June 19

The Return of the King
The Mac's resurgence as the premiere graphics platform

STR: 18 (00); DEX: 18; CON: 18;
INT: 19; WIS: 19; CHA: 18

by David Nagel
Executive Producer

Now, I'm a D&D guy from way back. My justification for getting my first Mac SE back in the '80s was that I worked on my college paper, and they all used Macs, so I could take my "work" home with me. (I didn't really consider it work, but, you know, you have to tell your parents something when they buy you a computer, laser printer and scanner, and their only concept of computers comes from Star Trek and Twighlight Zone reruns.) The real reason I wanted my Mac was to make my own character sheets with olden tymee fonts and actual printouts of my character sketches so that they couldn't be smeared and worn out through constant use.

Very rapidly I began to realize the power of this $1,500, 8 MHz marvel. I could draw pictures in Photoshop. I could do interactive stuff in HyperCard. I could make my own modules in PageMaker. And I could play D&D in SSL's Pool of Radiance. Meanwhile, IBMs, as we called them then, had advanced to beep technology and ASCII graphics. That is to say, the IBM computers could make beeping sounds (with a little work), and, if you arranged letters of the alphabet just right, you could get them to resemble objects.

Then, as time passed, three things happened to change everything. Apple was usurped by trained monkeys with MBAs. A minor hobgoblin the the Northwest raised a dark fortress in Redmond that began to spread evil throughout the world. And Tipper Gore's campaign against Dungeons and Dragons flew into high gear, resulting in sweeping reforms in the role-playing genre and making the world safe for those who didn't like more than six sides on their dice. (She was later to make the world safe from heavy metal and yet later focused her attentions on more important crusades, like rap lyrics and video games, all of which seemed ever so important at the time.)

The Mac became "incompatible." Some say that during this dark period the Macintosh died. These people are known to history as retards. Yet it is undeniable that, under the sway of the Dark Lord, the Retardites spread their dominion over the earth. They even went so far as to encroach on the ancestral fief of Macdom—the graphics market. All seemed dark for the Mac warriors—or maybe is was just that screwy Windows gamma making it look that way.

At any rate, like the plot of a J.R.R. Tolkein story, there was a very long, boring period in computing when mediocrity was the order of the day until, one day, at the brink of doom, the rightful and goodly King Steve reemerged to put the hosts of the damned to flight with his +5 Vorpal Blade and revamped desktop product line.

But, more than this, he brought with him the promise of a new order: a second desktop revolution. This time, rather than the printed page, it would be the moving picture. There's nary a publishing company in the world that doesn't owe its livelihood to Apple and the partners who worked to put it all together: Adobe, Quark, the late Aldus and even Microsoft, just to name a few. And now the Mac is poised to bring it all to the next level with the architecture of the G4, the impending release of OS X and the cooperation of the heavyweights of hardware and software—Pinnacle Systems (CineWave), Matrox (RT Mac), ICE (effects and NLE accelerators), Media 100 (boards and software), Digital Voodoo (D1 capture cards), 3dfx (Voodoo5), ATI (Rage Pro), Appian (Jeronimo 2000 Mac), Adobe, Macromedia, NewTek (LightWave [6]), Maxon (Cinema 4D), Discreet Logic (combustion*), Alias|Wavefront (Maya for OS X), TriMedia (Retas!Pro), Synthetik Software (Studio Artist), Avid, Boris FX (effects and DVE plugins), DigiEffects (NLE and effects plugins), Cycore (NLE and effects plugins), Corel (having bought up a mess of MetaCreations stuff), Play (Electric Image, Amorphium) and a whole host of other developers and third-party plugin makers too numerous to name here.

Throw in all the FireWire cameras and peripherals, QuickTime-powered content delivery, a powerful OS and a box that's more a work of art than the product of industrial design and you begin to see the reality and potential of the Mac as the premiere graphics platform and the nexus of all things creative. The NAB show this year showed us never again to underestimate the Mac as a viable platform. The Siggraph show in July will add even more. There and back again. The best is already here.

Post a message in the Creative Mac World Wide User Group.

Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of BE Radio, Creative Mac, DCC Designer, DCC Workstation, Digital DTP, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Hollywood Industry, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.

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