Thursday, August 28, 2008

August 1994 1st anniversary Morph's Outpost "origins" story

by Doug Millison
Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier - August 1994

Welcome to the first anniversary issue of Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier, the only magazine dedicated to helping interactive multimedia developers work faster, better, smarter, make more money, and have more fun.

Just over a year ago (I'm writing this in mid-June), at Digital World in Beverly Hills, California, my partner, Craig LaGrow, and I had just publicly announced our plans to publish this magazine. We were trying to raise money, knocking on doors, knowing that if worse came to worse at least we could afford to cover the costs of printing on newsprint. We were wondering if a forever-nameless Big Computer Magazine Publishing Company could have been right when it declined the privilege of soothing our entrepreneurial fever with the pronouncement that "the multimedia developer market is far too small to support its own monthly magazine." Maybe we should spend all of our money on focus group research and fine-tune the concept, Craig and I told each other, instead of saving it to pay the printer for the first issue of Morph's Outpost.

Fortunately, a few bold souls decided to take the plunge and gave us the seed capital we needed. We started to build a team – art director Jody Radzik (met by chance in a Berkeley bookstore when we were looking at magazines and deciding to make ours the first technical trade journal disguised as an underground newspaper); ad developer Dave Pola, who bugged us until we hired him; marketing VP Tim Bigoness, who was there at the beginning. We found writers to populate the debut issue pages. Advertisers bought the vision, too. Things were looking pretty good. After months of start-up fever, I took a few days off, to rest before the final sprint through design, layout, and production of issue number one.

The phone rang at my vacation lair. Rollerblading Jody had been crunched by a car. But, in the best demonstration yet of the spirit that's made this magazine a success, Jody got out of his hospital bed at the earliest possible moment, revved up Quark XPress, and went to work, his head still painfully swollen, his jaw wired shut. We made our printer deadline. Jody recovered. We loaded up Craig's horse trailer with 15,000 copies of issue number one and drove to Siggraph. The rest is history.

People always want to know how we named the magazine. We knew our readers were pioneers. That led us to the frontier. Every frontier has an outpost. An outpost needs a proprietor. A cowboy, I thought. No, a space cowboy with a crazy gleam in his eye. No, a beatnik cowboy. A mountain man. An Indian guide. A shaman. A priestess. Our mascot was a shapeshifter. Let's call him Morph, Craig said. So we did.

The metaphor cuts deep. Developers like Morph because they know what it means to move from business plan to authoring system to video camera, seamlessly changing shape to fit the need of the moment. You are what you read, too – this remains a magazine written by developers, for developers, the only one.

As I write this, in mid-June, hundreds of developers and toolmakers are preparing to join us at Art Teco '94, the first United Developers Summit. A special word of thanks is due the Art Teco '94 sponsors: Creative Labs, Apple, AT&T, Compton's NewMedia, Intel, Microsoft, Online Design, Allen Comunications, Altamira, Artists for Multimedia, Autodesk, Big Top Productions, Data Translation, Digital Video Arts, Equilibrium, Horizons Technology, Kaleida Labs, Macromedia, Morrison & Foerster, MZ Media Group, QSound Labs, Strata, Valis Group, Verbum, and Young Chang/Kurzweil. We're already making plans for Art Teco '95.

We are just days away from launching our forum on Apple's new eWorld online information system – join us there (Apple will give you the client software free if you tell them Morph sent you) and you'll find a Daily Spectrum report on multimedia industry news (be sure to send me the latest news of your company, product, event, or career if you want the world to know), live conference events, and lots more. If you know a nifty way to do something with a multimedia development tool, send me a simple step-by-step description of the technique and we'll share it with the multimedia community. If you offer multimedia training or university programs, let me know and I'll publish a description of courses, class schedule, and application information in our eWorld forum. If you publish books covering multimedia development tools or production techniques, give me a sample chapter or two to post on eWorld. We're also looking for killer clip media, Lingo or other authoring system script, X objecs, and other plug-in resources.

Our success is in part, largely owed to the support of tens of thousands of you – and we're know you're out there, reading the magazine. "We've got a subscription at the office," I hear over and over again at trade shows. "How many people at your company read the magazine?" I ask. "Five, no, six." If that describes the situation in your shop, please don't let foolish pride stand in the way of ordering another subscription or two. While you're at it, if you ever buy products or services from any of our fine advertisers, please tell them you saw the advertisement in Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier.

We couldn't have gotten this far without the loyal support of the Morph posse – our employees and the far larger group of writers and artists whose contributions brighten these pages month after month. We're also deeply indebted to our editorial advisory board members, to our investors, and to our families who do their best to understand that making something from nothing is more than a full-time job.

Last month we incorrectly the identified the maker of BLAM!, a rowdy digital 'zine from Necro Enema Amalgamated.

I know you'll find plenty to inform and amuse you in this month's issue. Thanks to Howard Penner for the cover illustration. (We're always interested in cover illustration ideas or submissions if you've got them.) Thanks as well to Antonio Sanchez for coloring the Adventures of Morph comic strip. (I can't promise it will stay color in the future, but we'll do our best) and for his illustration on page 18.

See you next month, as we move into year two.

Doug Millison

Talk back! Reach me on eWorld or Internet email to, call me at 510-238-4545; snail mail to P.O. Box 578, Orinda, CA 94563

[Please click image for a larger version.]

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