Short answer: No.
Last week, in my first ever post, I praised Apple for doing such a good job on the Lisa’s interface that little has changed in almost three decades. Now, after seeing demos and reading impressions of the iPad, I see how backwards I got it, and how one person’s praise can be another’s condemnation.
I said, “Most impressive is how little has changed.” I meant that as praise, but some people at Apple, certainly guided by Steven P Jobs, saw that as a black mark. I can picture Mr. Jobs dominating a board room filled with Apple’s four-star Brass — Phil Schiller, Tim Cook, John Ive, Mark Papermaster, etc. — and telling them the same thing, but as a rebuke.
“Here we are, three decades after we defined the way fucking everybody uses a computer today, and what’s changed? Sure they’re faster and have better colour, memory, and connectivity. But that’s evolutionary. We’re not about evolutions, we’re about revolutions.
“Does anyone remember how we totally knocked their socks off with the Lisa and then the Macintosh? Does anybody want to feel that way again? If the answer is, ‘No,’ then get the fuck out now and don’t come back.”
Actually, I prefer to think t went more like this…
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.
No matter. The point is that rather than taking pride in the fact that Apple’s user interface has remained largely unchanged, and seeing it as a product of good design, Apple decided to launch the next “Computer for the rest of us.” And, just like the people who were happy with the status quo in 1983 and 1984, there are those who see this as just another toy, and don’t understand that this Martin Luther nailing another nailing another set of theses on the cathedral door.
A brilliant piece of irony. There’s even a well-built website, although it’s rather spartan for a company of this apparent significance.
A (very) little detective work has relevealed the whois registry info for that domain, and an address: 308 Mississippi Ave., Silver Spring, MD, 20190. Google’s Street View shows treed vacant lots on either side of the street. Clearly the website is a fake, but by whom? Even though Wikipedia says they’re from Wisconsin, this looks like the Yes Men.
Let’s see where this goes.
Speaking of that, did you ever hear about any reaction from Jim Davis regarding your statement that Bill the Cat started as a parody of Garfield?
Trust me, Davis could care less about being mocked. It wasn’t respect that he worked hard for.
Read the entire interview.
In a few months, so long as the Earth keeps turning at its current rate of 1 RPD, Conan O’Brien will come back to late night television with a show on Fox. Initial ratings will be high, because we want to see what all the fuss was about. It will be like the #iPad trending topics on Twitter, which are now below the radar. A better analogy is the spike his ratings on the Tonight Show received during his spat with the network. We all wanted to see if he’d burn the house down. What we got was a Skynyrd cover band with Beck Hansen and more cow bell.
The challenge will be making the show a long term success. Chevy Chase couldn’t do it. Arsenio Hall couldn’t do it. Joan Rivers couldn’t do it, and she had talent and brains. For all but the last year of the Arsenio Hall Show, the only competition was Johnny Carson or Jay Leno. O’Brien will be in a battle royal with Leno, a firmly entrenched David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and the brilliant tag team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. He’ll be on a network with fewer affiliates and little built-in audience. All this in an age of Tivo, expanded cable options, and Bittorrent. The odds of successfully navigating a late night talk show field are three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one.
How can O’Brien compete? The same-old same-old just will not do. We do not need another copy of the same tired formula: Announcer introduces host; Host tells lame jokes pulled from headlines to stories he hasn’t read (and if he’s Leno follows each joke with a “Get it?”); Host does a new version of the same old repeat gag (or if he’s Leno, reads stuff other people mailed him at their expense); Host interviews guest to promote new movie/TV show/album/concert tour; band that’s playing SNL later this week comes out and plays their latest overexposed single on too small a stage. Lather Rise Repeat.
O’Brien is funnier and smarter than his broadcast competition, but that alone will have little bearing on his success. Certainly the formula has to go, and O’Brien’s creativity will help him do this. He has one other potential advantage. Fox has no programming after 10:00 pm. Most Fox affiliates do their local news at 10:00. This leaves 11:00 open for O’Brien. Will he take it?
There are lessons to take from Jay Leno’s lack of success at 10:00. NBC was happy with Leno’s low ratings because the show was remarkably cheap to produce. But the local NBC affiliates were unhappy because low ratings at 10:00 led to lower ratings for their local news, which contributed to O’Brien’s low ratings at 11:30. This means viewers have little loyalty to a particular late night news program. This further suggests that many viewers would be just as happy watching no news than just any news. There’s the seed for O’Brien’s new audience.
If Fox and O’Brien go with 11:00, they will also be going head to head with Comedy Central. That’s a smaller audience, but generally more educated, more affluent, and thus more desirable for advertisers. These people don’t watch the 11:00 Action News Team with Ken Doll Hair Guy, Black Guy on sports, and Blonde With Big Tits on weather. But Stewart and Colbert are tough. They’re not just good, they’re very good. Conan O’Brien would need Ricky Gervais, Louis CK, and Emo Phillips on in perpetual rotation to take a good portion of that audience. Perhaps that’s an audience they will have to forfeit.
I think Fox will gamble on an 11:00 show. I think Conan O’Brien will abandon much of the current formula, but not all of it. Expect to still hear current affairs jokes, better than the other stand-up hosts, yet without the deeper context and irony we expect from Stewart and Colbert. Expect the same guests, but perhaps fewer on to peddle a particular product. I know I’d rather see Meryl Streep interviewed when she doesn’t have to pretend It’s Complicated isn’t crap. Expect a more progressive collection of musical acts and comedians, many of whom you’ve never heard of. Finally, don’t expect Andy Richter.
That doesn’t seem like pandering, so it doesn’t sound like Fox. O’Brien will need some thugs negotiating for him.
Imagine this scenario: You have a text file on your computer’s hard drive, you can see the filename on the screen, and you want to read the contents of the file. What do you do? Oh, one more thing: It’s 1983.
Today anyone’s mother can tell you to “double-click the icon” to open it. But in 1983 that would have been utter gibberish. Click is a sound, not a verb. Double is an adjective, not an adverb. What does an icon have to do with anything? That sentence would have made as much sense as saying, “Yellow crunch the tricycle.”
This the kind of crap that enters my brain when I read articles like this. It’s a review of the Lisa from Byte magazine in 1983. It uses a lot of ink telling us stuff we already know 27 years later. How to scroll a window, how to access menus, how to select and format text.
By holding down the mouse button when the cursor points just to the left of the first letter and letting it up when the cursor points just past the last letter, I can select an area of text that the Lisa then puts in reverse video.
It’s a fascinating article. I loved reading in excruciating detail how the author was impressed by new concepts that we now take for granted and expect in every program. I recalled my own joy whenever I chanced to play with the Lisa at the store where my dad worked. That joy persisted for the first few years we had a Macintosh.
Most impressive is how little has changed. The Lisa introduced a completely new user interface to the world that was unlike anything we had ever seen — even Gene Roddenberry didn’t see this coming. Nobody even though about how we used computers or referred to a user interface until some time later. Yet in their very first try Apple got it so right that almost nothing has changed since. Overlapping windows, scroll bars, menus, selecting text in a word processor and shapes in a drawing program are all virtually unchanged.
It’s like the wheel. Someone tried round, and nobody’s improved on it.
So the next time someone dumps on Apple or ask, “What have they done for me?” tell them, “Everything you’ve ever done on a computer, and everything you ever will.”