World Experience
aka Human Code, they’ve developed
some complete projects for us with
and will take you through their
experiences with Tron.

3:30 Engineering Team Managers Tell All
Meet the Director Team managers

4:00 Marketing and Promotional News
Find out how we plan to make Tron
the biggest thing to hit the web
since browsers and how we can help
promote your Tron infused site.

4:30 Q&A part duex
Last chance to put your questions
directly to the team

5:30 End of Day

The Digitized Decade is a look back at the first year of our entry into consumer digital photography.

Digitized Decade: Wry

It’s hard to remember—in this world where every cell phone has a camera, you can have a face-to-face video conversation from a smart phone, and even Barbie is enhanced with more than just plastic breasts—that the whole digital photo thing didn’t hit the consumer world more than about ten years ago.

Digital cameras weren’t exactly new. Working in the printing business in the early 1990s I’d been around as the early professional models were having the kinks worked out of them. Those cost tens of thousands of dollars and most were tethered to a computer for storage. But it wasn’t until 1999-2000 that the first models broke the $1,000 price barrier. Being the good little digital consumer that I was I went out to buy one.

Barbara and I were heading to Hawaii just after Christmas, along with my parents and brother and neither of us had a camera that was in working order. I bought what was then a relatively low-end but decent-quality model: the Canon PowerShot S20.

The S20 had 3.3 megapixels of resolution, which was somewhat offset by the fact that the memory card that shipped with the camera held only 8MB. It being the beginnning of the digitized decade, extra memory chips weren’t in every Walgreen’s or corner grocery; you had to order them online or go to a photo shop and pay an outrageous price to expand to 16MB or—if you were packing a wad of cash—32MB. Or take a few shots and download them to your computer ASAP. I deleted a lot more shots directly from the camera back in those early days than I do now when I have the luxury of a memory chip with literally orders of magnitude more capacity.

The S20 got a lot of work in its first months. A slip on a path in Hawaii dropped it on lava rock, leaving a dent on the corner next to the flash. A couple of weeks later I was in San Francisco for a meeting at Macromedia of the “Director Advisory Council.” Back to San Francisco in February for one of a FlashForward conference (oddly, I don’t appear to have taken any photos of the last trip I made to NYC, in April for the Macromedia UCON). Then it was off across the country and the Atlantic for the wedding of my friends Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin in Ireland, followed by a stay with Director developer James Newton, and a week in Amsterdam where we met up with even more Director folks.

Eric, who was working in the middle of the digital media world at Apple at the time, told me in later years that I was one of the first people he knew with a digital camera and that the pictures I sent them of the wedding and surrounding events were the main digital record they had. That wouldn’t happen now.

The Canon’s sort of a brick compared to my iPhone or the svelte, higher-resolution cameras you can pick up for an eighth the price I paid a decade ago, but it still takes good photos and it’s been stolidly reliable. Below is a picture of an old friend of mine after work as we were getting ready to grab a beer. It’s the fourth picture I took with the S20. The first three photos were deleted long ago.

Brian Wry, 21 December 2000

The Digitized Decade is a look back at the first year of our entry into consumer digital photography.