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ATPM 4.04
April 1998


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The Personal Computing Paradigm

by Michael Tsai,

eZines, eWorld, ePublishing

Since this is our anniversary issue, I thought I'd break from my usual theme and talk a little about ATPM and online publishing in general. Please forgive me if I ramble on a bit.

Writing for and publishing ATPM these past few years has been great fun--and a lot of work, too. It seems like such a short time ago when I saw the very first issue on eWorld and got hooked. I didn't subscribe right away, but I read every word of every issue. It wasn't too easy to miss an issue, because in those days you could read eWorld's list of new files in just a few minutes. In those days, there was an eWorld.

Remember when the "online service for the rest of us" was still here? That was back when everyone (or at least I) thought services like America Online and CompuServe were nifty--before everyone realized how much niftier it was to have real ISP. At that time, eWorld was one half of Apple's two-pronged Internet strategy. The other half was an OpenDoc part called Cyberdog. I haven't heard much about an Internet strategy since. Sure, we know that QuickTime is becoming more and more Internet savvy--Apple just announced that Java programmers will be able to take advantage of it--but I still haven't heard anything about how Apple plans to keep Macintosh the preferred platform for Web development (where it currently holds more than 50% marketshare). The company's quite fond of extolling how Java is a big part of the Mac's future, but they haven't said much about how they really plan to use it. Maybe they don't know yet. No one seems to know what Java's good for. (Raise your hand if you remember when WordPerfect was going to become an OpenDoc part. Or when it was going to be rewritten in Java.)

Back to eWorld. It was killed one Interim-CEO ago under the reign of Gil Amelio. I still think he was big in Apple's turnaround, but Jobs is getting all the credit. I guess some things never change--Steve Wozniak was the genius behind the Apple II, and Jef Raskin was the creator of Macintosh. Still, many people that now believe Apple is back. I can't help given Jobs some of the credit for that.

I'm dwelling on eWorld because, to me, it represents a lot of what Macintosh and ATPM are all about. eWorld was killed on April Fool's day, the same day Apple Computer was incorporated. Danny Novo started ATPM in April of 1995. Maybe there's something about April. Or maybe it's just a coincidence.

eWorld's software was a modified version of the software America Online used. Ironically, some of the AOL software was part of AppleLink--the online service (mainly for developers) that Apple used to run before AOL split off from it. Talk about a full circle. Sounds a lot like Jobs co-founding Apple, being ousted, and coming back. I doubt NeXTStep used any of the original Macintosh code, though.

Apple took the increasingly commercial and in-your-face software from AOL and gave it a personality. They gave it new fonts optimized for on-screen viewing--eWorld Tight and Epsy Sans (also used on the Newton and AppleGuide). Unlike AOL, where graphics were everywhere and getting larger, eWorld had a consistent design. Each section had a banner at the top of the page. All the graphics were in the same style. They were artistic, not commercial. eWorld felt more like a community than a service. It was friendly and fun--just like the original Mac. To some of us, it made AOL and CompuServe seem like Big Brother; they looked and felt like DOS in comparison.

I don't know for sure, but I think eWorld was part of what inspired Danny Novo to create ATPM. The first few issues, especially, felt completely at home in eWorld's community. Lots of things have changed since then. ATPM's different than it once was--not better or worse, I think--just different. Online publishing in general is different, too.

A year or two ago was the hey-day of DOCMaker e-zines like ATPM. They seemed to be everywhere I looked on eWorld, AOL, or the net in general. People started to take notice. Last January, MacFormat (a print magazine in the UK) wrote:

Freely-distributable e-zines, or fanzines if you like, are generally written and produced by enthusiasts and reflect their own special interests. They don't make any money out of it, so they've got no commercial axes to grind and there's no blatant avertorial content.

This is what most e-zines were like. They were meant solely for fun. Most didn't have advertisements, and you knew the ones that did weren't in it for the money. The Macintosh spirit inspired people. It made them want to create, to spread their thoughts and feelings through the newly discovered wires of the Internet--because they could. Now that we're officially in the late '90s, I can look back at the idealism of what once was. ;-)

I'm not saying today's e-zines aren't labors of love. This one is, and there certainly are others. But I can't help noticing that many of them just aren't around anymore. There was a great QuickDraw GX e-zine (originally distributed as a GX PDD, until GX started losing steam) and a hip DOCMaker e-zine called The Real MacOy with the kind of spiffy graphics and straight-to-the-point editorials that you just don't see everywhere. One e-zine, MacSense, was written like a professional magazine from the beginning. In fact, there were many things it did better than even Macworld. Eventually, it became a "real" commercial venture; the magazine (still in DOCMaker format) was distributed on a CD-ROM filled with goodies, until it ceased to exist sometime last year.

Most e-zines, though, didn't die--they changed. In May of 1996, we started publishing versions of ATPM on the Web, in addition to our standard DOCMaker edition. Today, I think we're about the only ones with this dual format. Most e-zines, like MacReview, simply transitioned to the Web. Daily news sites like The Macintosh Resource Page and Macintosh News Network appeared on the Web. Filled with commercial-type news, but with a more personal touch than you'd find on a site like MacWEEK, their big-name sponsors bring in money and lend accountability. Other sites like the MacKiDo Temple offer e-zine-like content in a Web page format. (You can find links to all these pages at <>.

One consequence of this move to the Web is that every day you looked, somewhere there are new articles to be read. There are so many sites with editorials, news items, and product reviews that it's easy to miss them if you don't check the news sites daily. It's the same way for webmasters; their sites are constantly in flux. Never can one say that an article is done, because if you discover a typo it's never too late to go back and fix it. Gone are the times when you could sign up for some free subscriptions, sit back, relax, and wait for e-zines to arrive in your in box. Well, not completely gone. There are still a few old-fashioned e-zines like ATPM around. ;-)

Though we do serve Web versions of all our issues at <>, our primary format is still DOCMaker. It's tangible. It's actually on your hard disk. You can put it on a floppy and take it with you (Does anyone still use floppies?) just like a "real" magazine. It's a complete unit, not just a collection of articles written daily or weekly. We're going to keep expanding ATPM without fundamentally changing what we are. Why fix what isn't broken? I'm sure a similar debate is going on inside Apple right now: should Rhapsody replace Mac OS as the Apple OS for consumers? Or should Mac OS be given a modern foundation and Rhapsody relegated to a server OS? Stability went way up with Mac OS 8 and 8.1. I, for one, was really surprised that they could pull it off. It doesn't feel like I'm running a 14-year-old OS. I know people who are still using 14-year-old Macs! And here's an e-zine now in its fourth year of publication. That sure seems young in the grand scheme of things, but in the online publishing world, that makes us one of the oldest. Yowza!

Blue Apple"The Personal Computing Paradigm" is © 1998 by Michael Tsai, <>.This column is the first piece of writing Michael has done in Microsoft Word sincethe day he tried Word 6. He's not thrilled with Word 98, but hasn't found anythingbetter--especially for writing bylines in the third-person.

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