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Posting submitted to Geocities SiliconValley News Website (24/25 October, 1997)

Hi Calla,

Here is my article, as suggested earlier this week. Let me know what you think of it. You did suggest it be a short article, so if this draft is too long, then I give you permission to strip it down to its barest essentials! Here it is....


Hands up those of you who have tried to transfer a file from one machine to another, and found it doesn't look the same as before, or worser still, does not work at all?

I may not be able to count you, but I cannot fail to notice in most computer journals, at least one article each month, expressing concern at these very problems. In multimedia design, these problems are ever more apparent. Companies that produce double format CD-ROMS for the PC and Macintosh, use a large amount of their development time and budget to ensure their product works seemlessly on all platforms. This also results in a CD-ROM containing various bits and pieces to install on your machine, before being able to run the software.

Even the supposedly platform-independent World Wide Web, is now becoming segregated. To access a website, only to be told to download the latest edition of Netscape, Explorer or a certain plug-in is something that really needs to be addressed. The introduction of Java is a huge leap forward towards platform independence, now being threatened by Microsoft, as the current lawsuit being filed by Sun Microsystems against them now testifies.

By right, all multimedia should be platform independent, and this is a statement that I will attempt to justify in an academic design report I am currently researching as part of my final year coursework at Staffordshire University, which is based in the city of Stoke on Trent, England.

I am on a three year Bachelor of Arts degree in multimedia graphics. For the past two years much of my work has been authored using a combination of Macintosh and PC software, but also a platform new to much of the world, yet has been around for ten years in the UK, Germany, Japan, and Australasia - the Acorn Risc OS platform.

The Acorn platform is less adept at cross-platform transfer, because it is the less numerous of the three platforms, despite its power and ease of use being on a par with the other machines. Currently though, the platforms are rather temperamental to cross-platform authoring.

Different technologies, differently programmed versions of the same software for the PC and Mac, and different methods of file and data representation all conspire against the multimedia developer, who must rely on expert knowledge to overcome the hurdles. Industry standards have become archaic, instead of becoming something that should be of little consideration to anyone using computers, and wishes to move work from onedifferent machine to another. It makes the whole business of multimedia authoring a confusing one, and it is the responsibility of the author or developer company to plan ahead, and be aware of such pitfalls and inconsistencies.

As part of my research, I have set up an online questionnaire at my website at [address]. I invite anyone involved in the industry to fill in the questionnaire, and hence give me an idea of what your opinions are on the whole business of cross-platform authoring.

I speak from personal experience of what can happen with cross-platform multimedia. I put together a triple-format cover CD-ROM for a UK based Acorn magazine, using Hyperstudio, whose Acorn version is produced by a UK company under contract from the original American publishers. Unfortunately, only the Acorn side of the interface will work. The Mac and PC interfaces which I had translated from the Acorn version failed for various technical reasons, which all blew up in my face towards the end.

For those just starting out in the profession, cross platform issues are a rather daunting and difficult prospect. Personally, I hope that the introduction of Java based software and the network computer, will help to create a new medium which everyone can use, regardless of what technology they have. What do you think?


I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks,

Steve

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