Daniel Eran Dilger
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Video Presentation: A Software Platform History of Apple, NeXT, Microsoft, and into the Future.

ACD Daniel Eran Dilger
Daniel Eran Dilger
This weekend I was invited to Texas to attend the monthly meeting of Apple Corp Dallas, the oldest user group in existence devoted to Apple products. It was fun to travel and the prospect of speaking in front of a large group was exciting, but while the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak.


I’d spent the previous week staying up late every night to cover all the events at the Apple campus, from the shareholder meeting I attended to the iPhone SDK event that I watched at home. There was a lot to write about, and of course there’s even more now that the usual suspects have latched onto their chosen jingo talking point criticisms.

However, I’m discovering that this frail shell of a body that has worked so hard to keep my brain oxygenated over the years–despite some pretty rough and often self inflicted treatment–is not so resilient as it used to be. I’m getting old, a fact I try to ignore every time I get up and find a disheveled, aging guy with sprouts of grey in his beard and a fairly pained expression looking back at me from the other side of the mirror. The younger guy who used to be there wasn’t the most fetching devil, but he sure was more pleasant in the mornings.

In addition to the usual wear and tear, I’m also finding that I can’t stay up till 4 AM anymore, banging out a spirited opinion about some technology subject that has caught my fancy or ruffled my feathers enough to provoke a response. I apparently also can’t really handle five flight segments within the same weekend.

Getting There is Half the Fun.
Confused by a code sharing agreement between United and US Air, I managed to just miss my scheduled flight through Las Vegas, but not before waiting in SFO Terminal 1 forever only to be told I really needed to be at Terminal 3, and then subsequently informed that the checkin at Terminal 3 was no longer possible, and that I’d need to go back across the airport to try to find an alternative flight, of which there were none available.

I pulled out my iPhone to try to look up some options before committing to another long Friday rush line, only to find that AT&T WIFI isn’t offered at SFO, nor at the airport’s subsequently worthless McDonald’s kiosks. EDGE worked fairly well for a while, only to ease in and out like a Dish TV movie during a hurricane.

I somehow managed to find a last minute flight on Southwest, and crammed into a plane that bounced from LAX to Albuquerque before landing at Dallas Love, which is so very central to Dallas that it feels like you might be able to reach out and slap the downtown towers if only the windows could be rolled down.

By the time I got to Dallas, I was pretty exhausted, but decided to stay up on Pacific Time finishing my slides in Keynote. I then managed to wake up automatically well in advance, first in a nightmare where I awoke in a panic that I’d overslept, then for real, giving me a couple sleepless hours to contemplate why I was dreaming about waking up, how I’d do, and whether I should stop pretending to sleep and go jump in the pool. But I’m getting old, so I chose to lay there and worry.

Without giving myself much sleep I was already feeling pretty harsh. To really accelerate things, I brewed up two cups of coffee to whip my poor body into an improved morale, and then unloaded a Coke Zero down the hatch afterward just to make sure that I wasn’t being subtle about my productivity demands. Of course, how you treat your body is an engineering exercise; if you demand high speed at low cost, one can expect to find some serious compromises in terms of quality.

Caught on Tape.
Dru Richman of the Apple Corp group picked me up and took me to the venue in the morning, and I got to talk to a group of roughly 70 members. I could feel myself getting sicker with every slide, but pulled through with an occasional sniff or cough through my prepared ideas and into a great question and answer session which later reprised for a few more questions.

I hadn’t anticipated the session would be taped, but I decided it would be cool to see what I look like when I get part way between presenting from notes and extemporaneously running off on tangents. I get started at around two minutes into the video hosted on Google, and continue on for another hour talking about the history of Apple, its successes and failures with the Apple II, the Apple III, the Lisa, the Mac, the iPod, and the iPhone, and how critically important it turned out to be for hardware makers to manage their own destiny by ensuring software would exist for their platform.

