Some Reviews of Some Books and Things

Douglas Crockford

This document presents important sources for interactive media designers.

Sex and Broadcasting: A Handbook on Starting Community Radio Stations. Lorenzo Milam. Dildo Press, 1975.

This book is about radio, about loving radio, about getting it in your hands and making wonderful things happen that talk to people. It had a big impact on me, particularly Milam's summoning of the Great Aether God, which in part inspired my own quest to seek the Goddess of Home Entertainment.

The need to communicate is as great as the need to eat, sleep, or love. If there is any theme to this book--it is that we have come to a time when so many of the other needs have been met, and the driving force to be heard must be met in the same way. That's one theme, anyway. The other is the absolutely mad-making will-o'-the-wisp called The FCC.

As far as sex goes, I would supposed you hard-pressed to find much raw naked diddling in this book. It's not that I am shy about offering you some passionate act of congress in the transmitting room, as the tube-blowers rage overhead. No: It's just that I really wanted you to buy this book, and my Great Aunt Beulah convinced me that a book with the word Sex in the title would double its sales, and quadruple its readership.

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. Jerry Mander. 1978. Quill Morrow Paperbacks. 0-688-08274-2.

For me, this is the best book ever written about media. Mander knows television. As an ad-man he manipulated it, and was himself manipulated. Particularly compelling to me is his explanation of media as filters with inherent biases and constraints. This is a profoundly important concept which should be part of the vocabulary of every media designer.

Would we be better off without television? If we had understood media and technology better back in the 40's, would the world and televisionland now be a better place? Before we reach the point-of-no-elimination with multimedia, we should first learn some lessons.

Even with a reliance on facial close-ups, what television can convey is a reduced version of what is possible in real life or even in still photography or film. The human relationships which are shown on television, therefore, tend to be those that can be shown on television. These dwell on the grosser end of the human emotional spectrum. The more subtle expressions, those which express intimate, deeply personal feelings, are lost in the blur.

The American Telegrapher, A Social History, 1860-1900. Edwin Gabler. 1988. Rutgers University Press. 0-8135-1285-9.

Electronic communication has been going on for over a hundred years.

Even so seemingly rigid and impersonal a form of communication as Morse code, in the hands of practitioners, was in fact a language spoken in accents. Each telegrapher had a Distinctive way of sending that set him or her off from another, and experienced receivers could detect the subtle variations in style as readily as they could discern the personal "signs" (or "signatures") that Knights and Ladies of the Key adopted to identify themselves over the wires...

The electric bonds of operators working together could be explicitly social. During lulls in traffic along a circuit, L. C. Hall wrote, "stories are told, opinions exchanged, and jokes enjoyed, just as if the participants were sitting together at a club"... A "very common occurrence" among bored and lonely night railroad operators, one of them reported in 1888, was a game of checkers played on the key. Loneliness of another kind sometimes had a telegraphic remedy. "Many a telegraph romance begun 'over the wire' culminated in marriage," reminisced Minnie Swan Mitchell of her days as a young operator in the 1880s. Ella Cheever Thayer's 1879 novel Wired Love built its plot around just such a courtship.

The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design. Edited by Brenda Laurel. 1990. Addison-Wesley. 0-201-51797-3.

This book was intended to be sort of a how-to book based on the collected wisdom of some of Apple's best interface designers. Instead, it is a wonderful hodge podge of opinions on the art, and speculations on many divergent frontiers. If anything is clear from the book, it is that this stuff isn't nearly well enough understood yet that you can do it by the book. Modesty prevents me from pointing out the chapter on television.

RCA & the VideoDisc: The Business of Research. Margaret B. W. Graham. 1986. Cambridge University Press. 0-521-32282-0.

There is a lot of misinformation spread around about the history of the videodisc. If you are curious about the facts, check out this book.

It is recommended for all new media designers. It shows the disastrous consequences of failure of vision. In RCA's case, they correctly judged that there was going to be a huge market in consumer video, but it never occurred to them that time shifting, home recording, and program rental would be the features to drive it. In parallel with the capacitance electronic disc (CED) they developed a MagTape system. If they had gone to market with MagTape, there might still be an RCA today.

