>Microsoft Bob presented screens showing a "house", with "rooms" that the user could go to containing familiar objects corresponding to computer applications—for instance, a desk with pen and paper, a checkbook, and other items. In this case, clicking on the pen and paper would open the word processor.
Here's a short overview of a device running Magic Cap and it's user interface for comparison.
> FIGURE 4.5. A Natural Mapping of Light Switches to Lights. This is how I mapped five switches to the lights in my living
room. I placed small toggle switches that fit onto a plan of the home’s living room, balcony, and hall, with each switch placed where the light was located. The X by the center switch indicates where this panel was located. The surface was tilted to make it easier to relate it to the horizontal arrangement of the lights, and the slope provided a natural anti-affordance, preventing people from putting coffee cups and drink containers on the controls.
That seems...stressful. I'd hate to accidentally move it while trying to press the fire button and delete all the stuff on my disk.
Its also interesting to see the desktop metaphor work on such weak equipment, at least outside of a lab. I think this is also further evidence that GUIs just couldnt really work well with such low resolution.
Two years later you had GEOS which looks like something I could tolerate today:
In my first software job in 1997, the UI department employed an industrial designer, a graphic designer and a researcher with a masters in cognition science. The company had a usability lab where the UI was tested under controlled conditions.
Today companies have a graphic designer who calls themselves a “UX expert” and draws pictures of interfaces in Sketch.
Though with touchscreens I can see why that pattern would have dated badly.
That said, 16 year old me would have zero issues with using Cinnamon how I have it setup 22 years later.
Well after he stopped pointing at the screen in amazement and trying to get his head around a laptop with 4x2.8GHz cores and 8 threads.
Hell he’d even recognise a thinkpad in 2018 mostly because 16yo me really wanted one.
When GM first proposed the idea of a handheld digital assistant in the immediate pre-WWW era, e-mail was catching on as the hot new novelty, and GM's pitch to its partners was that you could go to the store, buy a device and have an e-mail account by doing little more than turning the thing on. Easy enough for Grandma to do was the idea.
When I came aboard the project was 18 months along and they thought they were on the verge of shipping. But the software was buggy and the API unstable, so partners had a hard time integrating it with their hardware.
Another 18 months went by before devices finally shipped, still buggy. But in that time AOL had grown exponentially and captured the concept of easy e-mail access in the minds of the masses. GM had no compelling alternative story they could replace their original pitch with, and their partners had lost patience and interest. Motorola put only minimal money into marketing the Envoy device.
That's my recollection of the dynamics that led to GM's failure.
Motorola bet on GM as a way to extend their pager winning streak with a more consumer-friendly device and more savvy marketing. The Motorola Envoy team was given the mission of miniaturizing the modem enough to fit in a smaller, more attractive package.
They largely succeeded, but the shipping delays also allowed growth of miniature cell phones to take hold, and Motorola saw their future there more than with extensions to the pager paradigm. That contributed to Motorola's loss of interest in marketing the Envoy.
"General Magic came to an excruciating end. Tony went on to build the iPhone, Andy Rubin built Android, Pierre Omidyar built eBay, Megan Smith became VP of Google and then America’s CTO, Kevin Lynch built apple Watch…I could keep going."
Reminded me of Jorodosky's Dune and how the team he gathered went on the do iconic films/art
> Magic's engineering team is viewed as one of the most talented in the Valley's history, and Magic is generally seen as the Fairchild of mobile, social and ecommerce—the fountain from which much of today's smartphone and online communication and commerce technology sprang, just as Fairchild Semiconductor spawned Intel, National Semiconductor, AMD and the rest of the Valley's semiconductor industry.
With recent leaks of the 40 degree FOV and headset footage, it seems that Magic Leap, like General Magic, has not yet been able to deliver the technology necessary for widespread appeal. This time around, at least Magic Leap has raised a war chest so large, perhaps they can move forward with a far improved version 2 and continue operations and development, given only modest sales.
Hopefully Magic Leap can learn a lesson here and avoid becoming a General Magic (although, if it does, it was still a worthwhile effort to push the field forward, as General Magic did).
The wiki page doesn't say anything about ssh, but I'm almost certain it had it. This may have been around 98 or 99 though.
Slightly amusing side story. Some of the guys had gotten those Motorola Timeport pagers with the screen and qwerty keyboard. One of them had rigged up some scripts so that he could send a text message with a Unix command, and his workstation would text him back the output of the command.
Hilariously insecure, but a pretty cool demo at the time.
I really like it, learned a lot of interesting factoids about SV’s history. Some fascinating patterns, like how everyone thinks things turned to crap right after their big thing failed.
“Marc Porat and I were eyeball-to-eyeball as he continued to fill me in about his company. Marc didn’t notice, but across the table, Bill Gates was ignoring the sycophants to his left and right, and straining to eavesdrop on Marc’s jargon-laden elevator pitch. Gates seemed to be getting more and more agitated, and was poking at his beef Wellington. As Marc explained his technology in more detail, Gates began rocking nervily back and forth in his chair.
“You’ll have these intelligent agents, as I call them,” said Marc quietly, “scouting and negotiating on your behalf, pulling in data from all over the Net. Eventually you won’t really need a PC, because all your work will be in a sort of cloud.”
Suddenly there was an explosion from across the table. “MARC, THAT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT AND YOU KNOW IT!” It was Gates.
His tie was too tight and the veins were bulging on his neck. In the wake of this high-decibel outburst, a deadly silence descended on the room. Startled faces at both tables turned our way. Even the waiters froze, silver ladles in their hands. Amid the hush that had fallen, Marc Porat visibly shriveled in his seat, looking like he wished a hole would swallow him up.”
