Idaho

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Idaho was a multimedia authoring system I made that resembled (and eventually replaced) Hypercard at Warner New Media where I started working in 1990. It was written in THINK C (Symantec's then popular C compiler). When I joined Warner New Media (which later became Time Warner Interactive), it was run by Stan Cornyn. They had a number of educational multimedia CD-ROM products that were created in Apple's Hypercard. As their products grew increasingly more sophisticated, they were increasingly relying on plug-ins (created by consultants) to extend the capabilities of Hypercard, adding support for music playback, color, fullscreen and so on.

I created a kind of in-house "Hypercard killer" that was intended to (and did) replace it, enabling us to produce CD-ROMs that would run on both Mac and Windows machines, were more fully featured, and more simply authored. The program was originally called Hyper-Spud, but after a few weeks, I renamed it to *Idaho*, keeping the potato reference.

Idaho did not (at first) have a scripting language, like Hypercard did, instead most of the functionality was built-in, and selected via properties in dialogs and menus. It was extensible and had it's own plug-in architecture, somewhat similar to Hypercard's. My Macintosh code was used for both authoring and playback. A Windows playback engine was made by porting my code, mostly by Michael Case. Products made in Idaho included

  • Desert Storm a Time/Life collaboration about the Gulf War (this was the first Idaho project)
  • How Computers Work another Time/Life collaboration
  • Seven Days in August A documentary about the Berlin Wall to commerate its fall, which accompanied a laser disc.
  • Murmurs of Earth About the gold disc on the Voyager spacecraft.
  • Funny interactive version of the movie by Bran Ferren
  • Creation Stories Creation myths from around the world.
  • Sports Illustrated Almanac For which I also provided a bit of original music to accompany some stock footage.
  • Visions of Mars a Planetary Society archive of Science Fiction stories that was actually sent to Mars aboard a spacecraft- I developed IPTSCRAE for this project, for which I was the technical producer, working with creative director Jon Lomberg and Steve Johnson.

A few of these won some awards, but I assume you are aware that awards of this type are the result of marketing people having drunken sex, and are essentially meaningless.

Amusingly, Google has almost nothing to say about most of these products (a few of which adorn my bookshelf), despite the fact that at the time they were fairly expensive to make. The era of the lovingly produced, art-directed to the nines, "edutainment" CD-ROM was quite short (they were never particularly big sellers to begin with), and the Internet and Wikipedia has quite exploded it.

Eventually there was an in-house project to rewrite Idaho, called Arcangel. I never much liked the name Arcangel, thinking it was a bit grandiose. For the most part, I prefer giving my software creations unassuming names. Better to be called Barney and work majestically, then to be called Gabriel and work like a Barney.