Ever so gradually, the media were drawing the two companies into a contest not of their own making. Despite the very different views that RCA and Philips had of the markets they wanted to serve, the press, intentionally or unintentionally, was creating a head-to-head battle like that of RCA and CBS back in the 1950s. Philips executives vainly asserted that their vital interest was a new communications medium and not the mass market. "If we had wanted only an entertainment system, we would have picked a far simpler system," argued William Zeiss, head of Philips' worldwide videodisc program. His statement was virtually ignored by the press in their efforts to dramatize the competition.


For RCA, as the target introduction date approached, some of the developments in the disc marketplace were a bit ominous. The laser disc systems on the market were getting bad press -- buyers found the players unreliable, the discs defective, despite claims for indestructibility, and program availability very poor. It would be up to RCA to overcome the negative image that this early experience had created in the consumer mind, though fortunately the number of units sold, so far under 10,000, was small.

Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier. Katie Hafner and John Markoff. 1991. Simon & Schuster. 0-671- 68322-5.

'Hacker' used to mean an overly dedicated computer programmer. Some of the old folks may still cling to that definition. The modern definition is a criminal who breaks into computer systems and networks, often for no other reason than that the systems can't prohibit it.

Cyberpunk tells three stories, set in Los Angeles, Berlin, and Ithaca. It tells us about some hackers, how they live, and what they do, and the weird ethic that drives them to invade privacy and disrupt service.

It also tells us something about interactive computer media, and that in some cases for some people, it is terribly unhealthy. (Also check out the Vision Failure story about Btx on page 157.)

The Power of Penpoint. Robert Carr & Dan Shafer. 1991. Addison-Wesley. 0-201-57763-1.

Penpoint is GO Corporation's software for pen-based notebook computers. The book is by the architect and is an excellent presentation on system design. Starting with pen-as-input- medium, and doing-it-right by starting-from-scratch, they have broken new ground in interface design, application design, and operating systems. It is very well thought-out.

Unfortunately, there is no room in the computer industry for innovation. They don't have a chance.

I get dozens and dozens of magazines, journals, and newsletters. The one that I really look forward to reading is Mark Schubin's "Research and Developments" column every month in Videography. He knows this television stuff, he explains it well, and he knows how to have fun with it.

If you don't get Videography, look for it in the lobby of your favorite video post-production house. Or send $30/yr to P.O.Box 0513, Baldwin, NY 11510-9830.

The Universal Traveler, a Soft-Systems guide to: creativity, problem solving & the process of reaching goals. Don Koberg & Jim Bagnall. William Kaufmann, Inc. 0-86576-017-9.

This is one of my favorite books. It presents the process of design as a journey, and offers excellent advice on getting there. It is the difference between a traveler and a tourist.

The Peter Plan: A Proposal for Survival. Laurence Peter. 1975. William Morrow and Company. 0-688-02972-8.

Peter wrote a series of books with plosively alliterative titles which explored the nature of incompetence. They were funny because they were true. This one is concerned with the environment and why we screwed it up. I like it because not only does he show us how to save the world, but his plan makes sense of muchomedia, too, suggesting that the Force for Good works both ways.

Whether or not we will have systems is not the question. We will have systems, because it is our nature to create systems. Rather, the question is, shall we have piecemeal systems based on random components that escalate us toward incompetence, or shall we have a systems approach that utilizes our knowledge--along with our instincts for survival and what we know is good--to integrate our social and humanistic goals with our technological achievements and ecological needs? If we choose the latter, man's greatest age of achievement lies ahead.

Archie McPhee, Outfitters of Popular Culture. (206) 782-2344.

Get their catalog. It is full of cheap weird stuff. Example:

9530. Saint Clare Dome. (1194-1253). Born in Assisi, Italy, daughter of nobles, this woman refused to marry when she was 12. She went to church and was so moved by a sermon by St. Francis, that she ran away from home on Palm Sunday and became a nun. Her sister Agnes joined her later. So did her mother. And then another sister. Vows of strict poverty were taken. Next to St. Francis, she is the most responsible for the growth and spread of Franciscans. Now she is the patroness of television. Really. Patron of Television is embossed on the base! Brown habit, eyes looking heavenward. Bare feet. Each individually boxed. $5 each.