Of course, I also wove in the history of Microsoft and NeXT, and ended up with what I though was a clever observation about the iPhone and Apple’s licensing of ActiveSync for use with Exchange Server. I also answered some questions about DRM, .Mac, WebObjects, and the differences between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Fresh From Cupertino, Daniel Eran Dilger Does Dallas

And Now a Warning.
Like all things dangerous, I feel like I should preface the video with a notice that I had about four hours of sleep, three hits of caffeine, two bumpy flights, and some jet lag from crossing the country.

Ed Waldrup, the photographer, also frequently zoomed in on my head to degrees that even a dermatologist probably wouldn’t need, but if there are any doctors in the house, please let me know if I have any visible skin cancer and I’ll get it checked out right away. Like most regular schlumps, I look much better from a distance or when beers are involved. And despite living in San Francisco, I have no particular expertise in either makeup or lighting.

The contrast between the projector screen and the room was also different enough to make it hard to see some of the slides, so I converted it into a silent QuickTime movie you can manually walk through if you are so inclined.

The Road Home.
After being treated to Texas BBQ and a whirlwind tour of Dallas from Dru, I caught my flight home, only making one stop in Las Vegas. By then, I was edging closer to the red zone. At one point, I though my left ear was going to explode, and the only solace I could draw came from having a rental movie on my iPhone and from observing my first Zune in the wild: a black brick from 2006. They do exist! It may have been the Zune Tattoo guy, but I didn’t get the chance to engage him in conversation, so I’ll never know for sure.

The second leg was nearly as arduous as the first. I was ecstatic to find myself on the ground again, but things were complicated slightly by the fact that my new bike has a special key mode where you can take the key out and leave your parking lights burning. This seems about as necessary as a self destruct button. An SFO parking garage is also not the most brilliant place to learn of this feature. I ended up having to stumble home on a combination of BART and Muni and a walk up the hill because I was too cheap to throw down $50 for a cab.

Over the last two days, I’ve been in racked with pain and alternatively burning up and freezing (sometimes both at once, which just seems unnecessary), with ears that have remained plugged for days and a sharp headache much wider than hand gesture in the old Excedrin commercials. If my brain pulls through, I have a gaggle of stories ready to get out about the iPhone SDK, Singularity, ActiveSync, Java on the iPhone, and various other subjects. For now, the best I can do is posting a sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever, wish I could rest article with an embedded link to the http://www.ACD.us video.

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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  • the_snitch

    Ah, so you did attend the shareholder meeting. I thought that was Prince? ;-)

  • Jon T

    I wondered how many of the group caught your bug?!

    Who said Macs were virus free..!

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    I’ll have to leave RDM: Live from Dallas for a cosy spot in the evening since it sounds such an epic. But I simply must comment right away and wish you a speedy recovery. That Singularity missive sounds unmissable.

  • Baroosk

    Dan,
    Give the birds back their flu & get well soon. We all miss your insights.

    Don’t feel so bad about the “special mode” on your bike. Up here in Alaska we have to warm up our car interiors when it’s -40º below. A lot of cars auto-lock their doors. As a result a lot of people get locked out of their cars as they warm up.

    I figger it’s a Microsquish “feature-bug”.

    From North Pole, AK

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    The Apple Corps in Dallas is not the oldest Apple user group. That honor goes to the San Diego Mac User Group.

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    Talk about being old, I had a DOH! minute, realizing the Apple Corps probably was around BEFORE Macs! My bad…

  • UrbanBard

    We Humans don’t start to grow up until we give up the vanities of youth-the belief that we are immortal-that we can be expected to be perfect.

    So, you need not defend your appearance. We will forgive you for being human– for being frail at times. Better get used to the idea. If you keep abusing your body, more frailty will follow.

    Unfortunately, America has a Youth Culture. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” was the saying during the 1960’s. But most people don’t learn how to think or reason before they are over thirty; they are still caught up in the tribal imparitives.

