Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alice Has Unique And Perhaps Strange Legs

This reviewer likes Alice's legs: "I can see this game staying on my iPhone for quite some time" and says you will like it if you like "something unique and strange."

Alice is unique but I've never thought of her as strange. Lewis Carroll himself, now that's another matter.

Sales Risk (a.k.a. come on, Greenland!)

In the second week, I filled in a few missing pieces in Europe and Asia. Japan is still very strong; I wonder if this typical or because Japanese market is more nostalgic?

¿Porqué no hay nadie de España qui compra?

I should build the map with the countries where the iPhone is available, that might be interesting. Maybe Greenlanders just can't buy one.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dali Dali In Come Free

A friend from waaaay back, Scott Warren, just released an iPhone App that's super-loosely based on an idea I programmed back in the 70s (boy I feel old) on the Xerox Alto. The Alto from PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) was the first "personal" computer that paved the way for many products that followed.

The basic gag of the Dali Clock is morphing numbers as the seconds tick off. This is nothing by today's CGI standards, but back then I had to write the inner loop in microcode for the 74481 chip (All you script kiddies are going to have to look that one up).

When I joined Apple, I realized the 68K processor could manage the problem in assembly language (a step up) so I coded it soon after joining. It was included on the Through the Looking Glass disk (the predecessor of AliceX). Over the years people have ported the idea to unix, Palm, etc. and it has a quite a bit of history out there.

After Scott told me about his program today, I searched iTunes and discovered Scott has the second program based on this golden oldie. Burt Sloane, a guy who worked @ Apple in 1985, has also written one. Burt was famous for writing a Mac version of MazeWars (another Alto original and the first networked Mac game), and a "bug INIT", which littered your screen with crawling bugs.

Scott is famous for implementing SmallTalk outside of Xerox and for writing major portions of Visi-on, an early GUI for DOS machines. Both were technical tour-de-forces, but way ahead of their time in terms of market viability and technical feasibility. Scott also was ahead of the pack and registered his domain,, back in 1987, one of the first 100 domains ever registered. At that time, most people inside the industry had never used nor heard of email, much less DNS, or HTTP or all the things we now use daily.

Scott's is a more artistic take on the idea whereas Burt's sticks closer to the original script. Both are available on iTunes if you click their names above.

BTW, the 3rd part of the original disk can be found here -- have patience, it's building a big image file.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Top Round II

People on the boards have asked about hidden features or easter eggs in AliceX. Nothing super cool, but as the instructions say, "The Eyes Have It".

The top mentioned in the previous post had a vanity easter egg hidden in it. We thought nobody would ever discover it because in order to trigger it, you had to repeat this 5 times: spin the top, but immediately stop it after the music starts. Then on the 6th time, BY NOISE TOYS (our toy design company) would appear as the message.

On the final week before production, after extensive testing by our licensee (Hasbro), I received an ominous phone call from the project manager. It turns out, he was idly playing with the top and he happened across the egg. I thought: "F**k, we screwed up," but I immediately explained how to reveal the egg, assured him it wouldn't normally happen, and swore there was nothing else hidden in the code. (It was a 4 bit micro with an incredibly small ROM so hiding one egg was a feat to begin with). Somehow, I persuaded him and he released the code to the factory.

I've found I rarely put good eggs in 1.0 releases because it's such a slog to get it done that little energy is left for having fun. In 2.0 Newton we had a lot of time and a lot of ROM so there were dozens hidden, most famously an original Doonesbury cartoon by Trudeau. The trick there was hiding it from the team who had access to the source. Only one engineer figured it out and I swore him to secrecy to maximize the impact of revealing it. (I should do a future post on that story, it's a good one)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Speaking of Patents

That recent patent that was granted reminded of a little Patent Office hacking we did a few years ago.

Ray DuFlon and I filed a patent for a toy top we invented. The top was a "Magic Eight Ball" in that it revealed a yes/no answer when you spun it. It's hard to capture in a photo, but at 1/16th of a second, you get a legible shot -- this says SEND NO REPLY.

Late one night as we finished the patent application, we mentioned to our good friend, patent attorney, and all around great person, Robin Goldstein, that we should add a claim for an additional sensor to tell which direction the top was rotating. With that, we could reveal a different message depending on the spin direction. Of course we immediately started riffing on what hidden, satanic messages could appear when spun backwards.