Next time you are in Simi Valley ("I'll see you in Simi..."), make it a point to visit the recently opened Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Not only does it stand as an unabashed shrine to one of America's Greatest "B" Actors and a pleasant old man, it is also an interactive media showcase.

There are many displays which play video of hilites of Dutch's life, narrated by his own voice. You can press a button and see the assassination attempt. You can press another button and see it again with captions for the hearing impaired.

You'll want to keep the little pamphlet to pass down to future generations. It says in part "I believe that God put this land between the two great oceans to be found by special people from every corner of the world who had that extra love for freedom that prompted them to leave their homeland and come to this land to make it a brilliant light beam of freedom to the world."

The library was financed in part by the Government of the Republic of China and the Government of Japan. It is like the Firesign Theatre's I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus come to life, and well worth two dollars.

The Faith Healers. James Randi. 1989. Prometheus Books. 0- 87975-535-0.

Multimedia has been a lot like faith healing, relying on fraudulent demonstrations and an earnest refusal to entertain any doubt. In order to make reasonable decisions about it, you need some analytical skills. Professional magician/skeptic James Randi shows you how.

My favorite faith healing stunt is W. V. Grant's wheelchair miracle. A sick person is brought before Grant in a wheelchair. Grant heals him and orders him to stand up. Grant then sits down in the wheelchair, and orders the newly healed believer to push him around on the stage. It is a wonderful trick, and I had always wondered how it was done. Randi tells us how.

I'd already solved the wheelchair gimmick when Professor Barnhart and I interviewed an elderly man who declared he'd been healed by Grant of cancer earlier that day. He'd been told by the evangelist, "Get up out of that wheelchair and walk!" and he'd done so, vigorously. Questioning revealed that his cancer was no impediment to his walking ability. In fact, we interviewed him at his home, where he lived in a fourth-floor walk-up whose stairs he had to negotiate several times a day! Why had he been in the wheelchair? Because, he said, his pastor had told him to sit in it when he arrived at the auditorium. The chair was supplied by an usher. He'd never been in a wheelchair before in his life.

The Popcorn Report. Faith Popcorn. 1991. Doubleday. 0-385- 40000-4.

What is the lesson for future markets? (Especially important for travel, entertainment, and food.) Enormously motivating product appeal will come from offering the safe and familiar with an adventurous or exotic twist. Added sensory value-- taste, texture, sound, smell, color--makes any product more "sensational." What about the return of Scent-o-Rama movies, with scents pumped into the theatre? Or Escapist Rooms where scenes and sounds are projected on the wall; for instance, a trip to Kenya or Paris. A California company is actually proposing that in the future tourists should come to theatres built at the entranceways of America's great national parks and view a film on a giant wraparound screen--without ever stepping foot in the parks themselves. Benefits: No more tiring walks, no more tour busses infringing on nature.

Think of what the true adventure counterpart is to the real- life product experience you are offering the consumer. Do gardeners (already a billion-dollar business) want to think of their plots as land carved out of the jungle, won in a covered-wagon land run, or as a perfect English garden? DO electronic equipment owners secretly think of themselves as Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise?

The challenge is to offer the safely familiar with an overlay of heart's desire.

For even in the most commonplace of experiences we want to be transported--safely.

Out of our lives.

Statistical Abstract of the United States. U. S. Government Printing Office.

This wonderful book has been around since 1878. It is a collection of charts and tables which summarize all sorts of interesting stuff about what goes on in America. The 1991 Edition (the 111th) was the first to be produced using Lotus 1-2-3.

"Protestant" is down to 56%, "None" is up to 10%, and "Other" is up to 4%.

The state with the smallest percentage of Black residents is Montana.

The Metropolitan Area failing to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone the greatest number of days in 1989 was Los Angeles at 121. Bakersfield was a distant second at 25. The good news is that those are fewer days than a few years ago. In a number of cities, like Beaumont, Texas, the number is small but growing.

