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Old Newspaper Article – Cashing In On Cyberspace

This was originally shared on Mark Lyndersay’s social stream as a newspaper scan. I am reformatting it to share on my blog here. It is nice to look back at how things used to be.

Express Commentary and Analysis
Cashing in on cyberspace

THIS IS THE 20th BitDepth column and the first to appear in the main paper of Saturday’s Express. BitDepth first appeared in September 1995 as part of the Express TV guide (ETV) and from the start was posted to the ETV forum on Opus Networx, a local Bulletin Board Service.

The first 19 columns dealt with a range of computer-related topics, largely related to personal computing and Internet surfing issues. The column itself has always been transmitted digitally, seeing print only on the Express’s presses. That experience has sometimes been harrowing but it has resulted in some of the most informed and demanding responses of any column I’ve ever written.

Survey says (informal and utterly biased) that many of my readers are young adults with an above-average interest in computing and technology who understand roughly 50 percent of what goes on in the normal column. That pretty much jibes with my own experience with advances in technology. The first half comes easily. It’s the other part that takes years to get the hang of.

To avoid any more potentially self serving paragraphs, herewith are some updates on issues raised in columns past …

On January 19, Java was the hot buzz. In an attempt to speed up the handling of graphics and animation on the web Sun Microsystems seeded developers with the code for its Java system of mini applications, tiny engines that would tell a Web browser what to do on a home page.

This concept avoids downloading large files in order to see complex code and graphics by transmitting just the instructions necessary to execute your actions.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about Java. The fine print on this exceptional idea describes Java as a “C-like” language. Actually it’s even harder to master than C and will limit the practical implementation of Java to good programmers and dedicated wireheads. This is great news for the the source code business but lousy news to hundred of thousands of average folks who just want to spruce up their lil ‘ol homepage.

The Net is a self-regulating entity with an enormous capacity to fill gaps like this. So now we have another player in town, Macromedia’s Shockwave.

Macromedia is famous in the desktop publishing business for being the little Adobe that could. With several recent software acquisitions bolstering their long-time mainstay Director, they are wielding increasing clout in the publishing business. Shockwave is an extension of their best selling, cross-platform multimedia authoring packaging, Director. This software has been used for everything from business presentations to CD ROM based games and sports a powerful but reasonably accessible internal language called Lingo, which pulls sound, graphics, movie and text together into elegant and platform-independent interfaces. Simply put, Shockwave allows you to run existing and future Director presentations on the Web. For multimedia producers, this is a very big thing.

Microsoft, another favourite of this column, has just come off the dazzling highs and dropzone lows of their new operating system. Windows ’95, which proved to be an … um … difficult transition for users. Now they are busy peddling Chairman Gates’ new epistle to the masses. The Road Ahead, in which he desperately attempts to put his own spin on absolutely missing the boat with the Internet.

The world’s most influential software company is also pushing the concept of the Intranet, in which users of Word, Powerpoint and Excel will use the World Wide Web to link applications and concepts seamlessly. Sounds like more hype from the masters of OS BS, particularly since their NT server, a linchpin in this concept, lags at least a full generation behind Netscape’s server product with no signs of catch-up.

New movies attempting to cash in on cyberspace included The Net and Hackers, in which skillful digital technicians stole (or threatened to) the identities of our heroes. Powerless in the face of this skill, they reacted with intuition and studious frowns. Tell us something new, guys. This is daily life for most of us.

This column will continue to be posted to the Opus Network in the ETV forum. If you would like to receive it by mail or would ike a text file of the first 19 columns send me a message at After this transitional interruption, next week’s column continues our first two-parter on photography in the digital age.

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