Some say that the iPhone has reached a plateau in its development and that the interest in Apple Watch 4 indicates how innovation and interest has shifted to other mobile platforms. While there is no arguing that Watch 4 and iPhone XS are truly wondrous products, this may be a time to re-focus on the macOS platform. The Mac had it’s first plateau with the very first Mac which was a fantastic digital word processor and then development took over for the Mac to be a revolutionary layout and ’desktop publishing’ system. After this period Mac innovation has been primarily in what some call ‘rich media’, such as photography and videography and more recently moves into VR in parallel with iOS innovations in AR and all Apple products innovation with AI under the Siri persona.
I would like to to suggest that now is an excellent time to invest in the media all computer users use on a day to day basis and which stores, transmits and expands our thoughts: The specific category of symbols we call Text.
After word processing and desktop publishing we can usher in an era of powerfully interactive text, going far beyond what spell check did in a word processor or the blue link did on the web.
We are at the very early days of digital technologies and text innovations will continue but the pace has been glacial for the last few decades. Maybe Apple can contribute to a Cambrian explosion?
the power of symbol manipulation
When presenting the keynote address at the World Library Summit in Singapore in 2002, Doug Engelbart remarked on his impression of the computer when he first came across it. This was in the era when computers were still used simply to compute, to crunch numbers. He said: “I saw that we have a tool that does not just move earth or bend steel, but we have a tool that actually can manipulate symbols and, even more importantly, portray symbols in new ways, so that we can interact with them and learn. We have a tool that radically extends our capabilities in the very area that makes us most human, and most powerful.”
Having just finished Ken Kocienda’ inspirational Creative Selection it seems clear to me that if Apple was to put substantial focus on the issue of how to exploit the potential of interactive text there could be substantial benefits for everyone who reads and writes as part of their work, and the potential for a renaissance for the macOS platform in concert with further development of systems for the visual arts.
deeper literacy for more advanced users
A starting point to reflect on this can be the difference between what opportunities there are to become an expert in a spreadsheet application and a word processor application. At this point the potential for a deeper literacy in the spreadsheet is significantly richer than that in a word processor. Users who came to the Macintosh platform as complete computer novices in the 80s and 90s are now whizes at spreadsheets, social media and social photography. Whereas a keyboard shortcut was a ‘power user’ feature on the being Mac’s, it is now the bare minimum to be productive.
I have been working on this in my very small and amateurish way since the 90s, with some significant dialogue with Doug Engelbart and other pioneers on this and I’d like to contribute them to the discussion. I am not writing this to sell but I feel these words would be quite empty if I had not backed them up with specific and concrete demonstrations, to use the language from Ken’s book (2018).
money . same location as mouth
My macOS product Liquid | Flow allows a user to perform instant operations on any text within half a second. It is a direct descendant of an aspect of Doug Engelbart’s Augment and has received very favourable reviews but it is something people don’t ‘get’ without trying it so I have not been able to market it effective. Please have a look at the demonstration at www.liquid.info/liquid.html
My other macOS product is called Liquid | Author (the name of my philosophy and company is ‘Liquid Information’) which you can also see a demonstration of on www.liquid.info One unique features worth highlighting in this context is that is provides the quickest and easiest way to make and check citations. I’ll highlight some aspects of citations below. The other differences is how it handles a table of contents/outline by letting the user pinch to collapse to only see headings, rather than having the table of contents in a separate view, creating more of a feeling for the document being a tangible thing. Finally, there are many other differences, such as how the cmd-f command works. Please have a look at the demo video.
Citations are not only a chore from high school, they are a core strand of what makes academic discourse work, and you can quote me on this. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that the lack of clear citation systems is a major reason for the proliferation of propaganda on social media which gives power to the defence of undesired news as being ‘fake news’.
I have written a brief blog post on citations as part of the introduction for a session on Symbol Manipulation for the 50th Anniversary of Doug Engelbart’s seminal demo, which would ask you to please have a look at: https://jrnl.global/2018/09/17/draft-symbol-manipulation-session-intro-pointing/
What I am specifically proposing is for Apple to support truly open textual environments with a focus on how text can be connected to other text and how such connections can be viewed and followed. That’s it. This can provide a real breakthrough for citations and for how we view and interact with our knowledge and I can think of nowhere more suited to this than Apple.