What Our Beta Testers Think

This exchange took place on our beta testers' forum just after version 4.0 was announced ready for release. The exchange has been slightly edited, to remove email names, and to remove a discussion of the features desired for version 4.1.

Every software developer depends on its beta testers to test the software on a wide variety of hardware and in circumstances unforeseen by the developers. We, however, have been blessed by a dedicated group of beta testers who feel passionately about our products and have contributed greatly to bringing you stable products with the features you need. Our thanks go out to all of them. Well done!

Topic: A look back (1 of 10), Read 48 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: Jonathan Lewin
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2001 06:48 PM

It's been 8 years.

The SWP/SW/SNB/SV family of products have been in the pipeline for even longer than that; at least two years longer; long enough to predate the dynasty of Microsoft Windows.

I bought a copy of OS/2 back then in order to be ready for the first samples of an exciting new product that was eventually to replace T3 . By the time I got those samples, Windows was gaining ground and the product was written for Windows. For a while I became the consultant for those who wanted to use SW with OS/2; till finally, OS/2 couldn't support it any more. That's when I bought NT.

In 1993 (approximately) I received Version 1.0A of Scientific Word. I have to say that my heart sank when I started working with it. It crashed a lot, couldn't do much, gave me very little control of what I was producing and didn't produce what I needed, didn't contain a computing engine, even though I had expected one. George had told me that a computing engine was in the list of promised features.

Well, 1.0A was really an alpha test build and, by the time 1.0F came out it had stopped crashing. But my heart was still down among the wines and spirits. I found the idea of the new product very interesting but had no intention of switching from T3 for my own work.

I worried at the large number of terrific features that T3 had that SW did not. I expressed my anxiety to Roger (Hunter) and he reassured me by telling me that there was every intention down the road to provide SW with all of the features I loved so much in T3 .

Here we are a decade later. I look at Version 4 and I realise that Roger's promise was an understatement. He promised a donkey and you have provided a Rolls Royce.

My imagination could never have pictured the product that exists today and its many powerful features. It's hard for me now to imagine that the wonderful products in my hands stemmed from the humble roots of Version 1.0A. As I look at the products today I am stunned over and over again at what they provide.

My only sadness now is that there had to be many people a decade ago who looked at the original primitive beginnings of these products and rejected them. We need to get these people back. We need to get them to give us a second look.

Well done all of you. I'm honoured to be associated with your achievements and am grateful for what they have done for me in my own work environment.

To Barry and Lynda: You did a great thing when you rescued the line of products by lifting them out of the ashes of their association with ITP. It is my fondest wish that your investment will come back to you a hundred fold.

Jonathan Lewin

Topic: A look back (2 of 10), Read 41 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: John Gresham, Ranger College
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2001 08:56 PM

I wish to associate myself Jonathan's remarks.

My experience with Scientific Notebook is much less than Jonathan's--I first encountered SN 3.0 build 844 at a workshop in July 1997 and I met Roger, Barry, and others at ICTCM in Nov 98.

Just recently at ICTCM 2001 there were a number of computer minicourses on various topics. The one Mickey Sargent and I did on the html export feature of SN 4.0 had the largest enrollment of any workshop, and second place wasn't close. The room was packed, with two people on each computer, and the conference organizers had to turn others away. All the participants were very impressed with this new capability.

Congratulations to all of the MacKichan team for their hard work in continuing to develop this excellent product.

John Gresham

Topic: A look back (3 of 10), Read 42 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: Gary Helmer, Mohawk College
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2001 05:44 AM

I too wish to echo Jonathan and John's sentiments. The evolution has been very fruitful - Version 4 is "there"... and hopefully the evolution will continue.

Years ago I became a self-appointed promoter of T3 . It quickly became the standard in our department, for all word processing.

Windows forced changes and I too was disappointed with SW1. Dare I say I flirted with Derive for awhile? But then the first version of Scientific Notebook put me on course - a somewhat rocky and uncertain course for awhile when ITP was involved...

I think there is an oft used/abused quote from an American movie to the effect "build it and they shall come..." (forgive me, I'm Canadian, eh?).

