Friday, August 29, 2008

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier #1 cover scan

August 1993
logo treatment by Kai "Power Tools" Krause
cartoon illustration by Fred "Sundanse" Gromadski
cover design by Jody Radzik

Fifteen years ago this month, 1 horse trailer load of these beautiful magazines were
distributed from the Outpost booth @SIGGRAPH 93 in Anaheim, California (yep, just down the road from Disneyland, appropriately enough) that month. Doug Millison has a roll of photographs somewhere , showing that beautiful Outpost booth that the late Don Millison constructed and Sundanse tagged up, including pix of DanjaGirl in full regalia handing out free copies of issue #1. Doug hopes that he can find the photos.

For awhile there, we were afraid we wouldn't have a magazine – see the "origins" story – and I'm still amazed that Jody Radzik was able to climb out of his hospital bed, after being hit and nearly killed by an automobile while he was rollerblading, gut up, grit his teeth, ride the pain, to design and produce the launch issue of the magazine we'd been working on feverishly for months. What a testimony to his dedication as a designer. Institute for the Future in Palo Alto is lucky to have Jody as a staff designer now.

What a rocket ride Morph's Outpost was! Its origins go back to the pioneering magazine for the programmers who wrote code for the first microprocessors and home-made microcomputers: Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Orthodontia, which published the programs written by members of the Silicon Valley Homebrew Computer Club (where the Steves demonstrated the first Apple prototype), where Doug Millison first met Craig LaGrow.

LaGrow went on to co-found Computer Language magazine, with Doug as a regular editorial contributor. After selling Computer Language, Craig developed a business plan for a new magazine called Authoring Systems, a technical journal for people who were using those eponymous tools to develop interactive applications for the education and training markets.

Doug joined Craig as founding editor and helped revise the business plan, turning what could have been a rather tame, academic journal into a technical magazine disguised as an underground newspaper from the 1960s, with a wild and crazy cartoon character mascot called Morph.

Advertising agencies looked at our proposals and mock-ups, aghast at the foolishness of our project. Nobody had ever heard of a technical magazine designed in such a frivolous fashion. But Doug figured that the mostly 30- and 40-something interactive multimedia development crowd would relate to that 1960s look-and-feel – and he was right. People loved the tabloid newspaper design, and they loved Morph.

The newsprint was a choice forced by budget realities: Craig and Doug only had enough money to publish the magazine by printing it on the cheapest paper stock. When a potential advertiser wondered if the newsprint publication would look anything like a cheesy supermarket bargain sheet, Doug replied, "No, it's going to look like an underground newspaper from the 1960s" and it did. The magazine moved to slick paper at the one year mark, with the August 1994 issue, and moved to a traditional magazine format, shedding the folded tabloid design, the following year.

We'll post more stories and morphemobilia in the coming days.

Please, share your stories in the Comments, and email us with photos. We also want to let the world know what you're doing now.

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, we'd love to hear from you. If you worked for the magazine, wrote for it, read it, subscribed to it, advertised in it, attended or sponsored Art Teco -- let us hear from you, please, email

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"change + infinity = Morph"

Based on an original and now, sadly, lost concept drawing by Morph's Ad Developer,
Smokin' Dave Pola
. Morph cartoon here by Fred "Sundanse" Gromadski, from the August 1993 issue of Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier magazine.

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Graphitti by Doug Millison - August 1993

by Doug Millison
Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier - August 1993

On the digital frontier, out where the information superhighway runs into the jungle, pioneers stop for supplies and sustenance before moving on to blaze new trails. That's where you'll find Morph. Male, female, animate, inanimate, scout, shaman, priestess – Morph is a shapeshifter par excellence, your personal guide to the digital outback. Technical outfitter for the interactive multimedia pioneer, Morph is proud proprietor of the establishment known far and wide as Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier. Pioneers meet at Morph's Outpost. They share information about the obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead, pass around a jug, swap a few tall tales, and stock up on supplies before moving on to pushing the information superhighway into the jungle.

Interactive multimedia combines the excitement of Hollywood and the power of computers. As the first magazine dedicated to serving, in depth, the technical, business, and creative needs of the multimedia developer community, Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier brings together technical creators from the realms of computer software, digital electronics, mass communications, and the arts. Morph exists to serve multimedia professionals who create corporate, education, and entertainment applications of interactive technologies.

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier provides in-depth, objective technical information about interactive multimedia tools and technologies. We explore the theories and philosophies that underlie authoring and asset manipulation tool design and application. We cover the people and the events of the multimedia trade. We offer strategic advice to help multimedia professionals become more productive and increase profits. And, we welcome newcomers ready to stretch and develop as professionals in a new trade society.

Interactive multimedia has the power to open eyes and hearts, to empower and enable, to change the way we work, learn, and play. Let's show each other what makes this technology tick. Let's help each other overcome the obstacles, break new ground, and plant the seeds that will nourish the generations of multimedia developers who will stand on our shoulders.

Graphitti captures the spirit of a place and time.

Graphitti on the walls of the digital citadel!

Doug Millison

P.S. We cannot be successful without you. Disagree with something? Let me know. Know a more elegant hack to solve a problem we've tackled? Show us. If we've left something out, remind us. If we've made a mistake, correct us. We're here to serve. The magazine is a paper doorway into an electronic realm, Morph On-Line. Dial 1-800-GO MORPH for log-on details. Talk to me, our writes, to other readers, and explore the developer resources we plan to make available in the exciting months ahead.