Robin and I looked at each other and said why not? So there in patent #5791966 you'll find an extra claim:

16. The toy top, as claimed in claim 10, wherein said second predefined group comprises the characters "PAUL IS DEAD".

If you're too young to understand why this is funny, check wikipedia.

The Hell Freezes Over Tour

Someone I respect criticized AliceX saying 25 year old nostalgia doesn’t sell. There are a lot of 70s and 80s bands who would disagree (hi Rick Astley!). The Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is the 3rd best-selling album worldwide. I know, you’re thinking, “The Eagles. Really?” Yes, really. If nostalgia didn’t sell Frey&Henley wouldn’t do the Hell Freezes Over Tour because that’s when they claimed they would get back together again and tour. Ah, Money, Money, Money, how it changes one’s tune. So if you were young when you bought or saw the Mac and have fond memories, then buy AliceX for $1.99. Walk this Way over to iTunes and save yourself the $175 it costs to see Aerosmith.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sales by Country

I wrote a little PHP script to take an sales file from iTunes Connect and turn it into a map courtesy of Google's charting APIs

Feel free to use it with appropriate attribution.

As you can see, Japan and US account for most of the sales. ¿España, donde está?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Not Funny If I Have to Explain it

Is this Fake Steve Capps or Fake Steve Jobs? See the post re ghosting. You decide.

More reviews

It's interesting -- the easiest way to find new posts/reviews about AliceX is to look at my server logs.

Time - Alice. Remember Alice? This is an iPhone app about Alice...

MacWorld - ‘Through the Looking Glass’ game resurrected for iPhone

Touch Arcade - 'AliceX' - The Mac's First Game Comes to the iPhone

MacPlus - Le premier jeu Mac sur iPhone

iTrafik - Le premier jeu Mac désormais pour iPhone !

Brazilian MacWorld - Primeiro game para Mac chega ao iPhone - AliceX: il primo gioco Macintosh ora su iPhone

Mac Freak - Nostalgie: Alice op de iPhone

Arctic Ghetto -- AliceX

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I See Dead People

MAD and I are reviewing a whole bunch of books for names of people I’ve forgotten to send out the word about Alice. We’re scanning down the list of names in the bibliographies – she’s calling them out while we figure out whether either of us remember the person, whether the person likes me, or if I’m outside their six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Damn. I See Dead People. RIP, Jef Raskin and Douglas Adams. Adam Osborne died? Blatant plug for Andy Hertzfeld because he’s got a 3 page story about Alice (pg 104-107) in his book Revolution in the Valley and on

Everyone in the photo of Steve Capps Day on looks better than Steve Capps. I wish I still had that pirate flag; wonder how much that would fetch on ebay? I can’t wear my Vans any more because every teenager has got them and then I look like some old guy trying to recapture my youth. Steve Levy – why is there no biblio in Insanely Great?

Other books we looked at: The Macintosh Reader by Doug Clapp; Apple: The Inside Story by Jim Carlton, West of Eden by Frank Rose (one new copy for $214?); The Macintosh Way by Guy Kawasaki, Apple Confidential by Owen Linzmayer (although The Mac Bathroom Reader is more fun – how you can not love a book with a rubber duck and toilet paper on the cover?). Some others I forget because we start seeing dupes of names.
Finally, Steve Jobs, The Journey is the Reward by Jeff Young.

Is it really?


Sales in Japan are 4x US. Hmmm. Maybe I should revisit the Jam Session/Jaminator app idea.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A few reviews have trickled in

Maybe buyer #2 of the first three buyers is identified (and I heard the pirates always buy one of everything, so that may complete the set of the first 3 buyers yesterday)

Here's a nice one from perhaps customer #2

Somebody at that doesn't quite get the Fake Steve Capps joke. (Note: they changed the post a little bit after I pointed out Fakes can be real)

And I have no idea what this Japanese site says, but I hope it's positive. (Actually according to Google's translator, it says:
Lisa, Mac's Finder, Newton OS, and the man who created the JAMINATOR, Steve Capps. Internet Explorerのユーザーインタフェースにも貢献している、UIの偉人です。Internet Explorer is also contributing to the user interface, UI is a great man.

