Imagine a wide, sandy beach on a gorgeous summer day. Visualize a thousand crews of talented sand sculptors working intently on their masterpieces. During the afternoon the castles gradually near completion before the judging begins.
The onlookers stroll through the sand palaces, considering each creation and comparing it to the others. The roar of the competitors and observers competes with the sound of the pounding waves. The sun starts to descend, and the judges begin to evaluate the handiwork of the contestants.
“And the winner is … !” shouts the announcer. Applause briefly takes over the beach, and the public rushes to get a better look at the winner. The losers grumble good-naturedly, and then they also dash over to see which is the best of the best.
At dusk, a few children are still playing in the water while their parents and older siblings pack up their toys and refreshments. It has been a great day for all. Everyone vows to return next year, because each year’s castles are always so much better than the ones from the previous contest.
The following morning most of the smaller structures have been eroded by wind, water, and a few well-aimed kicks. A couple of the more successful, or grandiose, sand castles still retain their form. They have a new set of admirers, who take great pride in being able to enjoy all the intricacies of yesterday’s designers.
Are our precious Internet applications and browsers no more than castles of sand? We have become totally dependent on search engines, news readers, file seekers, bookmark managers, and dozens more. Every day a new one, “beta than ever,” is announced, and suddenly “old faithful” is in the trash.
Consider, please, the expenditure of time and energy that goes into merely keeping up with the latest-and-greatest, not to mention the users’ necessary learning curve! To be current, on the “cutting edge,” means maintaining a constant state of near-hysteria: simultaneously looking over the shoulder to see who is gaining ground, while squinting and sprinting ahead to be the first one over the next hurdle.
Have you spent any time in a sizeable bookstore lately? A year ago you needed a microscope to locate a decent book on the World Wide Web or on HTML Web-page creation. Now you need a bulldozer to move all of last month’s books into the dumpster in order to make room for the next truckload!
For an illustration, I’m looking at an “ancient” issue of MacWeek, dated
October 7, 1996. Here are a few highlights:
CLARIS HOME PAGE 2.0 DUE FOR OCTOBER BETA. Okay, but how long before it will be 3.0, or 4.0; and how long before another software company makes CHP looks pathetic?
DELTAPOINT ANIMATES JAVA-SHY WEB SITES (AFFORDABLE WEBANIMATOR IS BETTER-SUITED FOR CASUAL WEB DESIGNERS THAN WEBMASTERS). Web animation? Have you visited any typical fast-and-furious commercial site lately? Give me a break! When will those site-creation teams begin to use a little restraint? Anyway, today’s plug-ins are tomorrow’s “unplugged” drop-outs.
INFINI-D ADDS FLARE TO 3-D RENDERING AND ANIMATION (SPECULAR LOWERS PRICE, ADDS LENS-FLARE AND BOOLEAN FEATURES TO VERSION 3.5). Sorry to be a party-pooper, but 3-D on the WWW sounds to me like a massive waste of bandwidth. Will it benefit anyone except the advertising account executives and Web artists? I doubt it.
And, on the hardware front:
PLEXTOR UNVEILS SERIES OF 12X CD-ROM DRIVES. Wake me when it’s over, please. Was 4x fast? Sure. How about 6x, or 8x? Great! Now it’s 12x, or even 16x. Okay, but we all know that soon, real soon, a new technology, such as DVD, will make even 12x look sick. I need a long nap.
Castles of sand, all of the above. How many dedicated Mac users are still
slogging away with their Quadras, Centrises, ’030 and ’040 Performas, and other Stone Age computers? I know the answer: millions. What, other than a massive collective yawn, will all the excitement elicit from this hefty segment of the Mac-population?
Don’t talk to me about “dream machines” either, by Apple, Power Computing, Umax, Motorola, or anyone else. More sand. Sure, they’re useful, but hardly “state of the art” by the day after tomorrow. Does anyone need an executive-driven PowerBook 5300, by the way? Fat chance.
Reality check. Get more RAM, before the price goes up. Oops, you missed it, waiting for an “even better bargain.” Then get a Jaz Drive. Darn. MO drives are looking even better now. You like Netscape 3.01? How about the huge mega-suite comprising 4.0? Can I offer you some Netscape alphas or betas, such as 5.0/6.0, ad infinitum?
Get back on the Web, Buster. Load up your Hard Drive will all those sexy Cache files and Preferences. Fill up your paper file cabinets with Web page printouts you’ll never have time to read.
(“Excuse me, Mr. N. Your nap is over now.”)
That was exhausting. Time to go read the current Mac-ezine. See you next
month, or as soon as I finish the latest update download.
John Nemerovski (firstname.lastname@example.org)