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

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier #1 Table of Contents

We submit that the Table of Contents for Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier issue #1 represents a template for today's Web. We were inviting people (the multimedia developers who wrote the articles for issue #1) to publish "content" and we were asking readers to interact, talk back, contribute to Morph Online (one of the early online publications) … all of the same ways that people now interact at social community sites like Facebook, et. al. The vision was there, at the Outpost. Morph's Outpost was also invited by Apple Computer to create an online version of the magazine for its short-lived but visionary eWorld online community.

Click to see a larger image, where you can read the priceless "How to Read Morph's Outpost".


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Adventures of Morph #1, August 1993



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GO MORPH GO direct mail marketing postcard in the style of a rave flyer

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier art director Jody Radzik was instrumental in the San Francisco rave culture of the 1980s. He designed many of the most memorable rave flyers of the era, and he brought that style to this early direct mail marketing postcard that we included in early issues of the magazine to sell subscriptions. Jody used Fred "Sundanse" Gromadski's cartoon of Morph.

Here's the business end of the piece:

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Welcome to Art Teco '94

Again we stand to applaud the efforts of Tim Bigoness and Dave Pola who brought this event to life.

In this Welcome to Art Teco '94 message, Tim wrote:

"NO DEMOS. NO SALES PITCHES. NO SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION. What we will have is three days of meaningful and intense conversations with industry leaders and YOU, the multimedia developer community."

That's what we did, too. Panel discussion moderators roved through the audience with a microphone, for questions and comments. After all, most Art Teco '94 attendees were as expert as the panelists -- lively discussions resulted, indeed!

The first day of Art Teco 94 was hot and sunny there on the San Francisco waterfront. That's also the day that O.J. Simpson made his famous dash for fame on the LA freeways, a weird event that unspooled in strange counterpoint on some TV monitors in the Art Teco exhibition hall, and O.J. was a hot topic in the Microsoft Mini-brewery that day.

"And why not have a few parties with our friends to celebrate our future together?" Tim asks.

We did that, too!


More Art Teco '94 program scans coming soon…

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Art Teco '94 program cover: "We came, we saw, we morphed."

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More to come as we get more pages of this program scanned. A seminal event – that's putting it mildly.

Art Teco '94 is where, among other things, the San Francisco Multimedia Gulch community came together and figured out how to morph the emerging World Wide Web into a viable publishing and communications platform that could handle interactive multimedia.

We'll have to organize a separate 15th Anniversary Art Teco celebration next year to acknowledge the impact this conference had on the way the Web has developed in the years since.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wired & Morph's Outpost

At some point early in 1993, Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier co-founders Craig LaGrow and Doug Millison met Wired founders Louis Rosetto and Jane Metcalfe for lunch and a long talk about the ins & outs, ups & downs of being publishing entrepreneurs. We had been hearing about each other and were hoping that the magazines wouldn't wind up competing head-to-head. Before we had made it half-way through lunch, we had verified that we were after different objectives. Morph's Outpost was conceived as a technical magazine, for developers, designers, and toolmakers in the interactive multimedia scene. Wired had far bigger social and cultural fish to fry. Morph's Outpost stayed behind the scenes, Wired out front where it blew up big, for good reason, those early issues were, well, electrifying.

Wired wrote briefly about Morph's Outpost in the September/October 1993 issue, online at

Morph's Outpost
By Will Kreth

Don't knock programmers. Contrary to popular belief, many of them do have lives and look nothing like the bespectacled, pasty-faced, Jolt-cola- slurping traitorous overweight hacker depicted in Jurassic Park (personally, I was thrilled when he got eaten in the Jeep). Some of them ride mountain bikes, kayak, play alto sax and read books by Peter Matheissen. Some of them were never interested in programming until HyperCard, while others have been working on PC's since the birth of the Altair in the '70s. Until recently, they've been stuck wading through various patently dull programming magazines for the information they needed to stay on the edge.

The rise of interactive multimedia has given birth to a new crop of programmers, and they're starving for deep technical information about their current (albeit over-hyped) obsession. Now they have a new magazine dedicated to their cause. Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier is the brainchild of Craig LaGrow, a founder of the popular Computer Language, and Editor-in-Chief Doug Millison. Augmenting the magazine's seriously technical treatment of authoring environments and the like is a whimsical cartoon character named (what else?) Morph, who runs his Outpost on the boundary between cyberspace and the digital jungle. He's the silicon- surfing Sherpa who'll outfit you with the "intel" you need to make the right decisions on hardware, software, scripting tricks, and marketing your creations. Morph, who looks as if he just came out of a graffiti-artist's spray-paint can, has assembled several notable names within the industry to contribute to the Outpost on a regular basis - like Rockley Miller (publisher and editor of Multimedia and Videodisc Monitor), Richard Doherty (editor of Envisioneering), Tony Bove (publisher and editor of the Macromedia User Journal and the Bove & Rhodes Inside Report), and Michael Moon (of the market research firm Gistics, Inc.). Do you know your XCMDs from CLUTs? Script-X from a 3:2 pull-down ratio for mastering a videodisc? Then Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier is a must-read for all you seasoned media fanatics surfing the Digital Pipeline.

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier: first issue free. +1 (510) 254 3145. (

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier #1 page 1

Dig it:

KaleidaLabs ScriptX

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