If you think a kilobyte is the extinct ancestor of a millipede, or a SCSI (pronounced "scuzzy") interface is when you get hit up for spare change, then the Macintosh Summit Conference probably isn't for you.
But for the 200 hard-core "techies" convening next week at UC Santa Barbara, three days of drooling over the latest advances in desktop computing may prove the closest thing to perfection this side of virtual reality.
Combining lectures, demonstrations and hands-on training sessions, this "summer camp for digit heads" gives attendees a chance to immerse themselves in state-of-the-art developments in publishing, graphic design, video, interactive media, inter-computer networking and even computer-based music composition and scoring.
Computer users inquiring about the conference through its academic sponsor, UCSB Extension, are routinely warned that a considerable amount of prior computer knowledge and experience is required to keep up with the presentations.
"We're really trying to target this for high-end professionals and power users," contends conference organizer Guy Kawasaki, an independent author and columnist in the technology and business fields. "All twelve of the guest speakers are leading consultants and engineers in their respective fields--not marketing types. We want people to leave feeling like they've actually learned something--unlike most conferences."
At nearly $500 a pop for the basic enrollment fee, attendees are certainly predisposed to do just that. But why a conference targeted just for Macintosh users--traditionally a vocal and enthusiastic group--yet still a distinct minority in the personal computer market dominated by IBM and PC-clone manufacturers?
Since Apple ushered in the era of desktop publishing with the first laser printer for personal computers, said Kawasaki, "the newest technologies tend to appear first on the Macintosh, then they get rewritten for IBM-PCs, typically to run under Microsoft Corp.'s Windows. It's a pretty consistent pattern--so by focusing on new Mac capabilities we're automatically on the leading edge."
As a recent example, he points to Photoshop, a program developed by Adobe Systems, that puts sophisticated digital image manipulation in the hands of any Macintosh user. Russell Brown, a member of the original Photoshop development team, amazed previous conference audiences by creating elaborately doctored composite photographs and negatives whose alterations could not be detected.
This year, Brown will be showcasing Adobe Premiere, which gives users the same level of control over video and film, at a fraction of the cost of dedicated digital film editors.
Other presentations feature power tips and techniques for PageMaker and Quark Xpress, the page layout programs that link the Macintosh with high-end publishing and color pre-press systems. Publishing is one area in which the Macintosh, with its built-in graphical interface, actually outpaces IBM-PCs in the marketplace.
But Kawasaki believes the surprise demonstration at this year's conference will be a program called Spreadbase, the first in a new generation of data structuring tools that combines the flexibility of a database with the advanced data manipulation and computation features of a spreadsheet.
The new program eliminates many of the constraints that spreadsheets impose with their rigid structure of columns and rows on data organization, allowing much more ad-hoc analysis.
"I think this will be the most exciting session because no one is expecting something like this," Kawasaki said. "It's one of those breakthroughs that defines a whole new category of software."
It's hard for Kawasaki to keep the tone of enthusiasm out of his voice--not that he tries very hard. A self-confessed "Macintosh bigot," Kawasaki once held the title of "Software Evangelist" for Apple Computer when the company introduced the Macintosh in 1984.
In the early days, he said, "there was this wonderful new machine with no software programs to run on it." His job at Apple was to convince highly skeptical software developers to take the risk of developing products for an untested platform.
No longer connected with Apple, Kawasaki is still crusading, but his mission at the conference is to foster empowerment over technology rather than sell products. "This isn't a commercial for Apple," he says, making a careful distinction between the company and the Macintosh design concept that in many ways changed the relationship between people and computers.
Kawasaki had a good deal more to say about the virtues of the Macintosh Way, but his comments were lost when the central processor of the computer on which this article was being prepared inexplicably fried its main circuit board. My late computer was--you guessed it--a Macintosh.
* WHERE AND WHEN
The Third Annual Macintosh Summit Conference at UC Santa Barbara. Presentations and training labs held Thursday and Friday Aug. 27-28; enrollment is $490. Optional half-day training labs ($150 each) held Saturday Aug. 29. For enrollment and schedule information call 893-4143.