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Making a NeXT interface for my ST, more or less

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

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Making a NeXT interface for my ST, more or less 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1991, The Syracuse Newspapers

I went down into my den the other day—it's just a corner of the family room—to write one of my columns, and found myself flying in Guiland by accident.

Guiland isn't a country you can touch or feel. It's the place where icons dwell, where dreams of mice are born.

Usually, when I write, I like to have a naked screen in front of me. I set the colors so that what I type is black on a white background—paper-white, just as they say in the ads. It looks like paper in a typewriter.

But lately I've come to appreciate what my "gui" can do. As you know if you've been following our topics lately, a gui isn't a mystic from Bombay or your 12-year-old's hand after it's held a jelly sandwich. It's a graphical user interface, pronounced "gooey."

My GUI is pretty much a standard one, although it's not the one that Macintosh users or MS-DOS Windows users have. It gives me multiple windows on my screen, lets me cut and paste between them (delete something from one window and pop it into another) and allows all sorts of cute things that would be impossible otherwise.

GUIs are great. But when it's time to write, an ordinary single-window text processor is just fine, thank you.

But I never got to my single-window text processor that day. I absent-mindedly looked through a list of files that I had instructed one of my computers to download the night before and came across an odd one. It was a new GUI that was designed to run on the computer that I use to write on.

I extracted the program and its support files from its archive—the compressed file that holds all the others—and discovered that someone named David Becker had come up with a way to turn my ST into a NeXT computer—GUI-wise, that is. His program lets anyone with an ST create a user interface that looks just like the one on the NeXT. (Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, is the brains behind the NeXT, which is one of the most exciting computers around.)

By the time you read this, I'll have my NeXT-clone interface finished. It's a lot of work, but it sure looks classy. I especially like the way the desktop is shown in a kind of semi-3D effect.

The ST is a classic hacker's computer, and that may be why such programs show up on the ST fairly often. But I have no doubt something similar is, or will be, available for Windows 3 users, Mac aficionados, Amiga partisans and Apple IIgs fans.

If you spot such a thing for your favorite computer, give it a try. Who says you're stuck with the "wimp"—the windows, icons, mouse and pointer—that came in the box?

If nothing else, you'll be able to impress the heck out of your friends.

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