The whole book is worth a read.
Microsoft has missed quite a few trends in the past.
I wonder how much of that is due to this sort of an attitude.
For what it's worth, we were surprised to see this hit HN today. None of us submitted it, and we don't know the submitter.
Clint of "LazyGameReviews" did a fascinating retrospective on General Magic a while back
What a gift to be a part of it! Keep these coming Chris!
AT&T pulling support for it was my first experience with "the cloud giveth and the cloud taketh away".
Paired with a more modern cpu and battery though with some updates, it could be quite useful even today, though...
"...to what they called the cloud,"
"Placing a thumbs-up icon on a message to show that you liked it felt like something which could catch on"
"My favorite was maps from StreetLight that gave you turn-by-turn directions. Oh my God. That felt like an app everyone would love"
This is interesting, since Elon Musk has claimed to have written the first ever point-to-point directions software at Zip2, founded in 1995:
>At Zip2, I wrote entire V1 of software for drawing vector maps & calculating point to point directions anywhere in US (first ever company to do so), as well as white pages & business listings w reviews (an early Yelp). Also wrote V1 of classifieds, autotrading & real estate apps.
> a little bit not credible
Especially as, as far as I understand, it was obviously not used "to show that you liked" to somebody else the content of his/hers message?
So yes, it's a bit .
Specificly, according to the pictures, the “thumb up sign” by General Magic was designed as a decoration for an own creation (a clip-art kind) not as a signal “that you liked” what somebody else wrote or done. So the association with the more recent use of the symbol for the Facebook use case is unsupported.
It can be surprisingly revealing to see that a particular paragraph got 100 likes and the next one got 15, for example. That data can be used to hone future writing for the audience's taste.
"Chris: There were probably some hard feelings a couple of decades ago but none lingering, not even those that may have been there wouldn't have been squarely aimed at you.
Since you were in charge of dealing with 3'd party developers I think I always realized you had a hand in the onboarding of AOL, though until I read your post I always assumed the idea originated with Sony. In the end it didn't really matter - the presence of AOL on SONY MagicLink's did not generate device sales any more than our name did, and ultimately AT&T PersonaLink was utterly dependent on device sales and unlike AOL, spent a fair amount of money to actually attempt to actually generate device sales. As you'll see in point 2 below we saw an urgent need to diversify into a PC application about a year before the MagicLink launched, but as we both know that idea died a slow, agonizing death.
There are two somewhat related points that I don't recall if we discussed or not which could have possibly (though not probably) reversed the fortunes of at least our part of the General Magic universe.
1. AT&T spent all that money developing what we would today call a cloud based platform for "communicating applications using General Magic's Telescript technology." Our deal with General Magic obligated us to be the first to develop any application that had anything to do with Telescript, and that was the GM/PersonaLink messaging application. If all General Magic wanted was a then current state of the art e-mail network, we could have made that available a week after our initial meeting with Marc Porat, Rich Miller and Bill Atkinson when they first visited us at a Bell Labs facility in NJ. No, it had to have Telescript.
To my recollection no 3'd party apps were ever developed using Telescript, including AOL's. In truth there wasn't much Telescript in the PersonaLink Mail application - I think it was primarily tied to authenticating users and providing a rather clever user directory, but it was a start, and again, a core contractual item we were obligated to meet.
While AT&T certainly had an issue with AOL, we never quite understood why General Magic didn't have an isssue with it (at least when we thought it was all Sony's doing), as it substantially compromised the value of it's whole Telescript proposition, which, despite various public pronouncements to the contrary, was obviously a distant second in importance internally to MagicCap. Various Magicians have indicated their disdain for John Sculley and Apple for upstaging General Magic's device - can you see the similarity AT&T saw for the introduction of an AOL messaging app on MagicCap devices to Apple's action? We had a similar reaction to Motorola's tie up with an outfit named RadioMail. Perhaps you were involved with that one also.
2. We campaigned long and hard for a MagicCap for PC's sofware app as it became apparent that Sony's $800+ device wasn't likely to fly off of store shelves and Motorola's $1500+ device might not ever make it to market, along with the phantom devices of other alliance members Panasonic and Philips. Rich a company as we were, AT&T could not afford to dole out Sony MagicLink's for free or very little to tens of thousands of customers, but we easily could have and would have distributed software to millions of customers for free, which we believe would have put tens of thousands of users on the PersonaLink network, generating revenue for both AT&T and General Magic, and perhaps providing a "tandem" device-computer solution that would have benefited device partners - which was ultimately the architecture that won that generation of handheld devices.
Our requests went nowhere for quite awhile, and were ultimately undertaken by a too little, too late internal effort at General Magic that never produced a viable product."
The article referenced this:
"Steve’s nemesis had made General Magic possible by allowing Marc Porat to spin it out of Apple. Sculley served on General Magic’s board. He had been considered a marketing genius when the Mac regained momentum after Steve was forced out.
He became General Magic’s villain too when he surprised us and released the Newton, which competed with us and discredited the category."
Pretty weird that he was on the board of a company that he went on to compete with. He must have had inside info about General Magic’s schedule that allowed the Newton to beat it to market. Pretty scummy.
This is fair criticism. Cake currently only allows one photo per post, so splitting the story across multiple posts is one way people can tell a story with multiple photos. We have more advanced multi-image support on our roadmap, we just haven't gotten to it yet.
From the "about" page, the author of this post series is one of the co-founders of the site it is posted on.
It could be worse. It could have been a slide show.