Anglers paid $330,000,000 in '89 for fishing licences.

Our pets are getting more health care. Average number of veterinary visits per cat in '87 was 1.6, up from 1.0 in '83.

The states with the lowest percentage of voters registered: 48. Nevada 57.0%; 49. South Carolina 56.7%; 50. Hawaii 53.9%.

Table No. 920 is Multimedia Audiences. The meaning of "multimedia" is a collection of mass media, which is of course very different from what we know here as "muchomedia". Anyway, it turns out that the more money you make, the more likely you are to listen to radio. Just about everybody watches television, although there is a dip at households earning $30K-$35K.

In a distant future edition, some sort of interactive media might make it onto this chart. Watch for it!

We have over 50,000 convenience stores.

And much, much more!

Vannevar Bush was Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. In the July 1945 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, he published a popular science article entitled "As We May Think." This article is republished from time-to-time. It can be found in CD-ROM: The New Papyrus [1986, Microsoft Press] and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: A Book of Readings [1988, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers].

Bush discusses a device called a "memex", a sort of workstation with vast optical storage and mechanical information retrieval using associative indexing and "trails". The article is of interest today not only because he happened to get pretty close to how the future finally turned out, but also for the fresh perspective from a time before interactivity itself had been invented.

It is also curious to see what he got wrong. Unlike our present day Visionaries, he completely failed to anticipate the introduction of Microsoft Windows on the PC. Similarly, he foolishly overlooked the importance of QuickTime on the Macintosh.

Griffin & Sabine, An Extraordinary Correspondence. Nick Bantock. 1991 Chronicle Books. 0-87701-788-3.

The technology is colored ink, folded paper, and glue. It tells a story in picture postcards and letters. You open the envelopes and unfold the letters. It is a little book with big themes like art and loneliness.

U&lc. The International Journal of Type and Graphic Design. Published quarterly by International Typeface Corporation.

This is my favorite design journal. Its purpose is to promote ITC's typefaces, which it does by using them. It is lovely to look at and informative to boot. Typeface is where text is graphics.

THE RIGHT REASON First, as obvious as it may seem, you must have a reason to mix typestyles. Even if you are staying "in family," you should change typestyles only if you have a good reason, such as making information more clear, improving visual relationships, and making a message more noticeable. Other reasons are usually suspect.

The Electronic Sweatshop: How computers are transforming the office of the future into the factory of the past. Barbara Garson. 1988. Simon & Schuster. 0-671-53049-6.

You don't need to know how to cook to work at McDonald's. Most of the decision making is done in the procedures and in the machines. Such systems are exactly the opposite of Engelbart's Augmentation: instead of empowering people to work at their greatest potential, people become interchangeable machine tenders.

At this point in the history of white-collar automation, we can still discern some of the irrational, antihuman choices being made. A few years from now it will be difficult to see that there may have been other ways to use computers.

Hierarchical automation is arranged on the assumption that most people are lazy, stupid, or hostile. All over the world, technology is controlled undemocratically by people who scorn, fear, or simply want to use their fellow human beings.

But it seems clear to me that people want and need to work. The joy we feel in planning and carrying out a task is probably biological. Any system that expends so much money and energy on limiting instead of using human creativity has got to be inefficient. Yet the individuals now making the basic decisions about white-collar automation assume that the best way to run things is to further central control--with themselves in command.

I read lots and lots of newsletters. Without question, the most insightful is the Robert Tilton Fan Club Newsletter. The following are excerpts from a recent issue, presented thanks to the Fair Use Doctrine.

Get ready to be blessed by this newsletter. We have a great line up of contributors and some spectacular stories. Hopefully some of you new readers will be inspired to send in your own testimonials. Send $2 for additional copies of this issue or to reserve a copy of the next one, or make a leap of faith and send $10 to become a fan club partner--you'll receive a year's worth of newsletters and special premiums. Write to:

        Brother Randall
        6102 E. Mockingbird #374
        Dallas, Texas 75214

* * *

Strolling placidly through the "Miracle Chapel" telling Bible stories, ranting from his majestic desk, or casting out demons and healing the sick in videotapes from his "Word of Faith Family Center," Bob always has the compelling if unnerving aspect of a large, smooth, lizard-creature. Those with VCRs will find him fascinating to watch in slow motion, and he is often filmed in a "talking head" shot in which he looks dead-on into the camera, thus appearing on the home screen as a most intense figure.