その彼が、iPhoneアプリをリリースしました。That he, iPhone apps has been released.といってもリメイクでありますが。However we have a remake. 彼が開発し、Appleから1985年にリリースされた相当に変わったチェスゲーム「 Alice〜Through the Looking Glass 」。 He developed, Apple has changed considerably from the 1985 chess game that was released in "Alice Through The Looking Glass ~". これをリメイクしたものが、「AliceX」( 公式サイトへのリンク )なのです。 This is a remake, "AliceX" (link to official site) is. 価格は230円( App Storeへのリンク )。 Price 230 yen (App Store link to).

Interesting Stats

Let's see, Through The Looking Glass was $19.95 for one 400KB diskette and a sexy package -- This included a system and finder, Dali -- the melting clock I did at Xerox in microcode, and Amazing, so probably 100K of Alice.

I'm thinking 1/10 the price ($1.99) is about right and it weighs in at 8MB.

So TTLG was $0.000049875 per byte and AliceX is $0.00000024875 per byte -- what a deal!

3 sales, 19997 to go

Actually since one was Emma, I guess I need 19998 more.

(I told myself if I sold 20K I'd consider it a worthwhile experiment. Actually if 100 people buy it and get their money's worth I'd be happy)

Monday, April 13, 2009

gBus gDownload guffaws

Just got an email from Apple that the app is ready for sale. Shit. I was going to work on a marketing plan before it hit the store (not that I know anything about marketing - JJ, call me). Should have done that. Still hasn't shown up in the store. Have to head up to SF to take ETC's BFF home. On 101 we spy a gBus. Wait, there are two of them with a dozen cars in between. The traffic at 92 needs its usual ex-lax, so it's impossible to get close enough to the busses. We're weaving in around lans and ETC is yelling, “papa, hurry up!” from the backseat as she’s desperately trying to get a connection. Traffic picks up past 3rd Ave in San Mateo and quickly gets to 70+. I have to push it a little past that to catch up and I position the car next the first bus. Still can't get a connection. We're in some google version of Cannonball Run. ETC finally convinces the iPod to connect to the gBus and excitedly announces, "It's here!"

I tell her to buy it (after the short discussion explaining why I would want to buy something I wrote. She only gets $5/wk allowance so $2 is a lot to her.

She starts downloading it, but it's 7.9MB so this isn't destined for quick success for a 12 year old. She gets enough bandwidth to post a review and says she's going to write it like a "teenager." She's got one year till she hits that.

So in the sense of fair play, yes, the first review on iTunes by Fiona Jackson is indeed biased. (However, a real unsolicited review on was nice to see)

We say gDay to the gBus and get off 101. Dad of BFF: no, I wouldn't drive like that with your kid in the car.

Apple Accepts Alice

Apple accepts Alice. I was worried about the political aspect because I'd heard a few comments that some other apps with political references weren't accepted. But it's a parody so I figured it was okay. At least that's what legal tells me. I don't know nothing about no stinkin' parodies. I didn't even know that was a reference to some movie (yes, now I know it's Blazing Saddles) until a year ago. Actually, I do know what's a parody because White & Nerdy never gets old but I like to use that line now that I know what it means.

C'mon, who couldn't love whack-a-Bush?

It's not visible at the store, guess it takes a few more minutes (hours?) to squeeze through the final tube. Nobody likes delayed gratification.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Marley and Scrooge

The ghost blogger is laughing a bit too much. I think I'm gonna write some of these entries myself. I'll be the ghost of my own ghost. I'll be Marley haunting Scrooge. Wait, is that the correct Dickens analogy? I don't think I ever read him, but I worked at Renaissance Faires. But I had cool handmade boots. My wife (let's just call her MAD) threw them out in disgust. She never really liked the Jeremiah Johnson look.

Ghost Busting

I don’t want to tweet or blog about Alice. But if Guy Kawasaki, bless his heart (and I mean that literally, he’s very religious) can have a ghost tweeter, I decided I can have a ghost blogger. The ghost sees my development of Alice so the facts are probably correct but the ghost has a tendency to exaggerate. So take it with a grain or a ton of salt. I don’t know. I didn’t write this.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Apple Ponders Alice's fate

Exactly a week after submitting it, I get the "Needs further review" email. No more no less.

Of course you want to pester them and say "why", but it's almost more fun to think about what's causing the delay.

Obama stomping all over the Bush cabinet?
The terror alert pawns (Nico's great idea)
The samples I used in the background music?
Some bug I didn't catch?
Or, are they too busying reviewing TurboFart2000?