    I want to be empathetic, but we’ve all been there if we survive long enough. Learn from the experience, Daniel, and adapt. What else are you going to do?

    As the old T-Shirt slogan says, “If I had known I’d live this long, I would have taken better care of my body.”

  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    Danny, dude, you’re gonna be what, 33 or 34 in June? I’m kicking the big FOUR-OH a few days earlier. Caffeine and crunches, lots and lots of crunches, are my secret. I don’t feel a day over 38.

  • Michael

    You don’t look that bad…. although the projector screen does make everything else look dark… and besides you don’t need to look like a James Bond or anything just to go to a Apple event and/or be filmed… there are plenty of celebrities that do much worse than you, daniel.

  • sebastianlewis

    Oh come on now, you’re not old! You’re not obsolete until you’re over 65 and you’re not old till you’re dead, so unless you dropped off the planet between the time you published this and the time I’m writing this, you’re not old.

    Sebastian

  • http://thesmallwave.com treestman

    Traveling while sick is a horrid experience. The worst-case scenario is having to recuperate in a hotel room because you’re too sick to even travel back home. This kind of crap, among many other things, is why I got off the road many years ago.

    As for getting old, by my reckoning you’re still a lot younger than I am, so you’ll get no sympathy there. You can’t go back, so all you can do is decide that continuing to move forward isn’t so bad after all. Or, like the old joke, growing old beats the alternative.

  • gus2000

    Mr. apple, you are but a few months my junior, but they say 40 is the new 30.

    I’ve flown only twice when nasally congested, and the first time I was begging God to kill me mid-flight. The second time, I took enough antihistamine beforehand to kill myself without any divine intervention.

    Rest up Daniel Eran, but know this: you are still a more insightful and prolific writer when half-dead than most of us are when perfectly healthy. And when I’m sick, most of my writings come across something like “goo goo goo, ga ga ga”.

  • PerGrenerfors

    A month ago I flew from Sweden to Egypt and I had the worst flu I’ve had for years. My ears had me praying for a quick and easy death during the entire flight. I couldn’t sleep on my left side for a long time following the that flight. Then there was this whole meeting family and friends, trying to have a good time while having a fever. Knowing how hard even the most trivial things become when you’re in that state I still think your speech was great.

    I’m looking forward to your Active Sync story.

  • jfatz

    I know you’re kind of sick and all, but it seems like you kind of need to train yourself not to kind of say “kind of” quite so much. ;-)

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    @sebastianlewis: “Oh come on now, you’re not old! You’re not obsolete until you’re over 65…”

    Hey Mr. Lewis – I resemble that remark…I’ll be 66 in a couple of months and I’m still going, uh, erm, well, maybe “strong” isn’t quite the word but I certainly don’t feel obsolete yet.

    @daniel: Get well soon my friend. I wouldn’t wish all that pain on anyone.

  • dicklacara

    @Tod

    … Guess that makes me the Old(est) Fart in the forum at 68.

    Age is in your mind… not on your calendar!

    I’m still sharp as a…. er, ah, what was I talking about?

  • sebastianlewis

    Tod, sorry, don’t mean for anyone to take offense at that comment, just making a point that you’re not old till you’re dead.

    Sebastian

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    @sebastian,

    No offense taken. Please don’t take anything I write here as anything but light-hearted commentary.

    @dicklacara,

    Let’s not get into age wars, here! I’m just glad to be on the top side of the grass and still an Apple fan.

    Regarding C+, I do recall Lucy as well as Larry Byrum, Ann Jolley, and another lady who worked the front desk. Oh, and there was a guy named Jim. I was always interested in databases so I could catalog all my books and LPs and handle a 2000 person mail label database. You sold me Barney Stone’s DB Master as well as something called TDM. All ancient. All worked back in the day. And look what we have now: Bento, all manner of book/music/game cataloggers.

    Where are you calling home these days? I’m in Palo Alto but only until June when we move out of state.