* * *

Where does this leave us? We have a burned Bible, a human head in a urinal, and a lot of conjecture. We'll probably never know what's really going on beneath those gray curls. Fan club partner Donna says she'd like to "tie him down and torture him until he tells the truth." Ultimately, though, it's the fact that Bob keeps you guessing that makes for such great television. And isn't that what it's all about?

* * *

Let's define this rapidly growing collector's market. Bad White Gospel, as I call it, is defined more by the cover art than content. If a 300 pound red haired lady wants to flaunt her polyester clothing and beehive hairdo on the front of her album cover, who cares what the music sounds like. If five skinny white men want to call themselves a quartet, who's counting? Bad White Gospel is a fascinating world of weird album covers and sometimes awesomely great or bad music. The best part is that there are millions of these records in thrift stores, usually priced at $1 - $2. Once you start collecting them, you won't want to stop.

Fast Forward: Hollywood, the Japanese, and the VCR Wars. James Lardner. 1987. Norton. 0-393-02389-3.

This techobusiness weirdness that we're in isn't new. It happens all the time. It happened ten years ago. Here we go again. Pick a winner and win a prize.

Here is another wonder history book about new media, and the string of failures including CBS's EVR, RCA's Holotape and MagTape, Sony's U-Matic (it was intended to be a consumer device, but was an accidental hit in the professional market, not unlike IBM's PC) and Betamax, Discovision, Cartrivision, V-Cord, and the ultimate winner, JVC's Video Home System. It explains why the Japanese decided to fight it out in the marketplace with competing 1/2" tape systems, and has lots of coverage of the Betamax Case, which has important implications not only in Freedom of Speech and Copyright Law, but in the politics of Muchomedia. Many of the questions we struggle with in Modern Muchomedia tripped up these guys a decade earlier.

The first Cartrivisions went on sale at eighteen Chicago area Sears stores in June 1972. "From dream to product in two years," Stanton announced at a champaign party marking the occasion. The initial catalog of black cassettes (for sale only) contained 111 titles, including Fishing with Gadabout Gaddis, Rembrandt and the Bible, Erica Wilson's Basic Crewel, and Chekhov's The Swan Song, billed (although Chekhov might have been surprised to hear it) as "the first dramatic work made expressly for cartridge television." The catalog of red cassettes (rental only) had 200 titles, including Casablanca, It Happened One Night, Red River, and Dr. Strangelove.

The Chicago newspapers ran double-spread ads... "Take a golf or tennis lesson from your favorite pro. Watch a great basketball game, a baseball game, a football game--hockey, soccer or golf. Let the greatest actors in the world tell you a story. Take a painting lesson from a master, a piano class from a virtuoso...Learn how to get thin, how to get fat, how to exercise, how to meditate. Watch the world's chefs show you how to flambe a steak."

Like many complicated gadgets down through the years, Cartrivision was described as "so easy to do, your child can operate it." But as Groucho Marx observed in Duck Soup, "A four-year-old child could understand this...Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head or tail of it." The salespeople at Sears found Cartrivision a mouthful to explain. As Hilford recalled, "They knew how to talk about furniture. They could tell you how to turn a TV set on and off. But the had never run one of these things. They hadn't been trained..."

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). Andy Warhol. 1975. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 0-15-189050-1.

I really like to eat alone. I want to start a chain of restaurants for other people who are like me called ANDYMATS- -"The Restaurant for the Lonely Person." You get your food and then you take your tray into a booth and watch television.

Hacker's Guide to Word for Windows. Woody Leonhard & Vincent Chen. 1993. Addison Wesley. 0-201-63273-X.

