A Story of Missteps From UserLand and Apple

This link is about the story of UserLand by one of the early employees. Only we users who rode that trail behind them can understand the fuller meaning.

“I still keep thinking that we lost something when we lost Frontier as a modern, updated app. It was a remarkable playground, in the best sense, and I’d still love to be able to reboot it as a modern Cocoa app (forget Windows) — because I think the internet would benefit by what people who use it come up with.

It’s inherently geeky, since it’s a developer tool. But at the same time it’s more accessible than text editor + command line + Ruby/Python/whatever. It can give more people a taste of what power on the internet is like — the power to create your own things, to re-de-centralize, to not rely on Twitter and Facebook and Apple and Microsoft and Google for everything.”

I started using Frontier in early 1992 on my Mac IIcx. I quickly started writing UserTalk Scripts to control other Mac apps that implemented Apple Events. I was chaining Mac processes on remote Macs with my Mac across dial-up lines in the United States and Europe. It was a bit like being a symphony conductor orchestrating programs to increase administrative productivity (Operations) for staff on a Board of Directors Quality Program for a global management consulting company I worked for in the 1990’s.

It was not long before I conjured up the name for what I had created, “Automatic Workflow Processing” and have used that knowledge ever since.

I think Apple missed the boat, harbor, and land itself when it didn’t acquire Userland’s Frontier technology. They already had HyperCard for rapid prototyping front-ends that communicated with Frontier. I used that combination for software solutions myself.

But the early 1990’s was a turbulent time for Apple. It had ejected Steve Jobs in 1985 and thus lost its best visionary leader. It wouldn’t recover until Apple purchased Job’s Next company and bringing him back as CEO.

Yeah, I’ve witnessed a great deal of corporate stupidity in my nearly 36 year computer technology career. I fought many battles to a loss instead of exiting hopeless corporate mindsets much sooner.

I created my first website in early 1995. I had a few different hand-created websites before I started using Frontier to build websites programmatically in 1998. I was transformed using Frontier for that work.

My Time Out of Mind website created in April 2002 still runs built on Radio Userland, a Frontier off-shoot. All 1200+ pages written, rendered, and automatically published to my server.

Not too many solutions like Frontier exists today as a package in the current level of technology. No Steve Jobs to lead into the future. Sometimes doors close and no doors open forever.

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About Don Larson

Using computer technology since June 1980.
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