    If you want to take this out of the comments section, click my name, which will take you to my website. Click on the “contact us” menu item on the left, then click on the “feedback” link on that page to send me an email.

    -Tod

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Well … Daniel did a better job than my old PowerBook did of playing the video. A bit jittery both … but at least his fan didn’t start whirring.

    The question about Bill Gates and Microsoft’s lack of direction right at the end was the best part. Good improv answer. Microsoft don’t really understand why Apple are on the up at all, so keep on trying their old play book. Tablet computing is a particularly sharp example now that the iPod/touch are going to become precisely that for those who want them come June.

  • systembug

    Nice presentation and sorry about the cold. Shame it’s on flash, though. I first thought it was about giving your zoon award winners no excuse not being able to watch it, but since ACD themself put it on google video, i guess it’s all about bandwith. Get well soon, and I’m really looking foward to your analyses of the SDK, singularity and the other stuff.

  • WholesaleMagic

    Great video, apart from the terrible cameraman. He should have kept his fingers away from the zoom buttons.

    Oh, and I didn’t realise how much you look like Bill Murray. Sort of. No insult intended.

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  • dicklacara

    Had some interruptions, but finally made it through the video.

    I was a close observer of Apple between 1978-1989 with personal & business relationships at several levels: my 1st computer was an Apple ][; we were an Apple Dealer; Apple was a Customer of ours– 3rd party software, hardware, LANs, etc.; we were a partner with Apple developing a point-of-sale (POS) system for Apple Dealers running on Apple hardware.

    Apart from pronunciation of a few names, the events that Dan portrayed are surprisingly accurate and cogent (for one so young). At least those events that were known to the public (including me).

    In the mid 80’s, an Apple middle manager (to remain unnamed) told me the following inside joke:

    “What’s the difference between Apple and the Boy Scouts…

    …One of them has adult leadership”.

    or later, what are the top 3 best things SJ ever did for Apple:

    “co-founding, leaving, returning… …you pick the order!”

    As to Apple and SJ being farseeing or just lucky… This can be illustrated by many things, but here is one that is current. Apple/SJ had:

    1) the openness to recognize a compelling new technology that was NIH, Not Invented Here (inside Apple)
    2) the prescience to see its potential
    3) the flexibility to buy the technology, rather than re-invent it
    4) the focus and discipline to just do it– apply this technology to build a practical, real-world product in a very short period of time
    5)the audacity to ruffle some feathers and set a new path

    The technology is MultiTouch; the company is FingerWorks; the product is the iPhone; and the prescience/focus/audacity is SJ!

    Luck… Nah! Serendipity… maybe, to some extent… but Apple/SJ have created the environment where “Serendipity happens” with surprising frequency!

  • dicklacara

    @Tod

    Attempted to take this direct, but couldn’t find a Feedback link on your Contact Us page…

    Strange/wonderful, how you, a customer, knew, and still remember the names of the people who waited on you.

    That is exactly the environment we set out to create.

    Our sales people were not on commission, we were solution-oriented, we were expensive (sold as close to retail as possible), but provided before, during, after support to our customers.

    All our employees “sold” and would work the counter, handle any customer’s problem (even when sold by another salesman).

    So, while, the person behind the counter could have been anyone… it was probably Pat (whiskey voice).

    A bittersweet occurrence, was when an employee left our company… over 50% left to work for Apple:)

    Fun Times!

    I now live in Antioch CA (near Concord). You can email me at:

    dicklacara@mac.com

  • roberto

    hey daniel just wanted to say what a great talk

    – loved the intro too (even thou drew didn’t know you surname or URL!)

    how did you do your presentation?
    – i really like the way your images pop out ; )

    finally, amateur video can make one look, err, ‘raw’ but you could give yourself a fighting chance by editing the thumbnail!

    ciao for now

  • http://marioav.blogspot.com marioav

    It is me, or Dru Richman really looks unbelievably like Brian Wilson?