Regular readers of this weblog will know that I’ve been working on Laszlo Mail for quite some time. For the most part, our focus has been licensing it to large ISPs; however, since launching it publicly on our own site, there has been huge interest from all sorts of folks who want to deploy it. I’m delighted the Laszlo has decided to offer it to anyone to download and try out. The team has put together an eval version which you can try for 30 days. For more info see the Laszlo Mail blog or the Laszlo Systems product page.

It is wonderful to see that Scott Nybakken has published the story and images from the Esther video on the web. This video was made while he was working at CoSA using technology that I helped develop. (My name at the time was Sarah Lindsley, if you were wondering why I’m not mentioned in the credits).

I have fond memories of Scott’s development of the video. The song Esther was an almost constant background music during many of the early days at CoSA. In 1990 and 91, the office was part art studio and part software lab. It was a fine thing to have space (physically and psychically) to be creative. I had a little open studio at the back of the office where I worked in charcoal in my spare time, across the room from where I worked in HyperCard, Macromind Director, and C code.

PACo was most well known when it was published with a reduced feature set as Quick PICS by Paracomp. But in the early days, you could specify palette transitions (aka ‘LUT-fades’ in the reminiscences of John Greene) and sound sync points using labels in SoundEdit. I wrote most of the transitions in PACo, although that might have been after Esther was created. All I remember are the fades and color cycling. I wish the whole video was on-line, but I’m sure that would be a bit of work. When I was first developing Shockwave, I calculated that the bandwidth of modems at the time was comparable to the throughput of CD-ROMs when we developed PACo. I always thought that Adobe should have resurrected the old code and turned it into a web player… it would have been blazingly fast. The player was small enough that a sample movie and the code to play it would it fit on a floppy (I think they were 400K then). I’m still hanging on to my old Mac that has a SCSI connector and the Syquest drive and cartridges in the garage. Some day soon I’ll have to publish my CoSA archive to the web before it succumbs to bit rot.

I watched the whole slide show this morning. Thank you Scott for putting this little piece of history together. My favorite image is this one:

A couple of conversations recently have caused me to reflect on how my normal, everyday life as a creator of software looks rather odd to people outside of the profession.

Conversation with my 7 year old after the usual attempts at getting him to actually talk about what he did at school that day, and his claims that he doesn’t remember:
me: I remember everything I did today and could tell you all about it. But I’m probably more interested in your day at school than you would be in my day at work.
him: I already know what you do at work
me: really? what do I do at work?
him: you just type on your computer all day long

Conversation with a good friend of mine (profession: folk singer)
him: did you invent anything today, Sarah?
me: Not today.
Some days I can claim to have invented stuff. In a conversation last week, I related that we finsihed up two different versions of our software on the same day.
him: I’m always interested in what exactly it is you do since it is so mysterious to me. What did you do today?
me: There are people who work with me, whose job it is to find everything that is wrong with what we make. Then they make a long list of problems. Today I went through that list and figured out when things needed to get done and assigned them to different people.

It’s my birthday today, so I suppose it is natural to reflect on what the heck I’m doing with my life.

As I get ready to leave for the office, I choose not to think of my work as incomprehensible to my friends and family. Today, I choose to think of what I do as mysterious.