David G. Wiseman

Douglas Adams' Guide to the Macintosh

Date: Tue, 25 Feb 92 10:06:02 -0500
From: alec@ftp.com
Subject: Guide to the Macintosh (Douglas Adams)

As the author of the four books of the Hitchhikers Guide to the
Galaxy trilogy, and the perpetrator of two infocom text adventures
(Hitchhiker's and Bureaucracy), Douglas Adams needs no introduction.

MacUser, "The Macintosh Resource", September 1987


                          Douglas Adams'

                      Guide to the Macintosh
 
WE ARE NOT EXACTLY SURE WHAT WE'VE GOT HERE - PERHAPS WE ASKED THE
WRONG QUESTION - BUT WE THINK YOU'RE GOING TO LIKE THIS.
 

   There's a joke i remember that went around my school playground
(this was  a while  ago, sometime  during the  long dark ages that
stretched from  the emergence of Australopithecus on the plains of
East Africa,  to the  release of  "A Hard  Day's Night") that went
like this:

   A man was giving a lecture on sexual techniques. There were, he
said, eleven  basic positions for sexual intercourse. "Two hundred
and ninety  seven!" interrupted  a voice from the back. "The first
of these  eleven basic  positions -,"  continued the speaker. "Two
hundred and  ninety seven,"  shouted the  heckler again. "- is the
one in which the man lies on top of the woman."

   "Oh," said the heckler, momentarily flummoxed, "two hundred and
ninety eight!"

   I mention  this for a reason [good - Ed.], which is that I want
to contrast  for a  moment the number of features on two different
word processors.  One of them is Microsoft Word 3.0, billed as the
most  comprehensive  word  processor  yet  -  powerful,  flexible,
configurable to  the demands  of any professional writing task, it
takes 600  pages of  manual just  to  describe  all  its  features
(twice, admittedly).

   The other  word processor is miniWRITER, a desk accessory which
only has about two features, one of which Word 3.0 hasn't got. And
it's not  a negligible  feature either. As a professional novelist
and occasional desktop publisher it's the first thing I looked for
after I'd  torn off  the shrink  wrap, and  I discovered it wasn't
there, I cursed and swore, went out for a sullen lunch and shouted
at the barman.

   "Something  wrong,   sir?"  he  said.  "Oh,  nothing,"  I  said
gloomily. "It's just the new version of Microsoft Word."

   "Ah," he  said, wiping  a glass sympathetically, "I expect it's
the manual that'll be getting you down then, sir. I always tell my
customers, 'there's  nothing in life so difficult that a Microsoft
manual can't  make it  completely  incomprehensible.'  One  of  my
regulars -  chap called Fred, perhaps you know him, little wizened
grey-haired fellow, about thirtyish - told me he'd been using Word
1.05 for  two years before he discovered that you could search for
carriage returns  and tabs  after  all.  He  just  thought  they'd
omitted it  out of  spite. But no, it was in there alright. It was
even in  the manual. Just not so as you could find it, that's all.
It was  his brother Jim as discovered it. He was doing three month
solitary at  the time. 'At least  give me  something  to  read,'he
pleaded with the warders."

   "Heartless brutes,  they gave  him a  Microsoft Word manual. He
was a  broken man at the end of it, but he did know which page the
Special Characters search routines were on, as there's not many as
can say that. It's an ill wind."

   "No," I sighed, "it's not just the manual."

   He narrowed  his eyes  apprehensively. "My  God," he  breathed,
"don't  say   they  left  out  the  word  count  again...  Oh  the
senselessness of it all!"

   "It's not  even the  word count,"   I  said, "though  God knows
that's bad enough."

   "Six of  my regulars  are journalists,"  muttered  the  barman,
pulling a  pint savagely,  "I don't know how they're going to take
it. I  just don't  know it  at all. It's the families I feel sorry
for. The  ones that  have to live with them at the end of the day.
Tragic it is , sir, tragic."

   "Well, just  think  how  I  feel,"  I  said.  "I'm  ...  I'm  a
novelist."

   The barman  frowned, not  understanding. "A  novelist, eh?"  he
said. He  held the  bank note I'd paid for my drink with up to the
light.

   "Yes," I said. "I write a lot of dialogue."

   "Go on, sir," he said.

   "Well just  think about  it," I said. "Supposing I was going to
write down  everything we  had said  so far  in dialogue form, and
introduce it all with a joke..."

   "What joke?" he said. I told him. He winced.

   "Can you see the problem I'd have?" I asked.

   "Yes, sir. I'd cut the joke," he said.

   "No!" I said. "Well maybe. But that's not the point. Think man!
Think of all those quotation marks!"

   The barman frowned, still not understanding.

   "Left quotaion  marks and  right quotation  marks," I insisted.
"Remember how you get them?"

   "Well, yes...."  He frowned  in concentration.  "It's something
like -  left double  quote is  Option Left  Square Bracket,  right
double quote is, er, let me see, Shift Option Left Square Bracket,
or Option  Left Curly  Bracket if you prefer, and then left single
quote is Option Right Square Bracket and - er, where was I? It's a
bit complicated to remember..."

   "Exactly!" I  said.  "And  that is something that I have had to
stop and work out eighty times so far just on this article! That's
considerably more often than the letter 'g'. Eighty-two now."

   "Well, yes,"  said  the  barman,  "but  it's  only  profesional
writers who  are going  to be  bothered about  putting  in  proper
quotes isn't  it? Only  people who  write novels,  or  do  desktop
publishing or  typesetting or  prepare camera-ready  copy, or just
generally care   about  what  their  printing  looks  like..."  He
paused. "My  God," he  breathed, "I'm  beginning to  see what  you
mean..."

   "Ninety," I said.

   "But listen," said the barman, urgently, "all you have to do is
to type  in the  generic quotes  and then  do a  quick search  and
replace routine  at the  end of  the day.  Well, four  search  and
replace routines.  A quote  mark that  follows any character other
than a  space or  a single  or double  quote mark,  or of course a
single or double left or right quote mark..."

   He looked  aghast. "Isn't  there some  other line  of work  you
could try?"  he said.  "I  hear  you  were  once  a  chicken  shed
cleaner..."

   "Believe me, I've been tempted," I said. "We're up to a hundred
and two  now, by  the way.  No, the  answer should be very simple.
Just put  in a  routine that  converts quotes as you type. It just
looks at the context and does it automatically."

   "But that  would be  insanely complicated,"  said  the  barman,
"just think  of the amount of code..." He broke out in a sweat and
took a soothing pull at his beer.

   "About twelve  lines," I  said. "MiniWRITER does it, and that's
just a  desk accessory. So one way of getting round the problem is
to do  all your writing in miniWRITER and then paste it into Word.
Makes some  kind of  sense doesn't  it? Or  of course  you can use
Laser Author  version 2.00,  which also features SmartQuotes. It's
very easy to implement."

   "Then landsakes," exclaimed the barman, banging his fist on the
bar, "why haven't Microsoft put SmartQuotes into Word 3.0?"

   "Why is  there pain  and misery  in the world?" I said, "Why is
the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why didn't Microsoft even put in a
word count? These things are unknowable."

   "You, sir, are a philosopher," said the barman. "You have to be
in this business," I said and left.

   That evening  I was  back. "I  wrote it  in Laser Author in the
end," I  said, taking  a hefty  swig of Perrier, "One thousand two
hundred and  seven  words.  One  hundred  and  twenty-eight  quote
marks."

------- End of Forwarded Message

Ha, ha, ha. Take me back to [ the alphabetic list ] [ the date-ordered list ].