I don't care much for the writing in this 800+ page book, it having too much geek humor ("Ar! Ar!") for my taste, nor do I care for its subject matter, but I love its audacity. It is a listing of bugs and documentation errors in Microsoft's word processorator. Can there really be that many defects? Yup. A product (or as the nerds say, "app") includes its support materials. It all has to work. It usually doesn't. This book is for me the best explanation for why the market for paper how-to-use-your-lousy-software books is healthier than the market for books-on-disk.

Microsoft itself has trouble with the WinWord documentation. Microsoft's own product support people have to contradict the official docs. The examples don't work. Microsoft consultants keep voluminous notes because they know they can't rely on the printed documentation. Microsoft University is in a real bind because, demonstrably, the existing docs don't match reality. Field offices (the people in Los Angeles or New York, Dublin or London, Perth or Penang), already stretched thin by enormously complex products, know they can't rely on the WinWord docs to answer questions: many of them don't even try any more.

Video Democracy. Richard Hollander. 1985. Lomond Publications, Inc. 0-912338-51-2.

Will voting by television perfect democracy? Will it destroy it?

The hype about interactive cable is not new. We saw it all about 15 years ago in Warner Amex QUBE and other systems. Journalist Hollander wrote about the failure of QUBE, but is optimistic about the design of new political systems around it. He doesn't adequately explore the risks, but it is worth a look.

The video revolution promises to turn the world of the Founders on its head. Indirect democracy--or representative government--is profoundly threatened by the computer and the new media technologies. Making peace with the technology does not mean that the American democratic process has to be scrubbed. On the contrary, what the new order does is offer an opportunity for the democratic system to /evolve/ and improve. To dispel voter apathy; to jettison the perils of special interests; to involve the citizen to an extent never before believed possible are truly worthy goals. The ability to vote on public policy while snuggled under an electric blanket or munching on corn chips does not demean the system. On the contrary, the system can be enhanced and the American tradition honored.

- - -

The gold rush of interactive cable was fueled by some too- good-to-be-true numbers, although some may yet become a reality. In an article extolling buying stocks via the home computer, the New Yorker predicted that half of all households will have computers by 1993, and half of them will be interactive. Despite the enormous capital expense, two-way cable, some experts said, would sweep the country. By the end of the 1980s, they said, thirty to forty-five million homes would have two-way capability. In turn, a new industry would be born to service the interactive homes. Those who think about such things predicted that the interactive market would be worth $10 to $16 billion dollars a year by the end of its first decade.

- - -

Television will continue to be a major source of political information. Reading is not likely to make a comeback. The future difference from our present era of network dominance is that people who do not want to be informed will no longer be forced to watch nationally televised public affairs as they have been under the network-controlled system. There will no longer be a single viewing public, but many publics. They will break into groups of like-minded interest. Only a fraction of viewers will choose to watch news and public affairs shows when given scores of TV options every hour.

- - -

The core argument of this book is that local government and a direct electric democracy can serve the highest American ideals. The proposition makes sense, but the entire proposal is worthless if the cultural environment is anticommunity. Whether one is talking about representative government or direct democracy, it is axiomatic that government is only as good, just, and responsive as its citizens.

ISDN in Perspective. Fred R. Goldstein. 1992. Addison- Wesley. 0-201-50016-7.

There is plenty of misinformation out there about ISDN and digital telephony. For the straight poop, get this book. Fred knows his stuff, and he has an attitude.

The weakest parts of the book are the glossary and index. Telephone engineers are nearly as fond of acronyms as computer engineers. It is pretty tough going through the alphabet soup.

The strength of the book is in identifying the influences causing complexity in the emerging standards, including history, politics, and orneriness. Everything happens for a reason, which is not the same as saying that everything happens for a good reason. For example, the ATM payload size is 48 octets (or bytes) because the Americans had reasons for it being 64 and the French had reasons for it being 32, resulting in a "mutually unacceptable compromise."

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier. Bruce Sterling. 1992. Bantam. 0-553-08058-X.

This book is old news around these parts, but it's worth another look for its insights on technological infantile disorders and the implications of technology and design on human systems. We're all in this together.

