Chapter 3

How Multimedia Almost Killed the Macintosh

Multimedia reminds us of the three blind men and the elephant-not one of the men describes the elephant in the same way. We think the whole affair is quite simple…

Helocars and Sexy Stars

Remember when Apple tried to convince us that Macintoshes should be used to design and sell helocars? That ludicrous and short-lived ad campaign was Apple’s first foray into the realm of multimedia; bet your lunch money that there will be others.

Multimedia is simply multiple media. For Macintosh users, it’s a set of technologies and tools for adding media-sound, animation, true-color graphic images, and video-to the existing user interface. What’s missing is intelligence and that’s why multimedia is probably doomed to failure; it’s also why, in our expert opinion, hypermedia is more important. Intelligence missing from the equation of presenting information is also what just about killed Macintosh. Until intelligence-in the form of expert systems and semi-autonomous agents-is added to the mix, multimedia is nothing more than bad television with better sound.

The so-called new media has so much potential – to teach us, to entertain us, to transact business for us, but unfortunately, most new media offerings are totally lame, breaking no new ground.

There’s a new buzzword going around: repurposing. Everyone is doing it. Successful movies are repurposed into video and computer games; children’s books are repurposed into CD ROMs. Repurposing is OK, but it’s not good enough. This powerful new delivery medium cries out for innovation. Forget everything you know about presenting information; give us something we haven’t seen before and something we can’t see elsewhere.

hypermedia hy*per*me*di*a — n. Computer Science.
A computer-based information retrieval system that enables a user to gain or provide access to texts, audio and video recordings, photographs, and computer graphics related to a particular subject.

American Heritage Dictionary © 1992.

repurpose re*pur*pose — v. Buzzword for the ’90s
1. To recycle old material into new media. 2. To milk one more buck out of the same old crap.

The Dr. Macintosh Dictionary © 1993.

Unfortunately, the movers and shakers in the computer industry-at least most of the ones in the driver’s seat of their respective corporations-just don’t get it. Apple’s most publicized idea of multimedia is a tool for selling things. Microsoft’s notion of multimedia is to buy up the electronic rights to art so they can glow on flat-panel displays in Bill Gates’ new house.

Bob: We interrupt this chapter to bring you a bad but relevant joke.

Q: Why did Bill Gates build his new house mostly below ground?

A: He was sick of hearing about Windows.

Mike: OK, I’ve got a better one…

Q: What did Bill Gates’ wife discover on their honeymoon?

A: Why it’s called Microsoft.

Multimedia has two distinct markets: sex and education.

Some would argue that Mike Saenz defined state-of-the-art Macintosh multimedia with Virtual Valerie (puritanical readers can send their love letters to our publisher, Dave Rogelberg; you should see the graphic he wouldn’t let us use!). It’s a sick culture that uses sex to sell everything from soap to soda, but Virtual Valerie made just about everyone re-evaluate the power of Macintosh-based multimedia. Like it or not, Virtual Valerie was a totally unique interactive experience, impossible to duplicate on a television, movie screen, or book page. (And yes, she made some people sick. A rue and cry arose from the MacWoman community when Valerie-and her black and white predecessor-came on the scene.)

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