Of course, as a Vietnam-era recruit, Lt. Sullivan had missed out on the glory days. Now it seemed you spent 90 percent of the time covering your ass. Except when you could break free to spend a couple of days among the NeXT cognoscenti.
Sully arrived at Seybold late, having hitched on a Navy flight into Alameda Air Station. In civilian clothes, he rode BART into The City, switched to a cab to the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, and arrived at The Stone Design 3-D Reality Party already in full swing.
Now here, thought Sullivan, was a place you could really operate. Andy Stone, celebrating the announcement of his 3-D modeling program, and John Perry Barlow, acknowledging his 45th birthday, were throwing a rave Ð spacey music, kinetic lights, virtual-reality theater, and amino-acid smart drinks. If you asked for Bob, Sullivan was told, you could relive those 50's CIA experiments.
The assortment of people was astonishing. He'd only been there a few minutes before Todd Rundgren was telling him where to buy rock'n' roll glitter suits in Tokyo. Then software god Larry Tesler was tempting him with tidbits about Apple's Dylan project. Around Keith Ohlfs's table (he had snuck in beer to the otherwise nonalcoholic event), a cluster of NeXT insiders were swapping tales.
NeXT seems to have miscalculated its conversion from original keyboards to the new ADB boards. Some installations that are not yet ready to upgrade to NeXTSTEP 3.0 are ready to buy more Turbo-class machines. Unfortunately, NeXT is all out of original keyboards and the ADB keyboards require 3.0. Unless of course, you don't mind a Portuguese keyboard. Another error last year by Theo Wegbrans, formerly of NeXT Europe, has NeXT sitting on a huge stock of Portuguese keyboards.
On the other hand, NeXT people were crowing about the steal they made by swapping software product marketing directors with Rational. There are high hopes for Brett Bachman, while Ron Lang will apparently not be missed.
Things seem to be getting testy on the ODBMS front. After endorsing Object Design as "the leaders in object storage technology" at Object World in July, Steve Jobs is quoted by competitor Versant saying, "I am pleased that Versant is the first production ODBMS available for NeXT." Foul, cries ODI. NeXT's endorsement of ObjectStore as the ODBMS of choice is part of the companies' formal agreement, ODI says.
Lots of interesting news on the customer front. The on-and-off-again J.P. Morgan deal may be back on. There are high hopes for a huge deal with Northern Telecom's operations in Seattle. And a big push is on in the pharmaceutical industry, with sales reportedly landed at Johnson & Johnson and Ciba-Geigy.
Steve's personal touch still matters. His old partner on Macintosh advertising, Jay Chiat, recently spent a few days at Steve's house. NeXT hardware may soon start showing up at Chiat/Day/Mojo's Madison Avenue offices. On the other hand, Steve was outright rude when introduced to the MIS chief from General Media, publisher of Penthouse and other sex magazines. Not his kind of customer, apparently.
Of course, Steve has been known to back down on his principles before, as illustrated by one hilarious story. A group of NeXT insiders in New York were chuckling about NeXT's success in law enforcement when the elevator they were riding in lurched to a sudden halt. After a half hour of banging and yelling, they finally climbed out and agreed not to make light of Steve's contradictions.
With that, Sullivan excused himself from the table to play around a bit with 3-D Reality, which was, after all, the occasion for the rave. Modeling solids on the screen, he could easily imagine the jocks in the Simulation Lab needing a dozen or so licenses.
On the way out, Sullivan congratulated Barlow on the evening, casually inquiring as to how Stone could afford such a blowout. "It's all those copies of DataPhile that you boys in the government bought," he said with a twinkle in his eye. You've got to pay to play, Sullivan thought, as his cab pulled away.
Weather too cold to wear your prized Lt. Sullivan T-shirt? Here's another way to impress your friends and annoy your boss: Trade your juicy insider tip for a collectible Lt. Sullivan coffee mug. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on his voice mail at 415/978-3374.