Some people don't get along with computers. They can't read. They can't type. They just don't have it in their heads to master arcane instructions from wirebound manuals. Somewhere, the process of computerization of the populace will reach a limit. Some people--quite decent people maybe, who might have thrived in any other situation--will be left irretrievably outside the bounds. What's to be done with these people, in the bright new shiny electroworld? How will they be regarded by the mouse-whizzing masters of cyberspace? With contempt? Indifference? Fear?

- - -

As boards went, the Well was an anomaly from the beginning, and remained one. It was local to San Francisco. It was huge, with multiple phone lines and enormous files of commentary. Its complex UNIX-based software might be most charitably described as "user-opaque." It was run on a mainframe out of the rambling offices of a nonprofit cultural foundation in Sausalito. And it was crammed with fans of the Grateful Dead.

Angels. Malcolm Godwin. 1990 Simon & Schuster. 0-671-70650- 0.

But there is a far more poignant Sufi version of this story. In this, Satan is seen as the angel who loved God the most. When God created the Angels He told them to bow to no one but himself. Then he created Adam whom He considered higher than the Angels. He commanded them to bow before the new figure, forgetting his previous commandment. Satan refused, partly because he couldn't disobey the first commandment, but also because he would only bow to his Beloved God. God, who has a long record of being a hasty judge of character or motive, didn't understand Satan's dilemma and cast him from heaven. The worst pain of Hell for Satan was the absence of the Beloved. All Satan has left is the eternal echo of God's angry last words and the merest lingering trace of His passing. Hell is the terrible loneliness of separation from love.

An Introduction to General Systems Thinking. Gerald M. Weinberg. 1975 Wiley. 0-471-92563-2.

        If it had been possible to photograph the earth from
        a satellite 150 or 200 years ago, on of the
        conspicuous features of the planet would have been a
        belt of green extending 10 degrees of more north
        and south of the Equator. This green zone was the wet
        evergreen tropical forest, more commonly known as the
        tropical rain forest.

        Two centuries ago it stretched almost unbroken over
        the lowlands of the humid Topics of Central and South
        America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the islands of
        ...the tropical rain forest is one of the most
        ancient has existed continuously
        since the Cretaceous period, which ended more than 60
        million years ago.
        Today, however, the rain forest, like most other
        natural ecosystems, is rapidly changing...It is
        likely that by the end of the century very little
        will remain.

This account may be taken as typical of hundreds filling our books, journals, and newspapers. Will the change be for good or evil? Of that, we can say nothing--that is precisely the problem. The problem is not the change itself, for change is ubiquitous. Neither is the problem in the man-made origin of the change, for it is in the nature of man to change his environment. Man's reordering of the face of the globe will cease only when man himself ceases.

The ancient history of our planet is brimful of stories of those who have ceased to exist, and many of these stories carry the same plot: Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. The very source of success, when carried past a reasonable point, carries the poison of death. In man, success comes from the power that knowledge gives to alter the environment. The problem is to bring that power under control.

Crossing the Chasm. Geoffrey A. Moore. 1991. HarperBusiness. 0-88730-519-9.

Just because you can sell to the nerds doesn't necessarily mean that you can sell to everyone else (the experience of Microsoft not withstanding). This fine book explains why.

It Only Hurts When I Laugh. Stan Freberg. 1988. Times Books. 0-8129-1297-7.

I began to discover that the radio dramas that moved me most were somehow all written and directed by someone named Norman Corwin, that brilliant weaver of audio tapestries. He did for the dramatic line what Fred Allen had done for the comedy line. The perfect word, once again. The perfect sentence, flowing into another perfect sentence, designed not just to fill up a few minutes of air time, but to reach out and stop you cold, to shake your sensibilities.

Corwin performed a spectacular feat in radio, not unlike Fred Allen. He single-handedly wrote a new play each week. He cast it, rehearsed it, and directed it live over CBS. I, along with millions of other grateful listeners, including my good friend Ray Bradbury, were the recipients of this awesome creative outpouring that so influenced us. Mostly via a show called Columbia Presents Norman Corwin.