Well you have built it... and now for the ticket sales...

I thank you for the privilege of playing a small part in the process. Over the years, I have acquired good feeling of kinship to many of you.

Congratulations, all.

Gary Helmer

Topic: A look back (4 of 10), Read 51 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: Heinrich Niederhausen, Florida Atlantic University
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2001 07:09 AM

Adding to the nostalgia ...

I remember teaching T3 to our secretaries, and this was the first word processor they ever learned! T3 was a miracle, we graduated from fixed spacing, made our own symbols, wonderful. Yes, SWP 4 is a Rolls Royce, but T3 was a bicycle, completely under user control. No, I won't go back to the good old days.

The secretaries did not learn SWP, because now everybody types his own stuff, and secretaries are busy shuffling paper to make the administration happy.

T3 was my first love, but know I am hanging out with SWP - congratulations to the beautiful new version, and when do you start working on 4.1?

Heinrich Niederhausen

Florida Atlantic University

Topic: A look back (5 of 10), Read 40 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: Raymond Lines
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2001 10:16 AM

I'll join in. I have not been as vocal as Jonathan, but I also date back to SW version 1.0 which I used to start a dissertation. I finished the dissertation in SWP 3.0. Since the early days, SWP has become a powerhouse for the academic community. It has lived up to the fantastic vision that Roger painted for us so long ago.

Unfortunately, my circumstances did not allow me to stay in academia, and I have been one of, what I perceive to be, few SWP users in industry. I suspect that that will soon change. Often, now, the new graduates we hire have heard of SWP. I suspect that in the near future, our new graduates will have used SWP and will want to keep using it. That has the potential to open a vast market that is now closed because of the Microsoft Office monopoly. I, for one, am actively cheering for this to happen.

Topic: A look back (6 of 10), Read 37 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: Fred Szabo, Concordia College
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2001 07:50 PM

Hi, all:

I can't resist the temptation of joining this chorus of love.

One of my favorite boxes is the original box in which I received my very first copy of Scientific Word. I am looking at it now. It's slogan was "The Difference is Intelligent Documents." It may still be the slogan today, but I don't use SW any more.

When Fred Osborne, the sales manager and jack-of-all-trades at TCI intimated to me some years ago, that there might soon be a marriage between SW and Maple, my life took a new turn. And I have never looked back.

Last week, I was asked to write up a talk I gave some time ago on recreational math. I was asked to submit the manuscript in Word. I tried and gave up in disgust. Where's the navigator? Where's the color, and where's that blend of genius so beautifully crafted by the TCI/MacKichan team? MS Word? Who needs it? Just export to HTML!!! Never a day goes by when I don't have an opportunity to impress students and colleagues with the wonderful world of SWP.

Thank you all for having included me in this global community of enthusiasts and creative giants.

I feel proud, happy, and grateful to be part of the team. With Versions 4.0, the difference really is "the intelligence in our documents."


Fred Szabo

Topic: A look back (7 of 10), Read 21 times
Conf: Beta Group
From: James Malcomson, Economics, Oxford University
Date: Sunday, November 18, 2001 09:43 AM

I would also like to enthusiastically endorse Jonathan's comments. I too date back to the days of T3 . What a long way we have come since then. (The only feature of T3 whose passing I mourn is one that I know Jonathan also mourns - pressing the right-arrow cursor and a letter at the same time moved to the next occurrence of that letter. That feature was great for editing but it didn't compare with all the wonderful features we now have.)

I am particularly pleased that version 4.0 has something new to offer that is really valuable to dinosaurs like me (and virtually every other economist who I know to uses SW) whose primary use of the product is to generate top quality mathematical typesetting of conventional academic papers. That is the facility to save a document as an html file. When 3.5 was released, I honestly found it hard to recommend to colleagues and friends that they upgrade because it offered so little for such users over 3.0. That is not the case with 4.0. My prediction is that the ability to save files as html will have them scrambling over themselves to upgrade. That is a great addition to a really excellent product.

... Many, many thanks to all of you who have done so much to achieve this.

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