Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Apple's failure to link to UserLand

Author:Paul Snively
Posted:10/30/1999; 10:30:57 AM
Topic:Today's scriptingNews Outline
Msg #:12551 (In response to 12547)
Prev/Next:12550 / 12552

Dave Winer wrote:

We spent virtually all of 1993 recoding Frontier to build off the Apple Event Object Model, for naught, Apple didn't deliver on their end of the deal, which was including Frontier in the marketing for Mac scripting.

Yeah. I suspect that their desire was to see you replace your IAC layer solely and exclusively with the AEOM stuff, which of course you couldn't do without shafting your user base. Some Apple people would see that as "fragmenting" IAC on the MacOS: how would AppleScript deal with Userland IAC apps that might not support the object model? So they tried to quash it by ignoring it.

A lot of the arguing we got from Apple was about why we were doing it differently from them. That usually happened the instant they had a spec, even if they didn't have an implementation.

Absolutely. The specs were all intended to point the way to a future when AppleScript/OpenDoc/etc. would exist, and why aren't you helping us get there? The fact that you had employees to pay next week didn't really enter into the equation...

We saw Apple people as being incompetent whiners, unrealistic and unappreciative.

For good reasons!

Maybe you didn't know everyone involved Paul, you certainly weren't in many of the meetings I had with Apple people.

I know. It was a weird situation: here I was, purportedly the primary public developer interface on AppleEvents... but I think you're referring to meetings that Apple perceived as "business" and therefore not needing DTS' involvement. But I routinely met with Tesler and his team, Kurt Piersol and his team, Tom Ryan and his team... had offsites with Mike Farr... so there was this rather large disconnect between the level of internal interaction and external interaction. For DTS, that's utterly bizarre.

Remember Roger Heinen? And there was another guy, a total suit, who tossed hand grenades into my company any time he pleased. He once even tried to get me fired. (I owned the company, what an idiot.) I think his first name was Steve.

Sure I remember Roger, but Roger was way up the food chain from us line grunts in DTS, one of those guys you mostly see on the stage at the Flint Center when the company felt the need to boost morale. Oh, that's Roger Heinen? Got it. As for the suit, could you possibly be referring to Randy Battat? Surely not Kirk Loevner; Kirk was a nice guy.

A lot of dark souls. One guy was bad-mouthing Frontier's C heritage, and at the same time promoting his "plug in" C syntax for AppleScript. I feel somewhat gratified in that their plug-ins never shipped, and in the end AppleScript is the odd-man-out. Surprise, JavaScript and Python look a lot more like our syntax. Perl and Tcl are from even stranger planets.

Don't even get me started on the syntax issue. What got me into programming in the beginning was playing Zork; I wanted to know how it could understand English so well! So I went to school and studied computer science and artificial intelligence and what was then called natural-language processing, now more commonly referred to as computational linguistics. I ended up being a disciple of Alan Perlis: "A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to convince anyone of the existence of God." The natural language problem remains intractable. Basing HyperTalk on English was only possible because the domain of discourse was essentially as limited as Terry Winograd's SHRDLU's: cards, stacks, buttons, fields, and usually a containment hierarchy only two or three elements deep. Regular apps weren't so constrained, so AppleScript wound up combining the worst aspects of English with the worst aspects of programming languages.

And then there was the jerk who got up in a meeting in front of a dozen Apple people and said "But we aren't trying to crush UserLand!" You should have seen the execs scurry from the room like rats. Zoooom. I laughed. "Gotcha!," I thought to myself.

Geez. Well, if you needed any confirmation that some folks perceived you as a threat...

Never has there been a slimier bunch of dickheads posturing as a platform vendor.

It was bizarre. Apple in those days didn't know who the competition was, or why. Remember the anti-IBM ranting? I have to confess that that aspect even caught me up: we thought were were a computer company, not an OS company. We got caught flat-footed when Microsoft shipped Windows 3.0.

Similarly, you had Frontier and we had AppleScript dreams. We were still operating on the already-defunct principle of scarcity: developers are a finite resource. Every developer Frontier gets is one AppleScript loses. What nonsense.

What's sad, to me, about all of this is that all of this was what happened when a very expansive, inclusive, comprehensive dream--the code name for the big umbrella was "Family Farm" and included the collective goals of AppleEvents, AppleScript, OpenDoc, and probably more, but was also intended to allow for third-party components/extension--that basically came from the Advanced Technology Group got co-opted by the various lords of the little fiefdoms that made up the product side of Apple in those days. The dream was a good one. It was the execution that was disastrous.

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