He was the most brilliant audiomagician ever to spring full blown from the brow of radio. Through his artistry, I learned that there were no limits on imagination, no restrictions when creating for the theater of the mind. He also reinforced that sense of morality instilled in me by my father, for Corwin was nothing if not sweetly moral in all of his dramas. The man played a listener like a human synthesizer, producing one shimmering emotion after another. He did this with the combined forces of an orchestra, chorus of singers, sound effects, actors, and a narrator. But mostly he did it with his writing, rich in those sweeping Corwinesque rhythms until, lying there in my living room, my young goose bumps would bang into each other like crash cymbals.

Applied Cryptography. Bruce Schneier. 1994. Wiley. 0-471- 59756-2.

As we move from disc-based media (an evolutionary dead-end) to digital networks (a future with a future), cryptography is going to be a critical part of good system design. This book is an excellent introduction to the art, practice, and attitude of cryptography.

The original Merkle-Hellman algorithm is patented in the United States and worldwide. PKP licenses the patent, along with other public-key cryptographic patents. Anyone interested in obtaining a license should contact:

        Robert B. Fougner
        Director of Licensing
        Public Key Partners
        130 B Kifer Court
        Sunnyvale, CA 94086
        Tel: (408) 735-6779

The US patent will expire on August 19, 1997.

* * *

According to the US government, cryptography is a munition. This means it is covered under the same rules as a TOW missile or an F-16. If you sell cryptography overseas without the proper export license, then you're an international arms trafficker. Unless you think time in a Federal penitentiary would look good on your resume, pay attention to the rules.

The Unicode Standard, Worldwide Character Encoding. The Unicode Consortium. 1991. Addison Wesley. 0-201-56788.

There is so much in the way of standards in this industry which is crappy and short-sighted. It is always a treat to encounter something which is not only brilliant, but does what it is supposed to. The Unicode Standard is such a standard. It is a 16-bit character set that works for everyone in the world. Just like that.

One of the signs of good design in information systems is the use of Unicode. Ask for it.

The primary goal of the Unicode project was to remedy serious problems common to most multilingual computer programs: overloading of the font mechanism when encoding characters, and use of multiple, inconsistent character codes caused by conflicting national character standards. Few national standards allowed for special purpose characters, such as proprietary or typographic characters. The ASCII character set and its extensions, although widely used and accepted as standard in most computer systems, are limited to 256 characters. ASCII is therefore inadequate in an increasingly complex global computing environment.

Every month I eagerly look forward to reading the latest issue of TV Technology. It is free to people in the biz. Its two best regular features are the Tiana Hickman lap cards and Mario ("not his real name") Orazio's "Masked Engineer" column.

What follows is a brief excerpt from his March column.

The 128-page (not counting the covers) McFarland '93 catalog contains books--good solid books, like Al Abramson's "The History of Television, 1880 to 1941," practically a day by day diary of what everyone was doing in the field anywhere in the world during that period. It's ISBN 0-89950-284-9, and it's worth every penny of its $39.95 price. I even appreciate McFarland calling it to my attention, though I can't imagine how I got on their list; maybe Frederick's of Hollywood sold 'em my name.

Anyhow, that book's at the bottom of page 78 of the catalog. At the top of the same page is "Gilligan's Island: From Creation to Syndication," by Sherwood Schwartz, 342 pages of scholarly research, complete with photographs, illustrations, appendices, and index, all for just $29.95 (ISBN 0-89950-339- X). The catalog features this review from "Rolling Stone" magazine, reprinted here in its entirety: "interesting."

For ten bucks more, you can get "Hogan's Heroes: A Comprehensive Reference to the 1965-1971 Television Comedy Series, with Cast Biographies and an Episode Guide," by Brenda Scott Royce (ISBN 0-89950-796-4).

I do not make this stuff up. You can't make this stuff up.

To order those books, or such other gems as "Television Weathercasting: A History," by Robert Henson (ISBN 0-89950- 492-2, $35), give McFarland a call in North Carolina at 910- 246-4460 (FAX -5018) or contact their U.K. distributor, Shelwing Ltd., 127 Sandgate Road, Folkestone, CT20 2BL. If I was the sort of person who bets, I'd bet that none of 'em will show up in Las Vegas, not even in NAB's own Books About Television exhibit.

That's all, folks!