42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh

Astounding Computer History

The sudden boom in home computing in the seventies was a surprise even to the experts.

Jerry Stratton

Artist and Computer—Saturday, October 26th, 2019

“No computer will ever take the place of an artist. But many artists are discovering computers as a medium to create finished pieces of art, while others explore new art forms, using the computer as an idea machine.”

This is the book that inspired me to finally write an ASCII art generator. Artist and Computer is a fascinating collection of essays by artists from the seventies, just before the onset of the home computer. It contains everything from oscilloscope art to ASCII art, as well as primitive three-dimensional work.

Because it is set before the advent of the home computer, the artists often didn’t own the computer they were using to create their art. Many worked with a programmer. But they all had to have some understanding of programming in order to manage the process.

The artist now goes to an art supply store to purchase a given set of tools, whereas the computer artist can create the tools he will use. This is remarkable and allows for unlimited possibilities in the art to be created. — Ruth Leavitt (Artist and Computer)

101 BASIC Computer Games—Saturday, September 28th, 2019

“This is not the first collection of computer games and simulations nor will it by any means be the last.”

If you’re using a Macintosh, you can still program in BASIC if you want to. I recommend Chipmunk Basic but there are others.

If you’re also fascinated by the history of computers (and, frankly, there’s little other reason to use BASIC on your Macintosh, given the other programming options available—there’s a reason there are no BASIC programs in 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts) there is no book more important, historically, to home computing than David Ahl’s collection of BASIC games. It’s the father of all of the “xx programs for home computers” books that came later, and thus the grandfather of 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh.

Prosumer home computer gamers mined this book for years for some of the best-loved computer games of the era. I doubt the Game of Life would be as popular if it weren’t for its inclusion in this book; it’s not even a game.

If you’ve ever played a Lunar Lander variation, or a tactical space game with quadrants, Klingons, and refueling stations, or a horse race game with characters moving across the screen… it started with 101 BASIC Computer Games.

Eudora email client—Saturday, September 7th, 2019

“Eventually many email clients were written for personal computers, but few became as successful as Eudora. Available both for the IBM PC and the Apple Macintosh, in its heyday Eudora had tens of millions of happy users. Eudora was elegant, fast, feature-rich, and could cope with mail repositories containing hundreds of thousands of messages. In my opinion it was the finest email client ever written, and it has yet to be surpassed.”

To say that Eudora has yet to be surpassed ignores simplicity as a feature. This is a common mistake that many technologists make. Simplicity is very difficult to create and very difficult to maintain. It’s one of the defining features of the Apple ecosystem that makes it so successful. And Apple’s Mail app is a lot easier to use than Eudora.

That said, I do still miss Eudora’s timed email feature, the ability to schedule an email to go out later. Which is why I added that feature as a Swift script for the Mail app that comes with macOS. I’ve included that script in 42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh. It’s the third-largest script in the book, and equally as useful. At this very moment I have an email scheduled to go out in four hours; I may need to modify the email before it goes out but it is essential that the email go out, even as is, before deadline.

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