Saturday, November 3, 2007

New Mac system

The much-awaited new version of the Macintosh operating system, known as Leopard, became available a week ago, but I had to wait for a few days to receive my copy by special delivery from Grenoble to my house at Gamone. I had no problems in installing the new system on both my iMac and my MacBook.

Before upgrading to the new system, I spent a fair amount of time cleaning up my machines and testing them in every imaginable way, and I even added a big chunk of memory to the iMac. A minor surprise of a negative nature is the impossibility of using obsolescent software applications from the era preceding Mac OS X. Often, as the old saying goes, we don't miss something until it's no longer there. For me, in a Macintosh context, the thing that's no longer there is a splendid word processor named FrameMaker. I used this writing tool for years, up until Adobe suddenly decided—for reasons that most Mac aficionados never understood, let alone appreciated—that they no longer wished to support the Mac version of this product. My computer still houses all kinds of FrameMaker fragments, alongside loads of texts that I've translated from their original FrameMaker implementation into either Pages or Indesign. Whenever I wished to read a particular fragment, I could always open it with my version of FrameMaker that ran on the ancient Mac system. Well, since upgrading to Leopard, I'm no longer capable of opening and reading any of these old FrameMaker fragments... and this impossibility frustrates me a little from time to time. What it means is that I can henceforth only extract their essential raw content by means of a text tool such as TextEdit.

Talking about word processing, I'm amazed when I look back at this book, entitled Videotex in Europe, that I co-edited for the European Commission—in liaison with an employee, Carlo Vernimb—back in 1979: that's to say, before the start of the personal computing era. To produce the typescript of this document, I used a word-processing system that I had designed and implemented in Basic on a small IBM computer. Since the machine did not incorporate a display screen, the only way of materializing a man-machine dialogue consisted of using the keyboard and printer. Consequently, my word-processing system—called IRMA [Intelligent Rewriting Machine for Authors]—used extra wide sheets of paper. Communications between the author and the machine appeared on the left-hand side of the paper, and the final document was printed on the right-and side. This was an exceptionally clumsy approach to word processing, but my IRMA enabled me to produce this important document on the subject of videotex [a primitive ancestor of the Internet] for the European Commission. Today, admiring the Leopard system on my Mac, I realize that we've come a long way since then.

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